Another story of an adventure in traveling with Etch. These were always some of the most memorable times of my travels.
This one was originally written on July 1, 2007.
My travels and my life are always filled with surprises, so I guess I can always look forward to the next day, the next surprise – you never know what life has in store for you.
A thunderstorm rolled into the Chicago area. Driving back to the airport was treacherous with blinding rain at times and winds causing vehicles to drift across lanes. I knew this meant trouble. My flight was in 3 hours but O’Hare is one of those airports where the slightest bit of weather creates complete chaos.
I arrived to the terminal and stepped up to the kiosk to get my boarding passes. Not to my surprise but to my displeasure the kiosk read back:
Your flight has been CANCELED. Please wait while we search for other available flights.
With a heavy sigh I waited. Our whole team was heading to the airport destined for other jobs after a two-day on-site training with the vendor so I knew others would be in the same predicament.
I called Etch – he was just arriving at the airport. I looked up his flight number and informed him his flight has a 1 hour delay, so he could take his time.
The kiosk found that the previous flight to Nashville had been put on a 3 hour delay and seats were available so it reticketed me to it. This was hopeful, but I knew this airport too well. That three hour delay was just the beginning for that flight.
I went through security – United’s services line was already over one hundred deep of customers trying to re-book canceled flights. Now having three hours to kill, or more, I leisurely headed towards the end of the terminal to find somewhere to have lunch. Then I spotted Dan and Jorge from our team. We compared our flight issues – everyone was on delay.
As usual, O’Hare was packed. The only restaurant in the terminal where seating could be had was a Chili’s. We grabbed a table and lunch was served. I called Etch back and let him know where we would be.
We had the typical “work” conversation. Jorge knows how to relax after a long day but Dan is young, and more introverted. Typical technician; very intelligent but at times not socially skilled. Etch joined us and the next two hours were killed with beer, food and a raucous crowd in the restaurant.
We could see Jorge’s airplane from the restaurant window so he left to board his flight as I continued to monitor my flight on my cell phone.
Delayed to 5:05.
Dan, decided to leave to see if he could find where his flight was going to board since a gate hadn’t been posted.
My flight was now posted at 5:59.
“I know it’s going to get canceled.” I commented to Etch.
“Dude, we’re going to be stuck here. This sucks. I wanted to knock off that job in Kokomo by eight and get back home to see Nikki.”
“Yeah, I feel so sorry for you, getting to go home and hang out with strippers.”
Etch laughed. “Lets go to our terminal and check on the flights.”
“Sure,” I replied, “now mine is posted at 6:55. It’s not going anywhere.”
We walked to the C concourse where both of our flights were supposed to take off from. As we crossed through the concourse, the departure board showed the flight to Nashville now pushed back to 6:55 was no longer my flight number. A quick check of my phone confirmed, the flight indeed canceled.
“Crap. This sucks.”
“Oh man, you’re going to have to stand in that line and re-book something for tomorrow.”
I looked at the line for United services, which was now curling 10 gates down the concourse from the queue.
“No way, I’m not standing in that. How far is Nashville to drive from here?”
He brought up a map on his laptop.
I sighed and pondered my options.
“No, not standing in that line. I’m going to my gate, where the flight was supposed to be and I’m going to play dumb and see where I can get.”
“Good plan,” Etch agreed. We walked to the far end of the concourse for what was sure to be a fruitless venture.
I found a gate agent; she didn’t look happy to be dealing with anyone at the moment. Flights were dropping off the board as cancellations faster than they were taking off as the next storm could be seen rolling towards the airport in the distance.
“How are you?” I asked her as friendly as possible.
“Can I help you with something?” She curtly replied.
“Ah.. yeah.. what’s the story with the flights to Nashville? Anything going there tonight?’
“Nope, everything is canceled, the only flight still on the board is booked and standby is about 20 people right now.” She responded looking up information on her terminal.
“Hmm.. ok, anything to Louisville?”
“Do they have an airport?” she asked.
“I think so.”
“Well, if they do we don’t fly there.”
“So you’re telling me there is nothing going into Kentucky or Tennessee tonight.”
“That’s about it.”
“So I’m screwed.”
“Pretty much, sorry.”
“It’s ok. Not your fault. I’ll figure something out. Thanks for all your help and time.” I turned away and walked back to Etch to tell him all the great news.
“I’ve got nothing dude. Looks like I’m driving.”
“Sucks man. Lets walk to my gate and see what’s what.”
We walked to the other end of the terminal to his gate. His flight was now posted with a five hour delay.
“Man,” he said as we walked, “I’m thinking about just seeing if I can get to Columbus where my car is and just go do this job tomorrow.”
“Sounds like a plan. Better off going home and spending the night with a stripper than dicking around with flights.”
“No doubt, you said it.”
We got to the gate. The situation was grim. Flight was delayed now until 9PM.
But as luck would have it, the gate right next to his flight, there was a flight to Columbus – and it was boarding.
“I’m going,” Etch said, “if they have seats, I’m going home.”
“Well, I’m not staying stuck here. If they have seats I’m going too!”
We approached the counter and Etch asked, “Any seats on this flight?”
“Yeah, just a minute.” Said the agent.
She returned from the plane and we handed her our boarding passes for our respective, originally scheduled flights. She took them and simply said, “Get your asses on the plane, it’s closing in one minute. Seats 7A and B, go.”
We grabbed our bags and ran down the jetway to the plane…
Columbus at least got me closer to where I needed to be. I knew this would turn out to be another one of those nights once we got to Dayton.
On the plane, we sat taxied on the runway for what felt like hours. They were letting passengers get up to use the restrooms. I managed to convince a lovely young flight attendant to provide Etch and I some pre-flight drinks. Once the flight took off, I managed to convince her to provide us more. It wasn't a long flight, but we had a few in us to get us through. Etch suggested rum and Sprite instead of a usual Jack & Coke. He was right, and my brief love-affair with rum began.
The drive to Dayton seemed longer than it was for that time of night. I was tired from the day and Avis gave me a brand new Mustang that just drove like... a Ford. It was a struggle to stay awake in it.
Talking to Etch as we drove in our respective vehicles, he invited me to stop at his Air Force base in Springfield. We got to the bar across the street so I could park my car. I changed clothes in the parking lot and we drove in Etch’s car onto the base.
Way… WAY cool. I’ve never been around military jets up close. Etch and his friend who was working late night maintenance showed me around the base and the maintenance hangar. I got to climb into several F-16’s in various states of repair. Some, nearly completely dismantled.
Etch took pictures of me by a couple of the planes, we thanked his friend for the tour and we headed to Dayton. Our destination – the strip club that Etch hangs out in. We drank, we hung out with strippers. I got to meet Etch’s favorite – a very pleasant young lady with… a.. very nice body. Nikki.
Etch sat talking to Nikki, she sat in front of him and he massaged her shoulders.
"I'm all knotted back there," she said.
"I can feel that. Don't worry, baby. I can get all of your knots out." Etch responded with a mischievous smirk.
"He can get all of your knots out," I chimed in, "and if you have your tubes tied, he can probably get those knots out, too."
They both laughed. Etch high fived me for that one.
I know he scored that night.
Around 1:00AM, I headed out of the club and started a drive to Louisville. Hours of driving on dark, rural interstates through a rain storm to get to the wrong destination, to do work without sleeping...
Who could ask for anything more?