The Black Hole of the Midwest

Today’s mid-travel adventures go like this:

  • Get through security at the Fort Wayne airport at 12:38 p.m.
  • Settle in to the waiting area for my flight, which will begin boarding at 1:40 p.m. for departure at 2:11 p.m.
  • Please note: this flight has nothing to do with Chicago. The plane will not approach Chicago, it will not take a shortcut through Chicago, it will not give Chicago a passing glance as we make our way south and west, headed towards Big Sky country. Instead we will fly under Chicago, to Dallas/Fort Worth. When we take off, we will be exactly 190 miles away from Chicago O’Hare by car (if you take US-30 W; 211 miles via IN-14 W or 227 miles by US-24 W) and that distance will immediately begin increasing at a speed somewhere between 460-575 miles per hour. I have, in fact, purposefully scheduled my flight plan to not involve Chicago in any way. At most, I will gesture rudely out the window at Illinois as we bisect the state on our way to Texas.

  • Announcement at 1:41 p.m.: We’re all here and ready to go, but the airplane scheduled for use in this flight from FWA to DFW is delayed in holy bananas how are they still ruining my plans Chicago. It is waiting on the tarmac at O’Hare International Airport, ladies and gentlemen, while flight control attempts to unsnarl the traffic jam on their runways. It should arrive at 2:15 p.m. and we’ll do our best to offload, load-up, and take off at 2:45. Come talk to us at the Gate 8 Desk if you require assistance.
  • Nerves start in, but no need to stand in the line at the desk for a missed connection: I will no longer have time for dinner in Texas, but if I speed walk (and/or run, depending on arrival and departure gates) I can still make the next plane.
  • Still no sign of a plane at 2:15 p.m., but the rolling grey of a storm has spread across the horizon and is rapidly approaching. Less than two minutes later, an almost-literal sheet of rain hits the large airport window to my right, the wind blowing so hard and suddenly it shoves an unused but prepped boarding ramp at the building. Everyone looks up at the window as it groans in protest, watches the rain continue to rapid-fire against the glass for a moment, then goes back to their phones.
  • The rain tapers off in time for the announcement at 2:23 p.m.: Due to weather, the airplane from Chicago—which had been circling the skies above the mess of clouds over Fort Wayne—has been diverted to Detroit. They will wait out the storm, refuel, and try again. Flight board now reads, “Departure Time 5:11 p.m.”
  • By 2:24 p.m. I’m third in line at Gate 8. At 3:00 p.m. I head downstairs to reclaim my checked bag and text my ride, hoping he’s available to pick me back up at the airport and drop me off at my apartment for the night. I have been rescheduled for a flight that leaves first thing tomorrow morning.
  • At 6:53 a.m. To Chicago.

So Mote it Be (or, There and Back Again, a busrider’s tale)

So. We meet again, Bus No. 666. I’ve just spent eleven hours sitting in the Minneapolis terminal and am on my way to another eight in Chicago if we miss my connection like I’m fully expecting. As to the mark of the beast, I’m pretty sure the unnamed creature in Revelation is a greyhound.

I missed the connection in Minneapolis by 12 minutes. The bus was scheduled to take off at 12:55 am, and we made it through the doors at 1:07 am according to their own clocks. To add insult to injury, the bus assistant working the Jefferson Line bus from Billings to Minneapolis (with a connection-ruining half hour layover in Sioux Falls in which they make us all get off the bus for reasons I cannot comprehend) assured us as we were driving into downtown Minneapolis that they were holding the bus for us. There were about twenty of us expecting to make the bus to Chicago, which explains why she disappeared the second the doors opened in the bus station and it was clear that the parking lot was otherwise empty; just enough people to form a mob.

