I am attending a high school reunion of several classes this weekend in the little southwest Georgia town of Cuthbert. I shopped online and found the cheapest airfare I could. Traveling involved my driving to Houston and flying to Atlanta where I would connect with a flight to Albany, and, after a brief layover in Atlanta, should land in Albany around 5:15 in the afternoon. My sister, Marsha, would meet me in Albany and drive me the 47 miles to the “old family home” in Cuthbert, where she and her husband, Buddy, live. I will sleep in my old room, which should bring back tons of memories.
I said goodbye to Carol Ann and left Nacogdoches Thursday morning at some time between 8:00 and 8:30AM. My flight from Houston to Atlanta was set for 12:03PM so I had plenty of time to drive the two hours and fifteen minutes to IAH (Bush). The traffic was relatively light and the weather beautiful and I pulled into the FastPark lot around 10:30AM and parked in the sheltered section. The FastPark bus picked me up and took me to Terminal A for my Delta flight. I tipped the driver, walked inside the terminal and headed for the Delta counter. I looked down at the boarding pass I had printed the night before and stopped dead still. The boarding pass showed Houston-Hobby for the airport, not IAH! I WAS IN THE WRONG AIRPORT!! IAH is on the north side of Houston and Hobby is on the south side. It had never occurred to me when making the airline reservation that it may not be from IAH. Panicking, I waited impatiently in line, hoping for some miracle. Finally, I was at the counter, telling the agent how stupid I was and asking if they had a flight to Atlanta out of IAH that I might take.
Her reply was, "Not at that price." She told me that Houston-Hobby was 45 minutes away and I MIGHT be able to make it. I looked at my watch. It was 11:03AM. One hour until my flight time.
I hurried back out of the terminal to catch the bus back to the parking lot. After the second bus came and went I learned that the FastPark buses used the other side of the terminal. I ran back through the terminal and out the other side just as a FastPark bus was pulling up. I jumped in and hurriedly told the driver my story and asked her to please hurry to the parking lot. During the ride I entered Houston-Hobby into the GPS app on my iPhone. I believe it said the trip was 23 miles and should take 45 minutes (had to drive through the heart of Houston on US-59 to I-45 South).
The bus driver got me back to my truck without stopping for anyone else and I tore out of the parking lot, actually burning rubber! I was driving in and out of traffic at 80 to 90 mph, praying I wouldn't get stopped by the cops. I shot down the off ramp at the Houston-Hobby exit and turned left at the light, following signs to an off-site parking lot. After two miles without seeing anything that looked like a parking lot or an airport I pulled into a fast food restaurant, parked at the front door, left the motor running, ran inside, and announced in a loud voice to everyone inside, "I'm late for a flight and I don't know where to park! Where is a parking lot?" Everyone, employees and customers alike, stopped what they were doing and stared at me.
Finally, a man pointed in the direction from which I had come and said, "The airport is that way."
I yelled a thank you, ran out, jumped into the truck, left more rubber, and headed back the way I had come. A couple of blocks beyond the intersection where I had made the left turn I saw a Spot Parking sign, wheeled in, and slammed on brakes at the ticket dispensing machine. I pressed the button and it spit out a ticket, time-stamped 11:33AM. Thirty minutes earlier I had been talking to a Delta agent in Terminal A at IAH.
A parking attendant was standing a few feet away and I said, "I have a 12:03 flight. Will I make it?"
She answered, "Sheltered or not?"
I said, "Huh?"
"You want sheltered parking or not?" she said.
"Sheltered!" I yelled.
"Row nine to your right." she replied.
I didn’t bother to ask again if she thought I would make it. I raced off, found a parking spot, jumped out with my bag, and ran to the waiting bus. I threw my bag in and told the gray-haired driver to please hurry, I was late for my flight.
"Don't worry," he said. "I'll get you there!" and off we lumbered like a herd of turtles. Several minutes later he pulled up to the terminal and as I was grabbing my bag he said, "You are flying Southwest, aren't you?"
"Oh, that's on the other side."
"Of the airport?" I said.
"No. Of the terminal," he said as he put the bus in gear to drive me the last one hundred yards. He stopped, I shoved some money in his hand in thanks, and ran into the building. I had no idea where I was going. I stopped a TSA agent and asked him where to go for a Delta flight.
"That line," he said pointing to the security line. I jogged over and joined the line. When it was my turn, I dumped my pockets into a tray, tossed my bag onto the conveyor, and stood in the metal detector. An agent waved me through, I grabbed my stuff, and looked around for the monitors. I found my flight displayed and ran off towards the gate. When I was about two gates away I caught up with two flight attendants walking in the same direction. I slowed down and casually asked, "Are y'all going to Atlanta?" Why I said that, I have no idea.
"Yes," they answered. I slowed down. I knew the plane wasn't leaving without them.
A crowd was standing around the counter at the gate. It appeared that I had made it with time to spare. I looked at the board and the flight time posted was 12:44PM. The flight time had been changed without my knowledge. The racing had not been necessary after all.
I boarded the flight when my time came and we arrived at Atlanta-Hartsfield without further incident. It was approximately 3:30PM and I set my watch ahead one hour to Eastern Standard Time. I had about 45 minutes to catch my connecting flight to Albany. I found the Arrival/Departure monitors and saw that the flight to Albany was out of gate 24, Terminal D. I was in Terminal C at a gate number in the 30’s. I jogged down the length of the terminal and rode the escalator down to the train. It arrived within seconds and I boarded for the short ride to Terminal D. Exiting at D, I rode the escalator up to the main level and found the monitors. Destinations were in alphabetical order and I found Albany right off the bat. Gate 24 it still said. I had about 20 minutes remaining. I rushed to Gate 24 and found the area deserted and noticed that 5:55PM was posted as the departure time. Had the 4:15PM flight been delayed? I ran back to the monitors and found another Albany flight that was leaving from Gate 28 at 4:15PM. I trotted back down the concourse and could see 28 at the end. As I caught up with two flight attendants walking in the same direction and I asked them (why, I have no idea) if they were going to Atlanta.
“Yes,” they said. So I slowed down, knowing the plane would not leave without them. Once again the departure time for my flight had been delayed by about half an hour so I had made it with time to spare. We finally began boarding, but because it was a small regional jet, I had to check my carry on bag at the door. I found my seat and collapsed. The plane was relatively small and boarding was quick. Once everyone was seated, the flight attendant recited the safety instructions and we waited. And waited. No one knew what was keeping us from pulling away from the gate. The pilot then made a PA announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we apologize for the further delay. We are waiting on our First Officer. She was here a little while ago but I don’t know where she is now.”
We didn’t have a copilot! Had she run out to the bathroom or to get one last drink?
Two young men were seated behind me and had been talking and laughing and failed to here all of the pilot’s announcement. One asked, “What did he say?”
I answered, “He said they didn’t have a copilot and wanted to know if anyone else knew how to fly an airplane.” Then I asked, “Do you know how to fly one?”
NO!” he exclaimed. “WE DON’T HAVE A COPILOT!” Then I let him in on the joke as he was about to get up and leave the airplane.
At last the copilot arrived and since she exhibited no signs of intoxication I remained seated. At last we were in the air and on the way to Albany. We landed, I grabbed my bag, and walked into the terminal to find my sister patiently waiting for me. Home at last.