by Branden Huxtable
Originally published in the July 1997 issue of the CSCDHH GA Newsletter
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When I was working in Fort Hood, Killeen, Texas, an hour and half north of Austin, a few of us were also trying to solve an emergency at Fort Stewart, Georgia. They could not get their equipment work and they needed them right now. After a few days of trying to solve the problem over telephone, my boss decided to send me to Georgia to work directly with them.
As soon as I arrived in Georgia, I started working until late at night before calling quits. I still had not yet checked into my hotel, so a guy drew me a map of how to get there. His first instruction was to take the first black top road on the left. At 10:30 in pitch darkness, dirt roads and black tops look exactly alike. This was just the beginning.
The next day, after finishing up at Fort Stewart, I drove to the airport an hour before my flight would leave. My itinerary said to catch a Delta plane 3:30 to Atlanta, then to Dallas/Fort Worth, then finally catch a tiny airplane to Killeen where my boss will pick me up. I could use a good night sleep.
After all passengers loaded onto the plane, it rolled slowly to the runway and stopped for a few minutes. Then started rolling again, right back to the terminal.
"Whats going on?" I asked the guy sitting next to me.
"Atlanta is shut down. All planes grounded."
"Shut down? Why?"
I looked outside. Partially cloudy.
"Weather, huh? Any idea when we take off again?"
"When Atlanta comes back up."
I got off the plane to the ticket counter. The woman explained the situation and looked over my tickets. I could probably switch to a later flight in Atlanta. I told her it was all right, but needed her to call Fort Hood to let my boss know that I would be late. She called and left the message for him.
I waited around the terminal, watching the weather change from partly cloudy, to dark clouds, to heavy rain, and back to partly cloudy. We finally boarded our plane, two hours late. Of course, by then, I missed my Dallas flight. I figured Ill take care of it the soon as I land in Atlanta.
When we arrived, I stood in line at the ticket counter for the next Delta flight to Dallas. After a few minutes, I approached the ticket counter, explained the situation, and asked to get my tickets changed. The guy searched through his computer to find another flight. He looked and looked and looked. The other customer at the counter apparently had the same problem. So the two of us just stood there for several minutes holding up the line. Then some irate guy in line shouted.
"Hurry up! There are people waiting here!"
I quietly hoped to get my tickets real soon.
"Come on! Lets go!" he shouted again.
Finally the airline guy looked up.
"Would Austin be OK?"
"Yeah that would be great."
"OK. Well book you on this plane to Dallas then transfer to American Airlines to Austin."
"Thats wonderful, but you gotta do me a favor." I handed him the phone number to Fort Hood. "You gotta call my boss and tell him to pick me up in Austin, not Killeen."
"Does this flight take off at 7:20?"
"Yeah. It was suppose to take off at 7:00, but we are running late."
I got my tickets, and everything was all nice and wonderful. Except for one thing. I was still in Atlanta. We took off an hour late.
In flight, I started thinking about the chances of catching my connecting flight. I have been to the Dallas airport only once. I know how huge the concourses are after taking more than a half-hour to walk from one end of a concourse to the other, even when walking fast. Could I land an hour late and still make my flight? I talked to the stewardess.
"What time do we land?"
"OK. What concourse is American in?"
"I think concourse 1 and 2."
"And what concourse are we landing in?"
I looked at my ticket. My connecting flight will take off at 9:35. Twenty-five minutes. I think I can make it. I really dont know big Dallas is.
We touched down at 9:10. My plane drove to its terminal. And drove. And drove. And drove. I kept looking around for American, but never saw it. We drove some more, turned a corner and kept driving. We approached some concourses, turned another corner, slowed down, drove some more, turned again and finally stopped.
Immediately, everyone, including me, stood up. I was standing near the back of a 767. I watched the people ahead of me move forward slowly. I waited several minutes before I was able to crowd toward the exit door. Im thinking, once I get off the plane, what do I do? I still have no idea how big Dallas is.
After finally running off the plane, I find a map of the airport and realize that the concourses not only are huge, none of them are connected. To make matters worse, which concourse do I want? 1 or 2? Now I have an idea just how big Dallas is.
Looking around, I saw a driver in a cart.
"How do I get to American airlines?" I shouted.
"Ytbrowutigolg," he said pointing in some direction.