The security officer working the inside of the station apologized sincerely enough that I believe he legitimately felt bad, even while explaining that dispatch told him the bus was forty minutes out and he couldn’t hold the bus that long. This will be the refrain for the Greek Chorus over the next 24 hours. From what I can tell, Greyhound is the overarching parent company that coordinates the regional bus lines throughout the United States, but they hold the umbrella with a feeble grip. Every employee from the baggage handlers on up will explain how my problems originate from some other company. Adam comes to mind, shifting blame in the Garden of Eden: “Well, the woman you gave me…”

My first four and a half hours in Minneapolis are spent in the front desk line, because their ticket agents don’t start work until 4:30 am. The first one shows up at 4:45 and reissues tickets to one and a half patrons before the computers go down. They’re up and running half an hour later, and the moment I’m at the front of the line she disappears, shouting for someone named Elijah. By now there’s a second agent and I am absolutely certain the first agent legitimately has other work to do, but I am just bitter enough at 5:30 in the morning to not appreciate the sound of her and Elijah’s laughter in the back.

Tickets reissued for 12:15 pm. We’re in a bad part of downtown, in a section of the city where the homeless gather, which explains why the benches have been designed to discourage sleeping. Somehow I find the one seat pair that does not have a metal armrest welded between them, and I manage a few winks. I’ll brush my teeth in the bathroom later, splash water on my face, and then reapply my eyeliner in a partially successful attempt to look like the quick rather than the dead.

In honor of my first bus journey, Dad made me watch “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” over the break, which is why I recognize Del Griffith the moment he sits down in the seat next at the bus station. This is the skinny version, short and terrifically pungent; clearly one of those rare humans that literally cannot smell their own body odor*. I am not entirely certain I believe any of his stories, though I have to admit he does look like the sort of fellow who was first surprised by a mountain lion then bitten by two rattlesnakes on the same day while hunting in the badlands**. He’s unemployed but suing his employer for wrongfully withholding his earnings, has a friend who will be in jail for the next fifty years for accidentally murdering a man during a B&E (apparently the homeowner unexpectedly popped up from around a corner, surprising Del’s friend into stabbing him with the knife he happened to be holding at the time), and he’s heading to Rhode Island to visit friends with the increasingly hopeful realization that Greyhound won’t search his luggage and find the buck knives stored among his underwear.

None of this creeps me out (I know the breed; he looks and sounds like a hunter, with the hunter’s penchant for exaggerating his stories), until he tells me that I was really restless throughout the bus ride from Sioux Falls, clearly unable to sleep. “You just couldn’t seem to get comfortable,” he informs me. When he asks if I have family I say yes, knowing full well that he now thinks I’m married. In answer to his follow-up question I admit that I have no children (yet), and am already making up a boyfriend I hope is the one if he pursues his questioning any further by asking why I don’t wear a wedding ring. He doesn’t, so I get by with lying by implication.

He follows me onto the 12:15 bus out of Minneapolis. I dodge his company by saying I hope we all have our own two-seat spread to ourselves, and do not mind when the seat next to me is filled by a large young lady who asks politely if anyone is sitting there, even though we share hip-contact until she gets off in Madison. Honestly, Del’s more entertaining than anything, but there are no vomit bags to read*** and I don’t want to mm-hmm all the way to Chicago. Or – more importantly – smell him for the next ten hours.

We leave fifteen minutes late. Par for the course, and anyways I’ve got a 45 minute layover in Chicago. Five minutes later we’re parked on the side of the road, because one of our tires is flat, showing 0 psi. I finally start to laugh.

Fifteen minutes later we’re off again. The 0 psi warning beeps incessantly for about half an hour before giving up. The guy at the 1-800 number our bus driver called (apparently Greyhound bus mechanics have their own special line with which they answer questions and laugh between calls) thinks it’s just a faulty sensor since the bus can still move. “Hopefully we won’t break down on the way,” the bus driver announces over the intercom. He is full of these optimistic maxims, as I will find out.

Somehow I have picked the one bus seat with a window that fogs up and ices over. Either I am seriously hot stuff, or the weird shape of the window (I only notice after I sit down that I’ve picked a handicap seat) is to blame. Either way I’m put in mind of a character I have living in the back of my head – a kid who, when given two bad choices, always picks the worse one. Today he is autobiographical. I sleep with my pillow and half my head smashed against Plexiglas, washing the bottom half of the window with my hair.

