I was so close this morning. Sooooooo close. It was 6AM, the aircraft’s doors were closed, and jetway pulled back. The all too familiar safety orientation was complete. In just 2 hours and 16 minutes from “wheels up” I was going to be back in Florida, in the loving arms of my family. And the tiling job in the bathroom I haven’t finished, cat litter boxes that need scooping, and a host of other chores that await me this weekend.

Alas, it was not to be. Some moron, it appears, (details are sketchy at this point) broke in to the local Chicago Air Traffic Control Center and set it on fire; and those radar viewing pansies abandoned their posts, closing airports in 7 states and leaving me and my fellow travelers to scrap over the last few remaining Egg McMuffins at Midway Airport.

At the time of this writing, all flights until noon are cancelled, and thousands of people are scurrying to secure alternate arrangements. My wife will have to scoop the boxes for one more arduous day. Believe me, we have four proficient kibble converters in our house. It is a full time job.

And this leads me to some travel advice, not so much for the weary road warrior, but rather the occasional traveler who might not be in tune with the finer survival skills honed by many, many days on the road. 

The first bit of advice I would offer today to those who are considering travel, is, don’t. Stay home. There might be litter boxes and untiled showers, but in the long run it is likely far less frustrating not to have to deal with the trials and tribulations of travel.

Now, if you are unable to follow the simple advice already offered, and insist on venturing out into the great beyond, then this next item is an absolute must for any traveler: Know the reservation number for your airline.

After we deplaned, it became apparent that this was going to be a serious event. Within about 30 minutes they announced our flight had been cancelled. While over 100 people lined up at the gate to have the agent rebook them on another flight, I called central reservations. Options were going fast. The agent on the phone tried to get me on a 10:55 flight, but it sold out while she was trying (That is for the best as that flight has since been cancelled). She found a seat on a 2:55 non-stop, and confirmed me on that flight. Meanwhile, a young woman standing next to me, another frequent traveler whom I had been sitting next to on the plane, learned the 2:55 “just sold out”.

The lesson here, is that while thousands of people are standing in line, experienced travelers are phoning it in, and beating those in line to the few available seats. The fact that some of us get special numbers to call makes it easier, but the phone will be your best friend in a situation like this, as long as you make the call early before the reservations center shuts down completely.

And that brings me to my next bit of advice. When things go tragically wrong during travel – and they will go tragically wrong from time to time – it is almost never the fault of the person left standing amidst the rubble of your travel plans; the person on the phone or behind the counter to which you’ve been directed. Their name is not “bitch”, “moron” or “stupid, ignorant dumbass”. It would behoove you to remember that fact. They are stressed, they are harried, and they have a bazillion people lined up whose lives and plans are just as urgent as yours is. 

The young woman I mentioned earlier, upon learning that the flight she wanted was not available to her, released a foul mouthed tirade at the reservations agent (and anyone within 100 feet of her) about how screwed up the airline was. She repeatedly told the agent on the phone how important a customer she was, and how appalled she was that they would not accommodate her very important needs.  Despite her protestations and informing them of her self anointed consequence, they apparently refused to boot others off the plane.

That is good, because it probably would have been me.

And I suspect from the way she was behaving, they will get her back to Tampa in time for Christmas.

As for me, as I was writing this, I got a text that my 2:55 is cancelled, and there are no other flight options today. So for me, it was back on the phone for one of the few seats available tomorrow, and back to the Intercontinental Hotel for one more night in the city.

That brings me to my final advice for the novice traveler: Sometimes crap happens. You can’t change it, and life is too short to get pissed over things you cannot change. 

Safe travels.

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