I did not take enough Xanax for today's flights. No, they were not particularly bumpy but even the slightest patch of rough air felt like insult to injury after the debacle that proceeded it.
Delta Flight 1746 service from MIA to ATL was supposed to depart at 10AM EST. The entire company was through security and chilling at the gate before 9AM. Boarding began at 920. We taxied and I was drifting off into the magical land of Xanax slumber when the captain came over the intercom.
"Sorry folks but looks like we have a mechanical issue and will need to return to the gate." I felt the whole plane groan at once. The woman next to me, who I'd discover later in the ensuing hours of bonding, was particularly hungover. She freaked. Other people giggled and moaned and fell susceptible to the flight attendants' insistence that it was minor, we had 30 minutes of give time and they were certain everyone would make their connection.
I did not share that certainty. Not with 57 minutes in between us and our flight to Austin IF we landed on time. I immediately texted the company who were scattered throughout the plane. I texted my contacts at Advocates, ready to get a contingency plan rolling.
Maintenance workers trudged on board. It got hot, then cool, then really hot. We sat. I nudged hungover lady and with apologies left my seat to take advantage of the restroom. The beleaguered flight crew passed out cookies - the first in a line of peace offerings. We got a message that the issue was a temperature sensor and we could and would not fly if it was not working properly. We were reassured it was not an engine problem. We were told the problem was solved, FAA paperwork was being filled out and we were on our way.
Then the electricity stopped. It got hot again. The plane, in need of a fuel top off, lost the guy on the fuel cart and had to re-summon him. They allowed passengers to disembark into the cooler climes of the terminal with the warning they should not make time for food because we were definitely leaving in 5-10 minutes. I stayed and made my way for the bathroom again. Hungover girl returned 20 minutes later with Subway.
The door closed. Safety instructions were given for the second time. Then another 20 minutes of nothing. The lead flight attendant, a fear of conjuring pitchforks evident in his face, took a risk on the intercom. "Um folks, I'm not even sure how to look you in the eyes at this point but seems we had a passenger disembark and leave his carry-on. This passenger did not come back for the plane so now we have a security issue."
More waiting, more angry voices on phones adding noise pollution to an already full flight. I took to Twitter.
It's because of those few tweets that 7 of us ended up on a 430 flight to Houston. Our 1257 flight to Austin long since missed, we arrived to further chaos and frenzy once we hit the ground in ATL. 2 of our folks got on a flight to Austin. One was on a 10PM Austin bound flight and then back on the earlier flight to Houston. Somehow we all made it to Texas. To literally no one's surprise, our luggage did not.
I boarded the flight to Houston only to find that myself and our assistant director were seated in the last row - the choice seats next to the bathroom, the ones sans window - a claustrophobic's dream! Ever wonder what it feels like to descend in a 747 never knowing when exactly the wheels will touch the ground? Well, now I know.
The 7 of us who made it to Houston were saved by a shiny silver chariot and that certain entitlement to freedom and independence that happens upon touching ground in Texas. Without hesitation, we hit the road in H-town, leaving airspace and airtravel, with no love lost, behind us. With me in the driver's seat of the behemoth, our TD navigating and playing DJ and the majority of the company finally, safely nestled in the back, I found my lost sense of control. In my happy to feel at home euphoria, I attributed this success to Texas and magic but really it was our strength, reliance and willingness to help each other that got us all through today. We ate Delta provided snacks and laughed about the craziness. We stayed patient even as we hit Austin city limits and chuckled when we were instantly waylaid by lane closures and backed up traffic.
A little after 11PM CST, 15+ hours after our day's journey began, I finally had the entire company in Austin. Our luggage may not be here, yet, but the company is - and they are our most precious cargo, besides.
I want to be blogging about Miami - how I finally gave in and accepted being a stranger in a strange land. I'm dying to get out my Explosions in the Sky-Esque feelings on my return to Texas, land of my father and about 15 forefathers before that. But nope, none of that today. Today, I earned my Tour Manager stripes; the Company, Medals of Honor.
Time to descend.