This is an old anecdote, from 1997.
Another exciting :::sarcasm alert::: round of airline travel — so exciting that I should share. You can laugh, you can cry, you can empathize. I EARNED these frequent flier miles, honey.
The original itinerary
Tuesday morning: Chicago to Minneapolis. Spend the day at the Minneapolis office.
Tuesday night: Fly with Debbie to Sioux City, IA. Drive to South Dakota to client. Meet Shellie, client manager from Minneapolis, who had been in Chicago shooting a video.
Thursday: They return to Minneapolis. I return to Chicago via St. Louis.
Ha! Maybe the first clue was when Shellie was delayed in Chicago due to weather . . .
Let’s rock and roll!
Shortly before my plane was due to take off from O’Hare to Minneapolis, a downpour began. A serious downpour. No thunder or lightning, but rain galore. The plane began taxiing — and promptly slid to the left. I’m pretty sure it was sliding because the grassy area kept coming closer and closer and I thought the idea was to go straight. Then, the plane began sliding to the right. The other grassy area approached. Finally, the plane straightened out (there were a few more slides, but not as bad). I was probably white as death by then, but I seemed to be the only soul who had noticed. I spent far too much time in the next few minutes wondering if a plane slides more in rain taxiing or taking off. It turned out to be more taxiing. Whew.
A couple weeks ago when I went through security at Minneapolis, my carpetbag set the alarm off, so this poor fellow had to search it thoroughly. It wasn’t so bad when it was the standard stuff — clothes, shampoo, etc. But his face took on an interesting look when he got to the black undies. That look that says, “Some days, I really hate this job.”
This time at O’Hare, I didn’t set security off, but a five-year-old female thumb sucker and her stuffed animal did. Talk about a juvenile delinquent. Although she certainly played the confused innocent as a man waved the wand all over her.
Spent a productive day at Minneapolis before leaving the office at 7 o’clock for the 8:10 flight to Sioux City, Iowa. Debbie and I thought we had plenty of time. Ha. I had to buy my ticket, so we tried going the e-ticket route. No chance. We tried the teleticket route. No chance. We finally settled for the “purchase ticket” line (which, thank goodness, was short) at about 7:45. Five minutes later, the agent says, “I have to escort you through security.” Me? I thought maybe it had to do with buying my ticket at the last minute.
After being escorted through security, I was asked to step aside because “it’s an FAA rule.” I was by this time a little confused. I couldn’t imagine the FAA rule that says, “Search Diane Schirf every other trip out of Minneapolis.” Debbie was on the other side of security looking increasingly distraught. She had told me that we had to catch a shuttle to some far-off terminal because we were going to be on one of the proverbial puddle jumpers. I couldn’t figure out why she didn’t have to go through security at all. And I could hear only snatches of what she was screaming. (Basically, it was, “Hurry up! The shuttle’s leaving!”)
Now, I didn’t have a choice. Because a middle-aged woman with an accent was hand searching my bags. This involved feeling everything in them and, in some cases, opening the bags within the bag. She was fascinated by the pocket in my Franklin planner. She pulled the planner out twice, unzipped the back pocket, and felt in it. (It’s just big enough to hold a floppy.) I don’t know what she thought was going to be in there. The second time she pulled it out, she said, “This is a planner, no?” (“Yes.”) Meanwhile, Debbie is waving at me frantically and jumping up and down. And the searcher stopped periodically to chat with another security person and to ask him if he knew where some abandoned passport came from.
Suddenly, my interrogator asked, “What’s this?” She was feeling a pocket in the bottom of my new suitcase. I looked and replied, “Underwear.” “This? This is a WIRE.” I was by then very confused and felt where she indicated. Aha. “Ahem, it’s an underwire bra.” “Oh, aren’t those things uncomfortable? Wires poking you all over the place.” Meanwhile, more Debbie in the background.
