A week ago I got to experience a minor holiday nightmare. O'Hare was so fogged in that I was getting calls from friends in other states, asking if my flight had been canceled. No, it wasn't, I assured all the inquiring minds, as I stepped from the cab into a mile long line of curbside checkers.
The people on the Weather Channel had announced to out of state viewers that everything in Chicago was canceled. What were they smoking? Nothing was canceled. At least not when I looked up at the monitor. But with the WC predicting doom and gloom, I decided to prepare for a long delay.
Imagine my shock when we loaded the plane and pulled back from the gate only fifteen or so minutes behind schedule. By O'Hare standards that was practically early. Of course, now you're thinking they just lulled us into believing we would actually take off, so you can say TOLD YA SO when I reveal that we went to the tarmac and parked. Except that didn't happen. We actually seemed to be in line for takeoff. A long line, but we were moving, albeit slo-o-o-wly.
Luckily I had food with me to fend off any boredom -- a forty dollar sandwich from Starbuck's and some Odwalla Mango Tango. When that ran out I had magazines. And I can sleep almost anywhere. Amazing how time passes when you're unconscious.
Surprisingly, in less than half an hour we were taking off. That was almost too easy. I relaxed and enjoyed the flight. In fact, when we landed at our destination in Norfolk, VA. I actually got off the plane, full of anticipation, looking forward to a week of family, fun, and Christmas.
Not so fast, tinsel breath. Your travel day has been entirely too easy. While we picked up our rental car, we sent a skycap to get our luggage. He never returned.
Apparently there was no luggage to pick up. Along with twenty other people on the flight, our bags didn't make the trip. It was still back in Chicago. But, wait, there was a chance it might be put on the next flight. Maybe. A chance.
Tick tock, tick tock. Ta-da! After only an hour we got word the bags had been scanned. They were on a plane. Okay, then, where is that plane now, Mr. Lost Baggage Person? Um. It's on the tarmac in Chicago.
It was still on the tarmac an hour later.
Make that two hours later. Three hours later.
Then all of a sudden the plane on the tarmac in Chicago was going to land in less than half an hour. How can that happen? Easy, they lie.
Norfolk, VA. is home to a couple of Naval and Air Force bases. One of the people also waiting for phantom luggage was a member of an Air Force band. We might need our presents, clothing and toiletries, but he was missing his trombone.
Together we all watched the arrival board above the baggage carousel like it was the Discovery Channel -- first to see if the plane would actually arrive, second to see if our luggage would arrive with it.
The plane landed. One wait was over. Now the real wait began.
Tick tock, tick tock, forty minutes passed. Suddenly the orange light on the carousel began to flash, followed by a horrible buzzing noise to warn everyone their luggage may or may not be here, so don't get your hopes up.
Instead of signing up to have our luggage delivered the next day, like almost everyone else, we'd taken a chance that everything was really on the next plane, even though we kept being told that the next plane was still sitting on the tarmac.
But everything arrived in one piece. We found our stuff and the Air Force guy found his trombone too. He opened up the case to make sure all the parts were there, so I asked him if he would play us a Christmas tune. Something to celebrate our unexpected good luck. "Sure." And right there in front of dozens of passengers he did a wonderful rendition of a Mel Torme classic.
To great applause from everyone. And much appreciation.
You never know where and when the good feelings of Christmas are going to make an appearance. Rarely do you expect anything at an airport. But this year, for me, the warm fuzzies began at the United Express baggage carousel in Norfolk, Virginia.