Intermission, Evil Airport Delays, and that Last Minute Three Hour Drive Home

by Megan M. on September 12, 2009 · View Comments (Blog) |

There is, obviously, a lot I missed in these posts. I missed the part where I had some crazy King Kong movie on in the background while I was getting ready for the competition Saturday morning, for instance. It was kind of awesome. I hated to leave the room when it was time to go; I was amazed that I had found something appealing in the sea of obnoxious, horrendous daytime television. (Why do people bother paying for cable? There’s nothing there! It’s like this evil toxic wasteland of reality TV and shopping networks and pay-for-porn. Not that I am coming out against pay-for-porn, I am surely not, but come on. Cable and satellite assortments seem to be almost entirely filler, and don’t present a whole lot that isn’t on the web.)


I have a lot more to say about the rest of Saturday, and all of Sunday (when I performed at the afternoon gymanfa sans music), and then of course the rest of my week… But I’ll try and restrict it to the really good stuff. And I’m going to take a break first, because wow, people, you will not believe what I did Thursday night.

Okay, you probably will.

But it’s still bonkers.

So Thursday evening, I board a plane from Pittsburgh to Dallas, anticipating a three hour flight. I pee. I eat some nice food (the only food I have with me, the only food I expect to be edible until I get home). I board the plane. I squeeze myself back into my seat to make some room for my laptop in coach, and happily connect to the intarwubs despite the fact that there isn’t really enough room for me to do so. (I used to hate flying. Now I hate flying in coach. Flying first class ain’t half bad.)

It’s about a half hour before we’re supposed to land, and the captain comes on the con and tells us that they won’t let us land in Dallas; the weather is too lame, and they want to keep us in the air another hour. But we don’t have enough fuel for that, so we’re going to Tulsa to get more. Tulsa, huh? I’ve never been to Tulsa. Extraordinarily lame.

So we go to Tulsa. We sit on the ground for about forty minutes. I read my book. We finally leave (they didn’t let us go into the airport, and they’ve closed up shop anyway, so there’s no edible food to be found) and head for Dallas. I chew my last few pieces of gum and try not to think about dinner.

We arrive in Dallas two and a half hours late (at about 9:30pm) and I scramble towards the gate they tell me is most likely to get me to Austin. I get there and they put me on standby. I wait FOREVER, skeptical that they will let me on a plane, because I’m 14th on the standby list and it’s incredibly crowded. What I really want is for someone to tell me the likelihood that I will ever get on a plane tonight, but no one will. They all tell me to sit down and shut up and wait my turn.

My turn comes two hours later, at 11:30pm, because (as I dreaded) there’s no room on the plane for me (and twenty other people). They give me a voucher for a $40 room at a Quality Inn and a standby ticket for Friday morning. I ask questions and get curt, not-very-useful answers. I’m on my own.

All this time, I’ve had Marty calling the car rental companies downstairs. I’m afraid to go down there without being certain they’ll be open and willing to rent me a car that I can return in Austin the next day—I don’t want to lose the hotel and standby and replace it with a night of sleeping in the deserted airport. But Marty has discovered that Hertz will rent me a car that I can return in Austin, and they’re open. I hightail it to the rental car bus stop outside baggage claim, where apparently a bus will take me to the rental car area a good twenty minutes from the airport. I find this sort of amazing, but I want to get home. I do NOT want to go to an unknown hotel and go to sleep and put back on the same clothes I wore all day today and then wait in airports for another two or twelve more hours hoping to get on a plane when everyone else left in Dallas tonight is on standby, too. TO HELL WITH THAT. I’M DRIVING HOME.

The bus is vacant, and the bus driver is this awesomely friendly, talkative and jovial guy who strikes up a conversation with me immediately. We yammer for awhile and he finds out that I sing opera. As seems to happen pretty often, he asks me to sing something. Normally I decline, but, uh, the bus is empty—and he’s really nice. So why the hell not? I sing the first few lines of Voi lo sapete. This makes him incredibly happy. We talk about competitions and operas for awhile. This is one super-cool dude.

