Holiday Hell: Sunday December 23rd

So, we wake up in our hotel in Chicago and pack our meager belongings and head down for whatever free breakfast is provided. My son isn’t hungry (a bad sign), so I just have a bowl of cereal and then head out to the shuttle back to the airport.

We get in line for security and go through the whole process of taking off our shoes, belts and having our bags scanned for shampoo or deoderant. Then we head for our gate. On the boards showing arrival and departure times everything looks pretty good. Our flight is listed as on time and we find our gate with no problem. I ask my son if he is hungry and wants to get anything to eat as we have plenty of time. Nope, still not hungry.

Then the delays start. It’ll be another 15 minutes. 15 more minutes then we’ll board. Just another 15 minutes and we’ll board the plane. We are waiting for a crew member then we’ll board the plane. At this point I start joking with the passengers around me. “Hey, just go down the concourse to the bar, I’m sure you’ll find the pilot in there.” Finally, after about an hour and a half of waiting the board the plane. I hand the attractive young asian lady my son’s ticket and she scans it, no problem. I hand her mine and she scan’s it: already on plane. I sigh. She scan’s it again: already on plane. “Fuck me,” I whisper. The attractive asian lady looks at me and says, “Tsk, tsk, there is no reason to swear I’ll get you on your flight.” “You have no idea how long I’ve been here,” I reply as she heads over to the computer to do something. She comes back and gets hands me my ticket and says you can go on aboard. At this I’m mildly shocked. I figure they’d try to tell me to put my son on the plane while I stood around with my thumb up my ass in the gate area waiting till the plane took off.

So we get on and find our seats. We sit there and the captain comes on and informs us that we are all set to take off all we need is to go through the de-icing procedure. So we wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. We wait for three hours as we are periodically told we are “at the top of the list”. Top of the list for what I don’t know. At first I thought it was for de-icing, but then I began to think we were at the top of the “Don’t Give a Shit About” list. Finally the captain comes on and says, “Well we have been her for three hours and we are going to let you off the plane so you can stretch your legs and we can re-fuel. We don’t like having passengers on a plane for three hours sitting at the gate.” So we start back up the jetway and one passenger makes a prediction: they are getting us off the plane so they can cancel the flight. We get to the gate area and I call my mom, waiting again at the airport for us. Yep, it was just announced there that our flight was canceled. So I go over to the desk and ask an American Airlines, did I mention that I was flying American Airlines? No? Not in this post? Well, let me say it again, we were flying American Airlines. Anyhow, I asked a person behind the desk, “Is flight 4375 canceled?” The reply, “I have no information on that.” I was amazed, apparently at American Airlines the left hand doesn’t have a clue what the right hand is doing. I looked at the pilot and he just shrugged his shoulders. I asked, “Don’t you know?” His reply, “No, I’m just the pilot.” I found that vaguely disturbing.

So the line to find another flight at this gate is huge. I gather up my son and head across the way to another gate that is virtually empty and has three American Airline personnel working there. I ask one of the men there for help. Next available flight out: Tuesday at around noon. Yes, if we waited for American Airlines to get their shit together my son and I would be spending both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in a city where we knew no-one and in hotel.

We were actually fairly close to our actual destination: Kalamazoo. So I thought: train…I’ll try the train station. I called; nope no luck everything was booked solid. Car. I’ll rent a car and we’ll drive. Nope, everything was already rented in and around the airport. Okay, maybe I can get our bags and I can give my son his presents I had with me and we can change our clothes and get our toiletries, after all we don’t want to look like dirty islamofascists. So off we go to baggage claim.

We wait at carousel 4 where I was lied to…err told our bags would be coming. We wait. And wait. And wait. No bags. So I go over to talk to the American Airlines baggage representative. Can I get my bags? Is this your final destination (no, you moron and it isn’t even a destination, but where I was trying to make a connection). Well your bags are going to go on to your final destination. No matter what I said this smug jerk wouldn’t do anything. So I gather up my son again, who is now in tears (fuck you American Airlines) and wander over to some seats to ponder my options.