Come to the conclusion that the bus driver (Jim, he introduces himself) is actually a decent man, just meticulous and pessimistic. Unfortunately, I am used to the meticulous pessimists in my life also being efficiently fast, and that he is not. I disparage him on the phone to my father, but unfairly; when the airbrakes fail to release after a thirty-some minute break in Eu Claire, he starts another bus that happens to be sitting abandoned in the parking lot of McDonalds just in case we have to switch buses. The new bus has a faulty door that needs to be chained shut while on the road, so we’re all relieved when the airbrakes thaw twenty minutes later and our original bus starts to roll. Jim has to get out to turn off the other bus, which elicits a groan from two seats back: “No! Keep moving!”

I secretly apologize to him while still on the phone with Dad, hoping he hasn’t overheard me complain about his decision not to start moving luggage while the new (and now unnecessary) bus warms up. He’s doing his best – apparently these buses are notoriously finicky in the winter. A couple miles down the road Jim informs his passengers that the throttle is sticking, undoubtedly having iced up during the break. Fortunately, I’m used to him by now and the words mean nothing. I’m never making my connection tonight, which is its own relief. Now I don’t have to stress about trying to make it.

Que sera, sera. Or, more like: que es, es. At this point, 37 hours into my bus trip, still 500 miles from my apartment in Fort Wayne, and regretting the Egg McMuffin I’ve just eaten, what is, is.

UPDATE: By the grace of God and a bus driver willing to bust a move, I made it to Chicago by 10:15 pm, and well in time for the 10:45 bus to Fort Wayne. I like my half hour experience of Chicago a whole lot better this time around.

*I have both scientific and anecdotal proof of this phenomenon. I read a study years ago, when I heard about one of my brother-in-law’s college roommates. He was stinky, unaware of how stinky despite four years of listening to his roommates’ incessant demands that he take a shower, and eventually married a woman with the same deficiency; they live together in blissful unawareness, compounding their body odors.

**Apparently Sheriff Woody (yes, really) shot it with a shotgun; Del and his buddies had previously tried to scare it off with three Rugers when it leapt on the mountain goat in front of them. It shrugged off the cannon fire and walked away unharmed.

*** “You’re no saint. You got a free cab, you got a free room, and someone who will listen to your boring stories. I mean, didn’t you notice on the plane when you started talking, eventually I started reading the vomit bag? Didn’t that give you some sort of clue, like hey, maybe this guy is not enjoying it? You know, everything is not an anecdote. You have to discriminate. You choose things that, that are funny or mildly amusing or interesting. You’re a miracle. Your stories have none of that! They’re not even amusing accidentally! ‘Honey, I’d like you to meet Del Griffith, he’s got some amusing anecdotes for you. Oh, and here’s a gun so you can blow your brainsout, you’ll thank me for it.’ I-I could tolerate any, any insurance seminar, for days. I could sit there and listen to them go on and on with a big smile on my face. And they’d say, ‘How can you stand it?’ And I’d say, ‘Because I’ve been with Del Griffith. I can take anything.’ You know what they’d say? They’d say, ‘I know what you mean. The shower curtain ring guy.’ It’s like going on a date with a Chatty Cathy doll. I expect you have a little string on your chest. You know, that I pull out and have to snap back. Except that I wouldn’t pull it out and snap it back, you would. GAH, GAH, GAH, GAH! And by the way, you know, when, when you’re telling these little stories, here’s a good idea. Have a point. It makes it so much more interesting for the listener.” (Neal, “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.”)

Bus Route 666

What does is say that I’m doing another of these*? Especially considering that my travel woes once again involve Chicago.

I’m inclined to believe that this correlation is causational and not incidental. Chicago is a central hub in the Midwest, but unlike a roundabout that’s designed to keep people moving, it’s a mess of roadways, skyways, train stations, and bus routes manned by people whose greatest boast is giving even less crap than the employee lounging in the break room with them. I say “manned” because nobody runs anything in Chicago; they count on Chicago to run them.

Admittedly, my impressions of the city have all been bad, gleaned during the bleakest watches of the night while stuck in a customer service line with too many customers and too little service. There may well be things worth seeing in Chicago, but my only other experiences have been with a tollbooth on my way to Fort Wayne and the utterly quotable move, “The Fugitive” (“Well, think me up a cup of coffee and a chocolate doughnut with some of those little sprinkles on top.” “The guy did a Peter Pan right off of this dam, right here!”**) Even with the Hollywood treatment the city manages to feel grungy.