"- uh huh Could you say it slower? I cant hear very well."
"Ytbrowutigolg," he said still pointing.
"Im sorry. I still dont understand." I looked at his passenger. "Can you help me?"
"Oh, sure. Bthbthbthbthbthbthbthbthbthbthbthb."
"Bthbthbthbthbthb tram bthbthbthbthbthb."
I ran to where ever that passenger was pointing and found myself outside. Bus stop, taxi stand, parking, but no tram station. I spotted some stairs going down. Thats the tram station, but no one was there. Did I miss the tram? Whens the next one? Oh. Two trams: yellow and blue. Which one do I want? Yellow or blue? I think yellow. So, when is it coming? Did I miss it already?
An easy-going old man walked toward the tram station.
"Does the yellow tram take me to American?" I asked.
"Yes it does," he answered.
"Are you going to Austin?"
"No, Im not."
"I have a plane to catch at 9:35."
He looked at his watch. "Its too late."
Then the light for the blue tram turned on.
"What do I do now?"
The man pointed upwards toward some stairs. "Ahblarhbagrabagoorynapagr white shirt poodserbugrapapgadookoop."
I ran back up stairs back inside the airport. I grabbed the first white shirt I could find which just happened to be Delta Baggage Claim. This tall guy quickly grabbed my ticket and opened it up.
"Your bag is in Killeen," he said.
"I know it is!" I shouted. "Im not worried about that. Im trying to catch a plane to Austin."
He looked at his watch. "Its too late."
"Wait a minute!" He pointed outside. "Abafadrabadar "
He ran me outside.
"hmmrmmhrrrmmrhhrrmr," he said to his walkie-talkie. Then he looked at me. "You see those white vans down there?"
"I kagitreb to guplorwipmni and if you dont kutrplikin then you can kfrepitouli and we will hrofobukli. OK?"
"- uh -?"
"Here." He pulled out a piece of paper and started writing. If I missed the flight, I should pick up the white courtesy phone to get a van back here. Delta would then book me into a hotel for the night. I started thinking about my boss driving an hour and a half south to pick me up.
When the white van came, the driver drove me to American concourse, called in and told me I needed gate 32. I looked at the time in the van. 9:31, no 9:32. Thanking him, I ran inside. I found myself against a wall so I turned right. I quickly found gate 32, glass barriers, and a bored woman sitting at a DO NOT ENTER gate.
"How do I get to gate 32?"
"Glbrgp," she said pointing to the left.
I sort of walked to the left, not seeing anything in particular.
"Could you repeat that, please?"
"Glbrgp," she said louder.
I happened to notice a sign pointing to the gates. I ran as fast as I could. I found the entrance, an X-ray machine. An old man starting hobbling through the machine. I followed close behind, quietly hoped the metal detector wouldnt sound off. I finally squeezed through. No alarm. Good. I ran as fast as I could. Gate 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32. I ran to the ticket counter and shoved my ticket to the guy nearby.
"Can I get on this plane?"
He grabbed my ticket and tore the stub. "Yes! Go!"
I ran through the gate, made a flying leap and caught the plane. OK. It wasnt a flying leap, but sure felt like it. Nevertheless, I finally made the plane, twenty-five minutes flat.
One problem. My bag flew to Killeen. The next morning, my boss told me, after calling ahead, my bag will be arriving on American at 8:30am. So we go to the airport that morning to pick it up.
In the terminal, I saw this woman who looked upset. I asked her what was wrong. She said her bag didnt travel with her. I told her thats OK. I didnt travel with mine.
Anyway, I went to the American Airlines ticket stand to pick up my bag. The guy there typed on his computer and said my bag will be a few minutes. When I told him about my adventures in Dallas, he told me that no one can go between concourses in less than 20 minutes. Wrong.
I waited and waited until everyone in the terminal disappeared. I watched the passengers load onto the plane where my bag was suppose to be. The doors shut. No one came into the terminal. I waited several minutes. I wandered around trying to find somebody. Looking in the boarding area, I found the guy I talked to earlier. I asked him where my bags are. Puzzled, he went back to his computer and started typing.
"Im sorry. Theres no more bags left," he said. "All the bags are off the plane."
I looked out the window and saw a baggage truck and there was my bag.
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