Next was my computer bag. She had me turn it on. “What do you need to see on it?” I foolishly asked. “Three lines. I need to see three lines. Three lines.” She looked a bit upset when my Mac OS smiley faces came on and quickly said, “Turn it off.” (I realized much later she was looking for three lines of DOS. Ha! Not on my Mac! 🙂
I could see Debbie was about to blow a blood vessel and hurriedly zipped the computer bag. All of a sudden, I feel this woman going through my purse thrown over my shoulder. And by then Debbie is screaming so I could hear, “Oh my! The shuttle left!” The security woman finally let me go after insisting on chatting some more and Debbie yelled “Run!” We ran to the exit at top speed and Debbie is yelling hysterically at the shuttle driver, “I CANNOT believe he left with my stuff! FLOOR IT!” As it happens, she had put her bags on the shuttle in the interest of time and the driver had told her he’d wait for her. Then he took off. All the way to the terminal she never stopped saying, “I can’t believe he left! With my computer and printer! I can’t believe he did that! Oh my!”
When our shuttle pulled up, she ran off it, literally mowed down the people getting off the other one, and grabbed her bags. We ran to the terminal, where a shuttle to the plane was boarding (remember, it was a puddle jumper). The agent was kind enough to check us in after everyone was on the shuttle. So, we run to that shuttle with our seven bags (two computers, two suitcases, two purses, and a printer). We squeeze on and I announce loudly for all my fellow passengers’ benefit, “I want you people to know that I am going to be the safest person on this plan. I HAVE BEEN HAND SEARCHED.” :::waving my ticket stub in the air with the words “hand searched” stamped in red:::. And another woman yelled from the middle, “Hey, I’m as safe as you! I was HAND SEARCHED in Atlanta!” She was even luckier than me. She apparently had been pulled into a room. Just so everyone could be suspicious of her, I suppose.
Weights and balances
The plane revved up and pulled out onto the runway. The flight attendant (yes, there was one — and even soda and pretzels) walked obssessively up and down the aisle, on the prowl for someone with an unfastened seatbelt. Finally, she caught Debbie with her computer case strap in the aisle. “Yes,” I said, “What are you trying to do — kill us all?” Debbie gave me her patented scrunchy face. The flight attendant returned and whispered something to her. “What’s up?” I asked. Debbie said, “I have to move to the front. For weight balance during takeoff and landing.” It was at this point that I remembered why I don’t like flying.
We picked up our rental car and drove to the hotel, which was about 25 minutes away. As we checked in, the young man at the counter told Debbie that her travel agent had demanded she get a kingsize bed. “Oh, good.” Then he told me, “Your travel agent also said you have to have a kingsize bed.” Debbie found this fascinating as we have different corporate travel agents with thousands of business clients. We were touched by their concern.
I got to my room — 126 — unpacked, and tried to make a phone call. I dialed 9 for an outside line and got a busy signal. This went on for a half hour. Clearly, the phone wasn’t working. I called the desk. They kept giving me an outside line but that didn’t work, either. The older guy at the desk just kept saying, “I don’t know what to tell you.” (Tell me that you’ll fix it. Never happened. So much for concern. 😉
Debbie and I had agreed to meet at 7:40 a.m. in the lobby, so I set my alarm. Next morning, I show up on time (a rarity for me) — no Debbie. Debbie is the type who is prompt. Finally, I asked the desk guy for the time (I never wear a watch). “Oh, it’s 6:50.” Apparently, I had changed the time on the clock to an hour earlier — and gotten up at some ungodly hour just to wait. On my three hours of sleep from having had to get up at 4 the morning before for the early flight to Minneapolis. I was facing two intense days of client meetings on energy empty. I made use of my time to ask about the phone. “I really need a working phone.” “Well, you can use that one.” (Points to one on the wall in the lobby.) I needed to make an extremely personal call, and somehow making it in the lobby just as everyone is passing by for breakfast didn’t appeal to me.