So now that I’ve spent two hundred words complaining about The City That Doesn’t Work, here’s some context: I lost my mind and decided to take the bus back home to Montana for Christmas. I’ve never traveled by bus before, and considering how much plane tickets cost this time of the year, I figured it would be worth it to find out if Greyhound was a viable travel alternative.

The bad news is that I’m currently three hours into an unplanned thirteen-hour layover. The good news: I’m not only still pleased about how much money I’ve saved traveling this way, I also have my answer.

No. Absolutely not, no way, thanks but no thanks. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.

Highlights (and/or Lowlights):

  • Arrive at the bus station (the city-line hub) half an hour early.
  • Sweating bullets an hour later, still sitting in the city bus station while a mom snaps at her crying children to knock it off, knowing I will never make my connection but still clinging to the impossible hope. For some reason, someone shoots off professional-grade fireworks about half a block away during this stint. They last two minutes, and I still have no idea what they were celebrating. Definitely not the efficiency of bus travel.
  • The line to Chicago finally arrives on hour late. The bus driver tells me the Friday bus is always this late, like I ought to have known. When I start crying silently he asks me what’s wrong and I manage something about missing Christmas. No idea if he catches any of that, because I’ve already turned away, embarrassed because I can’t stop.
  • Cry halfway to Chicago. My seatmate – an Asian man with an accent – offers me the window seat during one of our stops. I waffle (“Are you sure?”) and he says yes, you’re doing this, and mimics the neck-bobbing move of napping without head support. I take him up on the offer.
  • Later asks me if there’s something wrong with my sinuses. It takes me a second to figure out what he means. Conversation goes like this:
    • Asian man: “Something wrong with sinus?”
    • Me: “Sinus? You mean my…nose?”
    • Him: “Yes. Allergies, or something?”
    • Me: “…oh. No, I was crying because I’m afraid I’m not going to make it home in time for Christmas.”
  • He spends the next 45 minutes telling me not to be depressed, that everything will be all right, that all I need to do is relax, Greyhound will take care of me when we get to Chicago, and that his mother is in heaven with Jesus. I believe him.
  • Partially calm myself by thinking of ways to get out of Chicago, even if it isn’t by bus. Hit by the brilliant thought that I could rent a car for the six hour drive to Minneapolis in order to make it in time for the 6:30 a.m. departure to Sioux Falls.
  • Eavesdrop on a conversation between the driver and a woman my age, trying to make the same connection in Chicago to Minneapolis. Bus driver eventually transforms into the heroic figure of the night. He takes real pride in his work, which makes me like him on instinct; turns out he told me they’re late on Friday not to accidentally make me feel bad about scheduling a tight connection on a Friday night, but because he’s proud of the fact that his route is always on time except for Fridays. He’d like dispatch to change the schedule, because it’s a known fact.
    • (He is absolutely the reason I don’t spend the night sitting in a chair in the bus station at 630 W Harrison St, Chicago, IL.)
  • The Chicago station is overwhelmingly awful at 11:30 p.m, and in no uncertain terms does not exist in conjunction with car rental services. It’s small, packed with people, and employs three travel agents buried behind a line a hundred people long. Nothing on the travel board for Minneapolis until 6:15 a.m., and no announcements come over the PA.
