Saturday, September 24, 2005

The Gambler...(long post alert)

"You've gotta know when to hold 'em.
You've gotta know when to fold 'em.
You've gotta know when to walk away.
You've gotta know when to run."

A smart man once sang those words. Or maybe it was a rich man?

I'm safe and sound in good ol Dover, DE now. But let's go back a bit, shall we?

THURSDAY, September 22, 10:30pm:

I learn my coworker's flight on Contential (the same 1st leg connecting flight I'm on) is canceled and he makes backup plans on another airline. Unfortunately he's heading to Columbus and I'm not. We can't stay in our hotel rooms any longer due to the influx of Houston residents fleeing Hurricane Rita.

I was on on hold with my cell phone for two solid hours trying to get a hold of Contential, on the hotel phone on hold with my company's travel agent, and on line trying to book any backup flight I could.

I managed to get THE ONLY flight out of Austin on Southwest at 8pm Friday- just about the time the Hurricane was to be beating down on Austin.

I got fed up with being on hold on both phones and hung up. My coworker informed me that he had gotten an alternate flight at 7:10am on Friday. So this meant that I had to get up at 3:30am, and run him to the Houston airport, return to the office, work all day, and then pray that my flight would leave Austin that night at 8pm. This would put me in Baltimore at midnight, allowing me to get home around 3am.

Being up for 24 straight hours, does not a happy Del make.

Before going to sleep that night, I checked my flight status online and it was still saying I was a go for my original flight. But, really, how reliable is the Interent when it comes to up-to-date information? Would you risk your life on it? Let's face it, the Internet is wonderful, but I would still feel the most assured if a real person told me my flight was a go. Too bad that wasn't going to happen. Been there, done that, spent 2 hours.

FRIDAY, September 23, 3:30am:

I got up and tried both numbers again. No dice. I checked the weather and the web, same story; your flight is on schedule. Uh-huh, sure it is. I went and took my shower and thoughts started running through my head how THIS might be the last shower I get for a long time.

Then it hit me.

What if I try and actually CHECK IN online. It shouldn't let me check in and print my boarding passes if the flight has been canceled should it? Not that I could print them anyway, but I could get a little more verification, right?

Sure enough, it was letting me check in, AND it was going to let me print my boarding pass.

At this point I had to make a major decision. Do I go to the airport with my coworker, turn in the car, and try and actually board the same initial flight into Houston that he was told personally was canceled? I was running through the scenarios in my head. Maybe it had to do with his connecting flight? He was leaving out of Houston later that I was. Maybe they were just telling callers that so that they could free up some space and get him to take a different flight.

I put all my chips on black and rolled the dice.

We turned in the car and headed off to our respective airlines. People were EVERYWHERE. Both security lines extended out of the queues and wrapped around back and forth like the line for Space Mountain in Disney World.

I thanked myself silently for getting there so early. I rounded the counter to Contential Airlines and not a single person was in line.

Oh shit. This can't be good.

I walked over to the self-check in and crossed my fingers as I entered my information.

Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please let me on this flight!

Some computing cycles later and it asked me if I need to check bags and spit out my passes!

Thank you God! SUCCESS!

The high-roller wins! I broke the bank. Like the smart man said, you've gotta know when to hold 'em.

After not being intimately searched this time, I walked to my gate feeling like I just cheated death. I hopped on the airport's wireless Internet and canceled my backup flight (you've gotta know when to fold 'em), and then boarded my plane (you've gotta know when to walk away)for the chaos of Houston.

I was one of about 40 people on a 737 headed toward a category 4 hurricane. Flying in to Houston was a once in a lifetime experience. Because it's not everyday that you see 8 lane highways completely empty. This city of 4 million people looked like a ghost town. I could count the number of moving cars I saw on my fingers. Nobody on golf courses. Nobody at stop lights. Nobody anywhere.

We landed and I caught my connecting flight. This one was full, as I expected. We were one of the last flights to leave Houston that day, as the airport closed down at noon.

Like the smart man said, you've gotta know when to run.

I had a long flight ahead of me on a stuffy plane, so after some small talk with the people next to me, I decided to just catch up on some sleep I missed that morning.

"...So when he'd finished speakin, he turned back towards
the window,crushed out his cigarette and faded off to sleep."

It's good stuff people. Words to live by.