Impromptu Chicago Vacation

So today started out as a normal travel day.  Early morning, easy pass through security, lots of seats at the gate.  And then the flight computer was broken….but they started boarding….then they stopped boarding.  We’re checking connecting flights, they said.  Unless you’re going to Reno, don’t worry, they said.  If we leave by 11:30, all connections will be fine, they said.  We were ready to leave by 11:35….

Then something else broke.  Don’t worry, they said – connections are fine.  Here are all the gates for connecting flights…..if we didn’t read your gate, you don’t have a problem, they said.  I never heard Oakland….of course, my first thought was that I mis-calculated the time in flight and the time difference and actually had an hour.  They wouldn’t just forget me, right??  I decided I must have screwed something up, and continued swapping airline horror stories with the couple from Portland that was seated next to me.  Small world – she was from Redwood City (where I just took a job), visiting family in Buffalo.

Once we landed, I knew something was off.  My phone confirmed the time – 12:21….my flight was planned to leave at 12:15.  No email or text stating it was delayed….but, they were holding the Portland and Reno flights….so, maybe I was going to get lucky?  Maybe they just forgot to mention it?

I made a beeline for the flight monitors as soon as I was off the plane: Nashville…Omaha…Orlando….Oakland?  Anybody going to Oakland?  Does my flight exist?  I went to the first gate I saw and asked for help.  Yup, they confirmed that my flight left.  Awesome.  So….what now?  She’s messing with the computer to see when they can get me out….tomorrow 6:20pm.  uhhh….ok.  So, where’s my hotel voucher.  Oh wait, there’s nothing in her email about my flight delay being mechanical, so no voucher for me.  But she gave me a card and I can call the number on the card and they should be able to help me out (never mind there’s no phone number on the card)….she sends me along to the next gate over where there’s a plane headed to San Francisco that I can maybe be standby on.  Great…..

After my somewhat disappointing interaction at the first gate and feeling abandoned by Southwest, I headed over to the San Francisco gate.  No one was there and the jet way door was closed, neither of which was a good sign, so I waited in line at the desk there.  Coincidentally, I get behind another lady trying to get to the bay area.  The guy tells her the same thing the other lady told me, but somehow she got on a flight to San Jose…and I think they’re paying for her cab to Oakland or San Francisco or where ever she’s going.  I also watched them give another guy a food voucher.  Finally, it’s my turn.  I asked the lady if there was a customer service desk at the airport, and once she told me it was her, I handed her the card the previous desk had given me, and explained the situation.  Of course, she tells me the card isn’t going to get me anywhere.  However, her boss (who was helping the other Bay Area passenger) told her if I was on the Buffalo flight to give me the hotel voucher.  So I got that, then asked about food….so she gave me one meal voucher.  Ok, not trying to be difficult, but I have at least five meals (vs. the one I was planning on) between now and 6:20pm tomorrow, which is the next time you can get me out.  She tells me customer service should be able to help me sort that out…based on previous experiences, they are pretty helpful, so I thanked her for her help and went on my way.

Since my food voucher was going to expire today (and I was pretty hungry), I decided to grab a bite before leaving the airport.  Went to Harry Carey’s for a delicious lunch of Chianti and Fettuccine…yum.  Especially yummy since I didn’t know what or when I would be eating next.  

After lunch, I found my way out of the airport – pretty quick when you don’t have any bags – and found the sign for the Midway Hotel Shuttles.  I waited for a few minutes, along with a few others standing in a the general vicinity, but then had a fleeting thought that maybe I needed to call the hotel so they would send the shuttle to come get me.  Did a quick google on the phone and called the Midway Hampton.  Yes, in fact, you do need to call.  The little red bus showed up less than five minutes later (as the lady told me it would) and just about everyone there jumped on it.  Was I the only one who thought to call for it?  How long had these people been waiting before I got there?

Checking into the hotel was pretty painless.  Got a room easily and there’s even free breakfast, though I’m pretty sure I’m going to miss that tomorrow.  The nice lady at the desk even gave me a toothbrush and found a phone charger in the lost and found for me to borrow.

After getting to my room and figuring out exactly how the key works…of course it’s all it has on it is a picture of kids in a wagon and the caption, ‘backseat driver’, no arrow or anything to indicate how to use it in the door.  I call Southwest to figure out how to get reimbursed for the additional meals and to check and see if there’s another flight they could get me on.  The good news, I can get out at 6am tomorrow….ugh for the earliness, but yay I’ll get home and can take care of the pets.  Of course, they can’t check me in until tomorrow morning, so I’m sure I’ll be at the back of the C’s….goodbye B8….The maybe good news, only customer service at HQ can deal with any meal reimbursements and they aren’t open until Monday.  Ok, I’ll call them tomorrow, last time I called the HQ service people, they were super helpful, but really??  No one else is empowered to do anything in this situation?  Wouldn’t it be easier for the people at the airport to be able to handle it and be done?

Once I was off the phone with the airlines, I took off for Walmart…..the only thing I really needed was a bottle of contact solution.  I mean, I wanted wine and deodorant would be a nice courtesy to the people on the plane tomorrow, but being able to see was the main driver.  So, I headed off to what I believe is the same Walmart Brian and I went to a few summers ago when we were sure we were going to star on the next episode of The First 48.  It looked like it was going to pour (of course, I’d get my storm now…) and at some point, raindrops did start falling.  At that point I started jogging, thank you knee for holding up during that one, but the rain held off.  It even held off for me to get back to the hotel, despite the people in front of me having the poor cashier price check all 30 of their items.  All in all, a successful trip….contact solution, wine, and deodorant.  And there was a Subway in the Walmart, so I have a sandwich for later.  

Shortly after returning to my room, I realize that while I have procured a bottle of wine, I have no way to open it.  So, being the tech savvy person I am, I look on google for ways to open a bottle of wine without an opener.  Use a knife….yup, definitely don’t have that.  Put it in a shoe and bang it against a wall…hmmm, probably not the best idea in a hotel.  Use a key….ahhh, yes, I have a few of those I don’t use.  I’ve been looking for a use for that old desk key anyway….So I try that.  And break the key.  And possibly my shoulder.  So I try another key.  Not getting very far.  I briefly consider asking the front desk, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have a wine opener and have already lent me a phone charger.  So, I decide to head out on another adventure to find a wine opener, there has to be a convenience store nearby that’s closer and less sketchy of walk than Walmart, right?

So, I head out.  Somehow, the rain has held off or blown over or is probably waiting to either disturb my sleep or impede on my travel tomorrow morning.  I decide to head the opposite way of Walmart, since it looks like there are signs of life down that way as well and what looks like a liquor store on the next block.  Liquor store – sweet – they have to have a wine opener, right?  Sure, they probably did….back in 1990 before they closed.  As I get closer, I realize it’s nothing more than an abandoned building with nothing left but the awning.  A block further, there’s a Continental Sales – Lots for Less – Food, Household Goods, and More, on the corner.  That sounds promising.  A bit sketch, but promising.  And oh what a place that was….kind of like if a grocery store and a TJMaxx had a baby, this place would be it.  But, they did have a $.75 wine opener.  Score.  And, it works pretty well, I’m a little sad I have to leave it, but am pretty sure it’s not allowed on the plane.  haha.

Alright, it’s time to sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that I’m at a hotel instead of the airport and for less than $10 have food and beverages for the evening….I mean, who doesn’t love wine in a paper cup and a sandwich from a Walmart Subway?  And Southwest, well, at the end of this you’re either going to be the prime example of customer service or the bain of my existence….only time will tell.

Until next time (hopefully from home)….over and out.

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