We run into somebody from our cancelled flight and they tell us to try the first class desk, at least there will be little or no line and who knows maybe they can help with something. So up we go upstairs to ticketing. I walk up to the first class desk and ask the lady for help…anything, just our bags at this point would make things less horrible. She asks a few questions and comes up with an idea: take a bus to South Bend, it is about half way between Chicago and Kalamazoo, could somebody pick us up there? I call my mom; yes, that isn’t that bad of a drive (keep in mind my step-father is quite ill and long car rides are difficult). So with a bus voucher in hand we hot foot it over to the bus station (across the street). We get on the bus and off we go to South Bend. Behind are a couple of nitwits who wont shut up the whole way. They are the only two talking, for the most part, and the conversation is just absolutely inane. And unfortunately they are on the bus all the way to South Bend.

Upon arriving at South Bend we head into the airport and the wind is very strong and makes it seems much, much colder. We sit down and wait for my mom and step-father to arrive. They have been delayed by the bad weather. At times it got so bad they were driving only 15 MPH, and could barely see in front of the car. So Julian and I sit back and relax and wait.

My mom and step-father arrive and we toss our meager luggage in the back of the Tahoe. I get in the driver’s seat as my mom is tired. So am I, but at least I’ve had bit of a nap on the bus. As we head back towards Kalamazoo I see what they mean about bad weather. The wind is whipping the snow around that at times you can’t see where you are going. I get on the interstate and it isn’t too bad. The roads are not slick and visibility okay save for brief moments when the wind blows up lots of snow. I glance down at the clock and realize that it is almost midnight. In a few minutes it will be Christmas Eve, and we still aren’t done with this trip. It has been almost 36 hours since we sat down in the gate area in Palm Springs, and probably close to 38 if you count when left our house, and still we are trying to get where we are going.

FILED UNDER: Entertainment, ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. markm says:

    ….soooo….in a nutshell, yer sayin’ that holiday travel isn’t as fun as it looks every year on TV….so we’re clear. 🙂

  2. acm says:

    Did someone swap a decent political blog for a LiveJournal with proper grammar?

  3. Steve,

    Your experiences are pretty mild. Another OTB contributor posted this guy’s story in 2006. Instead of being sent to Taiwan, he ended up in Taiyuan. Asked to be taken to a hotel, they took him to a whorehouse. You want to be the rare blue eyed man in a town

    In 1989 I was on the way to the Philippines. My wife was in Manila, we were meeting for her embassy interview in order for her to get a visa to immigrate to the US. A coup attempt that took over 100 lives, many of whom were civilians, started on the day of my planned arrival. Leonita spent three harrowing days in the middle of that mess, while I got stuck up in seoul trying to to contact her. See my wife was with family who had no phone.

    No fear of your wife getting killed just because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think the China traveler and me got you beat.


  4. Christopher says:

    Waaaa what a crybaby you are, Steve. I’m just surprised you never took the time to blame President Bush.

    And what a lovely mouth you have on you as well. Your son must be proud of pops.

  5. Steve Verdon says:

    Florida Masochist,

    You are right, those are worse than my trip, but when a coup that claims 100 people in a foreign country is what it takes to beat my story…well I think I can still lay claim to having a really bad experience.

    And wait…I’m still not done. Note that when I ended my post we still hadn’t gotten to our destination. I don’t consider what amounts to a 12 hour trip taking over 3x as long as mild or reasonable. A two to six hour delay is one thing, a 300%+ increase in travel time? And mind you I wasn’t leaving the Continental U.S. and supposedly everyone I ran into spoke english. And what pissed me off was the lack of simply bullshitting me. Tell me the truth, find your own way from here at least lets me know where I stand.

  6. Christopher says:

    gawd steve when r u gonna stop your bellyaching?

  7. “And mind you I wasn’t leaving the Continental U.S. and supposedly everyone I ran into spoke english. And what pissed me off was the lack of simply bullshitting me. Tell me the truth, find your own way from here at least lets me know where I stand.”


    From your diatribe and reply to me, I hardly think you would have handled ‘the truth’ any better than the ‘bs’ you were given.

    The airlines can’t control the weather. Flying in the winter time to parts of the country which are prone to bad weather, you got to expect delays and frustration. I did when flying over 400,000 flight miles between the summer of 96 and Jan. 02.

    Also I note some serious anger issues. You got problems. Your fellow passengers are inane nitwits. From the diatribe you published at this blog, I think that monniker would describe you to a T.

    Actually it was the two people in the bus. The other passangers were all pretty decent. We were all in the same boat and joked about the situation. So two out of possible…mmm…20 people I actually interacted with is pretty good, I think. And the converstation was inane.–SV