When I get off the bus, I shake his hand and introduce myself and tell him to have a great night. We wave as he pulls away and I hop on into the car rental center. I head straight for Hertz, and a very nice man rents me a $200 Corolla with an auxiliary input for my iPod. DUDE. I happily pay him his $200, I get in my (electric blue, 1000 miles on the meter) Corolla and I head for Austin.

My iPod lasted me two hours because I had charged the battery in my mother’s car on the way to the airport. I can barely believe my luck in this respect, because my iPod is REALLY OLD and the battery never lasts very long. In fact, sometimes it spontaneously loses its charge without even being used. So the fact that it’s full of juice just before I decide to make a middle of the night three hour drive from Dallas to Austin is kind of awesome and crazy.

I talk to Marty on the phone every forty minutes or so. The first hour I am full of juice, just like my iPod. I am feeling so good about this idea, because I really wanted to get home. But the really big impact here is the fact that staying in the hotel and getting on standby for Friday morning was essentially being willing to entertain the risk of being in airports for a whole new day, and there was no way to guarantee that I’d get home in some kind of reasonable time frame. I was sick of being jerked around by airlines. That $200 bought me independence and free will. I’d be tired, probably, but I’d get home. And I’d feel great and in control of my own circumstances, instead of being miserable following instructions and waiting for someone else to make it better. I’ll take the three hour drive, thanks!

The second hour I’m getting kind of tired, but I’m okay. I keep the music loud and I chat with Marty, and I tough it out. I’m open to the possibility that I’ll need to pull over somewhere and take a cat nap, but I’d rather not do it alone in the middle of the night, while it’s pouring rain and storming. So I keep going. The storm gets worse and better here and there, with really amazing heat lightning and occasional monsoon downpours. This slows me down, but I’m okay.

The third hour I am seriously tuckered out, dehydrated and sleepy. Driving through rainstorms is hard. I’m still alert and I still feel like I can drive, so I keep going. I’m paying a lot of attention to myself to see if I’m driving weird, or missing things I should have seen, or finding myself too close to other vehicles. None of these things is happening, but I keep an eye out. I’d rather stop than crash, of course.

Twenty minutes from home.

Ten minutes from home.

I turn onto my street while talking to Marty. I rummage for my key card and let myself through the gate. I start to laugh hysterically as I park the car. “WAIT TILL I TELL THE INTERNET WHAT I DID!” I howl. Marty thinks this is incredibly funny. I do too. I park the car backwards and my parking job is perfectly straight (wow). Marty comes out and hugs me and carries my carry-ons in. I walk with him into a house. I am in a sleep-deprivation haze and totally zonked, but really happy that I drove home instead of waiting around for planes, and really happy that Marty stayed up to chat with me on the phone and meet me when I got home. It is 3:30 am. I have now spent 14 hours traveling, without food, through the middle of the night—when the past few weeks have had me going to bed by 11pm, at the latest. I’m exhausted!

Friday morning we found my baggage waiting for me at the Austin airport (whew!) and returned the rental. Then, of course, I did a lot of sleeping. But I was home and that’s all I cared about. ;}

More than twenty-four hours later, I’m still really glad I spent that money. I find it fascinating how costs translate into benefits. I didn’t pay for a rental car; I paid to get home under my own power, I paid for a surefire solution to the problem of airports. I paid to be instantaneously independent. If I could have paid the airline attendant $200 to get on that last flight to Austin, Thursday night, I probably would have done that too. Interesting. It’s fascinating to me what things are worth.

So I may be a nut, but I’m a nut who got home earlier than the airlines wanted me to. I kept thinking to myself, this is what Spenser would do. I think that’s really, really funny. And I’m really glad to be home.

More Pittsburgh posts (and videos) are on their way!

  • kyeli

    That is fucking awesome. AWESOME!! Way to control your own destiny, girly. (: *big hugs* I am, as usual, awed and proud.

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