  • Quietly panic. Find that girl also headed through Sioux Falls and quietly panic with her. She’s been on the bus since Thursday night, and this is apparently par for the course. I watch her luggage so she can find our driver, who’d told her that they were holding a bus for the people headed to Minneapolis.
  • It not only turns out this is true, he goes and finds the bus for us. Neither of us kiss him, but it’s a close thing.
    • (I should’ve gotten his name. Someone rain down accolades on this man’s head for caring about his passengers.)
  • Bus takes off for Chicago. I cry with relief on the phone with Mom. Laugh when she says Dad looked into car rentals. I must have been raised by these people.
  • By the time we hit the I-94, the sudden release of tension manifests as a headache. (That triggers a distinct memory: the first time this happened I was eleven, and had misspelled my way out of the city spelling bee.) Don’t even care, especially when the handsome young man sitting in the window seat next to me gets off in Milwaukee and the entire two-seat spread becomes mine.
    • (My own, my precious.)
  • I navigate through piles of unconscious people at the stop in Milwaukee. One guy has his legs spread into the middle aisle, obviously dead asleep as people knock his knees back and forth in passing, though my favorite sleeping position has to be the girl with the top of her head smashed into the seat in front of her, arms hung limp and heavy to the floor, her hair a curtain around her face. I work my way up front to talk to the driver about our chances of making the next connection.
  • Bus driver says that we’ll definitely make it in time for the 6:30 a.m. bus from Minneapolis to Sioux Falls. I believe him in the same way that I believe my stuffed animals are real, and simultaneously know that they aren’t.
  • I take off my shoes to curl up in the seat, never mind the “no shoes, no shirt, no service” sign back at the first station. This is my second act of deviance tonight – I have metal cutlery hidden in the bottom of my snack bag, despite the fact that we’re only allowed plastic. I have no idea what they think I’m going to do with a metal spoon that I couldn’t just do with a disposable one.
    • (As I side note, I do keep the shirt on.)
  • Belief in the promise of temporal salvation begins to falter forty-five minutes later, when we’re still sitting at the stop we should have left fifteen minutes ago. Especially when it turns out we’re stuck because our driver doesn’t know how to release the emergency break. In his defense, this is a new bus.
  • Against him is the fact that our driver doesn’t know how to release the emergency break on his bus.
    • (The prosecution rests.)
  • Break releases. By trial and error? By magic? We’ll never know. Check the driving directions on my phone between naps, comparing driving times on Google’s navigation app with our progress. Maybe we’ll make it anyways.
  • I’m not even sad when we don’t. I’m cried out and – by 6:40 a.m. with no city in sight – resigned to my fate. At 7:50 we’re in Minneapolis, long past departure for the bus to Sioux Falls.
  • Find a few more tears anyways when I’m on the phone with Dad, reading out the details on my ticket. They only run two buses out to Montana each day, and the next is at 9 p.m. tonight.
  • But lemons make lemonade, right? Because I will make it home in time for Christmas Eve services. As a courtesy they’re keeping my luggage locked up in the security office, so here I am, spending a day in the Minneapolis Public Library. My Saturdays often look like this anyways.
  • And I am not in Chicago.