Eventually, Debbie and Shellie arrived and we headed to a hearty breakfast of cornflakes and sticky rolls, then off to the client, with me lugging computer, purse, and a ream of documentation and communications pieces in a redweld.
We were greeted by a young woman and an affable, beefy guy at the front visitors’ desk. The guy looked at me and asked, “What time is it?” I just looked at him, but Debbie looked at her watch and helpfully said, “8:20.” He gave her a funny look and said, “Ummm, she’s got her hands full.” (He was hoping I’d dump my redweld all over the floor turning my wrist — a redweld full of highly confidential stuff, by the way.) And I looked back at him and said, deadpan, “Ummm, I’m not wearing a watch.” (I never do.) And the girl with him laughed and said, “I was wondering why you were asking the time when there’s a CLOCK right behind us. The guy ended up looking cutely sheepish. Don’t you love it when it backfires on you? 🙂
The return trip — sort of
The next day, Shellie and Debbie suggested I try to get on their flight to Minneapolis (it had been fully booked) to avoid going through St. Louis, which would take longer and get me into Chicago from Minneapolis pretty late Thursday night. I do. Everything’s set.
After two days of labour, we are released. Kinda of late, so we peel to the airport in Sioux City. Where we discover there as been a problem in Minneapolis and Chicago, and the 2:45 flight to Minneapolis actually left at 6:30. We sit around, making calls, working, chatting, etc. Shellie said something to me about going to use the bathroom. She returned and said, “I can’t go in there. There’s a guy in there [cleaning].” I said, “Well, Shellie, it’s times like these where you mow the sucker down and do your thing.” The guy sitting across from us doubled over laughing. Shellie left again (and apparently mowed ). The guy asked me who we were with and who we’d been visiting. I told him, and it turned out he’d been at the same client. We had a nice little chat about the culture at this client and our respective tours. He also told me I might want to suggest Shellie take off her visitor badge.
Finally, we left around 7:45. This did me little good since my flight from Minneapolis to Chicago was scheduled for 8. Guess I was going to miss it. Uneventful flight. We arrived around 9 or so.
On the shuttle from the one terminal to another, I said something to Shellie that made a woman in front of me start laughing. Soon, everyone’s looking at me. A guy across from then looks and says, “Hey, you and I have been together all night and all day!” (He’d been at the hotel and had checked out at the same time I did.) I thought, Ummm, you might want to rephrase that . . . but instead we got into a conversation about the hotel. Everyone was listening. When the shuttle stopped, the woman next to me leaned over and said to me a little grouchily, “I couldn’t hear what he [the driver] said.” Oh, well. She was envious no one was talking to her.
Shellie pointed me to the United area at Minneapolis and I headed for a flight. I was a little suspicious why there weren’t any United agents around. Finally, I called our travel agent’s emergency number. I got booked on a Northwest flight that was leaving in minutes . . . from another concourse. I walk fast from the blue concourse to the gold . . . and don’t see a plane. I look at the agent, who is filling out forms and ignoring me. Finally, she realises I’m not going away. “I’m NOT answering any more questions. I am leaving!” “Tell me one thing — did that plane leave for Chicago?” “Yep.”
The stay and real return
Another call to the emergency number. “Okay, please get me a room at the Embassy Suites and a 6 p.m. flight tomorrow night.” So, after a lovely night at the Embassy Suites and another day in Minneapolis (including a very nice pub lunch with Shellie), I did make the 6 p.m. flight. One minute before the door closed. Thank goodness for first class. (We have a deal where our flights between Chicago/Minneapolis are cheaper first class than coach. Darn. ) The first flight attendant took a liking to me and talked to me the entire trip. She was an extremely cute, perky, happy young thing. She got so distracted by our conversation that when she went into her spiel at the end, she said into the PA, “And, as always, we’d like to thank you for choosing Chicago . . . er, United.” She looked at me and literally fell out of her chair laughing.
Now, about that fire alarm at 1 a.m. . . .
Addendum: I no longer wear underwire bras.