* See UA 666

** “And don’t let them give you any shit about your pony tail.”

There is no entry in Microsoft Word’s thesaurus for the word “snot”

They didn’t even try to offer me the word “booger.”

Highlights from the move:

  • Getting my sister-in-law to admit that she loves me too.
  • Stopping on the edge of Nowheresville, SD. My sister and brother-in-law’s dog greeted me like the prodigal son, but only because I’ve spent years ingratiating myself to her with daily walks along the railroad tracks. I also picked up a cold on the way out the door (likely from the four-year-old, who’s shirtsleeve was streaked with snot by the end of each day; my brother-in-law’s disgusted but ultimately resigned attempts to get him to use a Kleenex ended in failure), but it was well worth it for the long weekend at their house.
  • One of the joys in my relatively frugal life is cable while I travel. I’ve never paid for it myself and likely never will, so the first thing I do when I get to a hotel is turn on the TV. I stayed up until 12:40 in the morning, waiting for something good to come on. I gave up in the middle of a documentary on the murder of Laci Peterson, after looking up the ending on Wikipedia. (The husband did it.)
  • My stuff took up a grand total of seven linear feet in the moving truck, but you have no idea how much this is until you live in a second floor apartment. Thanks go to Dad and Mom on one end, and the volunteers I somehow conned into helping me on the other. The TV cabinet I inherited from my grandmother wasn’t nearly as heavy this time around, getting to watch someone else haul it up the stairs.
  • There are 8,000 stores to shop at, and possibly twice as many restaurants in Fort Wayne. I have already gotten the rundown on which Walmart is the crappy one and which one is the good one, and – having been to the megastore every day for four straight days – I can tell you they were right. Also, I stood in front of the TVs for half an hour on day number four, talking to my brother on my cell just because I missed the sound of his voice.
  • I love store-bought frosted sugar cookies, but I should probably eat something else for breakfast. Fortunately, my sister packed me two of the pasties we made on Saturday, and a quart Ziploc of homemade caramel popcorn.
  • Still not actually breakfast, now that I think about it.
  • Sitting on the glider in my living room while I type this, I’ve only just noticed that my DVD holder (a book stand) prominently displays the movies at the end of each shelf. One of those movies is “High School Musical 3,” another is “Transformers,” and I am officially shallow enough to tuck those back into their respective piles and replace them with two of the three dramas I own, just in case anyone stops by.
  • I’ve set my cat’s water and food dish on the porcelain window seat in my bedroom, and for some reason this confuses the snot out of her. After I dump the food in the bowl, Harper continues to follow me around instead of jumping up on the ledge to eat, meowing like I’m hoarding her kibble in some mysterious place I have yet to reveal to her. Once she figures out the new system I’m thinking of moving the dishes somewhere else, just to see how long it takes what I formerly thought was an intelligent kitty to adapt.
  • Walking back from the Redbox at Walgreens, I noticed an office building that houses “Your POS Stuff.” I am almost certain this doesn’t stand for what I kind of hope it stands for.
  • A lot more than the above has happened, but that’ll do, pig. The rest of this week’s update will go largely unseen – unless you look for it. I’ve rewritten my “About Author” page on every site I exist on, updating it to reflect my new job and state.
  • And finally:
  • The Cat, lording it over her one subject. She insisted on the apartment with the loft and spiral staircase, undoubtedly for this reason.

UA 666

Because I find complaining about airlines cathartic, I wrote the following Monday morning, twenty hours into what should have been a seven hour trip. Transcribed from my chicken-scratch and organized into bullet points for your viewing pleasure, here’s what the last two days looked like for me:

  • First flight left on time, 12:35 pm Mountain Time.
  • Diverted to Madison, WI when a thunderstorm shut down Chicago O’Hare.
  • Storm ends half an hour after we land in Madison. Still might make my connecting flight, as long as this refuel goes as quickly as they say.
  • An hour and forty minutes after landing in Madison, WI they let us off the plane. The maintenance guy called to come in and figure out what’s wrong with the refueling is forty-five minutes away.
  • Madison, WI runs out of food. Plenty of alcohol at the bar, however, though I stay in the line at the gate, hoping to speak with a gate agent about rescheduling.
  • Finally figure out that United has one gate agent on staff in this part of the airport in Madison on a Sunday night. She flees the scene to help board another flight (headed, rather insultingly, to Chicago), leaving us with the news that even if she was available, she isn’t authorized to reschedule any flights. That’s her supervisor’s job.
  • Supervisor possibly dead.
  • At the very least we never see this mythical creature.
  • Trade rumors with fellow passengers about what’s going on with our plane for the next two hours. These run about as accurately as a game of telephone. In the process, accidentally become friends with people who’s names I will never know:
    • The Australian/American couple trying to get back home to London.
    • A young father certain to miss his daughter’s 5th birthday.
    • A girl who had only two days to go and see her friend.
    • A man married to a pastor’s daughter, shaking his head because he should have stayed home rather than go on this suddenly pointless overnight vacation to Kansas City.
    • A guy on hold with United for over an hour, with enough leftover concentration to laugh at my dry remarks about top-ten customer service strategies — like leaving until the line of irritated passengers disperses.
    • The partially blind man (he has a white cane and something wrong with his eyes, but meets my gaze when we exchange unpleasantries about flying in general and United in specific) who uses the Americans with Disabilities Act as a bludgeon. He raises his voice when he says “fair access,” but the lone gate agent just picks up speed on her way to the other flight when he yells the acronym at her back.
  • Forty minutes after our pilot tells us the fueling issue has been resolved and we’re good to go, I start the rumor that the reason we haven’t boarded yet is because we don’t have a gate agent to let us on (with the caveat that I’m only guessing).
  • Caveat does not make it into the rumor mill. Fortunately, no harm no foul: turns out I’m right. Four hours after landing in the capital of Wisconsin, someone finds a gate agent from downstairs and a computer printout of all our names to check everybody in. (By airline logic: because we do not belong in Madison, we do not exist in Madison. None of the computers here will do anything for us.)
  • Finally taxiing away from the airport for the twenty-nine minute flight to Chicago.
  • Some twenty-nine minutes after that, spend two and a half hours in the Chicago O’Hare customer service line with hundreds of other victims of weather and/or mechanical issues. Psychologically prepping myself to argue that our problem was ultimately mechanical and they therefore need to comp both the flight and the overnight stay.
  • Find out before I even get within gate-distance of customer service (the line started out two gates long) that our flight failure has already been classified as mechanical. Both relieved and disappointed at being robbed of the chance to vent my spleen.
  • During the two+ hours spent winding back and forth in front of customer service — while exchanging news with passengers I recognize from my flight as we pass on each loop — find out that:
    • The young father will make it back to Savannah just after nap-time tomorrow, in time for his daughter’s birthday after all.
    • The Londoners are stuck in Chicago until next evening.
    • The guy on the phone has beaten United Airlines down from a 6:00 pm flight next day to the 8:00 am one. He’s in line for hotel accommodations and looks enormously pleased with himself. We are legitimately happy for him, partly because it gives us hope, partly because we’re all friends now.
    • See the disabled man on a courtesy transport, grinning as he zips by customer service with his cane in his lap.
    • Meet another couple from my flight and talk for awhile — they remind me of grandparents. Not mine specifically, but enough to make me feel like I’m almost with family. We talk river rock, of all things.
    • End up at the customer service desk next to the married man, who waits around until my flight’s been re-booked and I have a hotel for the night. “I have a wife and a sister,” he says. “I just wanted to make sure.”
  • Get to the hotel a little before 1:00 am. Request a 4:15 am wake-up call. My ticket for the 7:35 am flight tomorrow is on standby and the gal at customer service — a very nice lady who does her best for me and feels bad when she can’t do better — suggested I get to the airport by 5:00 am.
    • (Still worth it for the shower and the three hour nap. I once spent the night at the Las Vegas airport where every single one of their chairs has armrests, which cuts off any possibilities of using them as a makeshift bed. Never again.)
  • Turns out I’m #2 on the standby list. I spend two and a half hours watching the sunrise come a soft, sweet purple across the tarmac, sweating out the wait and praying that no one will check in at the last minute.
  • Bonus discovery: on small airplanes, United charges for the second carry-on bag if you already have a personal item. Shove that bad boy into my tote like a boss, still hoping something terrible has happened to anyone else planning to check in for the flight.
  • Five minutes before the gate agent can start assigning spare seats to the ten or so standbys hoping they make the cut, I receive a text from United reminding me to check in for my return flight tomorrow morning.
  • Will find the timing funny at 7:15, when I’m sitting on the plane and thanking God I made it.
  • Having thanked God for deliverance, naturally spend the next hour and a half sitting in the plane without it moving so much as off the jet bridge. There’s a discrepancy in the maintenance paperwork so we have to wait for maintenance to send a spare guy to sign off on the plane.
  • Maintenance takes two minutes to sign off.
  • 10:37 am Eastern time zone we hit the tarmac at our destination. Only twenty and a half hours until boarding begins for my flight back to Bozeman.

There’s a good chance this is confusing at parts, but I’m operating on three hours of sleep and don’t feel like putting off this update for a more coherent time. Questions will earn you answers, so feel free to ask if something doesn’t make sense.

Ugh, I should’ve gone to bed two hours ago.

Awww :(

So I’m driving home from Mom and Dad’s, with my dinner in a paper bag and the M&M’s in a Ziploc bag in the passenger’s seat, when I take the turn off onto HWY 89 more quickly than I ought. This happens:

It was a very sad ride home.

(Because Schultz’s, when they go on road trips, don’t pull over for any reason. Except to go to the bathroom and I’d already done that.)

(Also, these were leftovers from Easter, which explains the color of the candy. Just FYI for anyone who was wondering.)