Web Link

Web Link
Author Web Page

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Nightmare at O'Hare

Where to begin? I don't believed this happened and I'm the one it happened to. Let's start with early Sunday morning ... very early.

The shuttle driver picked me up at about 5 am. We had two more stops before we could head to the airport and he informed me that part of the freeway had been closed due to a police investigation. I had no water, no coffee, no sleep and no food. He might as well told me the zombie apocalypse had begun. But much to my surprise and despite having to go back to one of the hotels because a passenger had forgotten her phone, we arrived at the airport only ten minutes later than planned.

I thanked my driver for being both skilled and entertaining and then proceeded to walk into what would become a waking nightmare. I flew Spirit because it literally was the only airlines that could get me to Chicago on time for Friday morning, with a straight through flight. I had previously experienced less than stellar travel with this company and had vowed to never fly with them again but, here I was. The line to check my luggage was extremely long but I had a little over two and half hours before my flight. I felt with a certain amount of confidence that this would be ample time, until I noticed the line for TSA. It blanketed the airport with bodies from one end of the terminal to the other. Confusion was plastered over most of their faces and the rest showed signs of complete submission. After forty-five minutes on the the check in line, I noticed one of the ticketing agents rounding up groups of passengers and corralling them over to her counter. With the agility of a graceful thoroughbred, she whisked through checking each one in with lightening speed. Smiling and cordially reassuring everyone of them it would all be okay. The other three agents were both sour and so slow, I could almost swear they practiced the art of tai chi during their entire shift.

I had about seven or so bewildered travelers ahead of me and I was finally closing in on the ticket counter when I heard a Spirit agent shouting for Las Vegas passengers. She had us all get off the line and come over to an "express" line because our plane would be departing in about an hour. I should of stayed where I was. After standing there for another twenty minutes watching those who had been behind me in the previous line check in and leave, I felt anxiety race through my body. But I made it to the counter with thirty minutes until flight. As I checked in, I asked the ticket agent how could I possibly make it through the security line of hundreds before my flight. Her response, "She didn't know. She just checks my luggage. Now it's up to the airport."

As I made my way through the crowd, I handed my luggage to x-ray and started the green mile toward the end of the line. My stomach was sick, my nerves shot and my confidence in making the flight and getting home was non-existent. To my surprise, when I reached the end of the line, which spanned almost the length of the airport, I saw some familiar faces from the Spirit check in disaster. A husband and wife who at this point had already given up making their flight ... two of the submission crowd.  Needing to use the rest room for about the last sixty minutes, I asked the Mrs. if she would hold my place. Never hesitating, she told me not to worry and assured me she'd be there. Well ... not so much. Upon my return, I could find no trace of either of them. At this point I cracked.

I flagged down a TSA agent who was more interested in speaking with a young pregnant girl than helping me or anyone else for that matter. After I stated my plight and the urgency of my plane leaving shortly, he said he couldn't do anything for me and I would need to go back to Spirit. He instructed me to ask an agent to walk me to TSA and send me through. I noticed while he was speaking, that American Airlines seem to be doing just that. They escorted several of their passengers to the front of the line and through the check in. Feeling a renewed sense of "I just might make it home", I barreled back to Spirit. When I reached Spirit, one of the agents was just getting back behind the counter. I politely asked for help and then explained my luggage was on board the plane, but I wouldn't be. She told me she couldn't get my luggage off. I then sparred back and explained yet again, I wanted to be on the plane and had no intentions of getting my luggage off. She then asked me the million dollar question, "What do you want me to do about it?" My response was I wanted her to walk me up to TSA so I could make my flight. She said they do not do that at Spirit and there was nothing she could do for me. She then proceeded to walk away. I turned toward the sea of travelers mindlessly waiting in the ever growing security line and started to cry. I have never felt so alone and helpless. I'm pretty sure the no sleep and lack of coffee contributed to this little break down, but it seemed pretty bad at the time.

Then it was like the universe (Dad) stepped in and took over because what followed was nothing short of a well planned series of events. The gracious ticket agent from Spirit who was looking extremely tired, came walking by me. I stopped her in her tracks and unleashed a water works semi cognitive description of what had happened and that I was about to miss my plane. She softly and calmly told me to wait and then walked over to the express line for TSA. Lifting the barrier, she waived me over and told me to follow the line of people. I thanked her and took my place. Unfortunately, it was evident that with fifteen minutes left, I still wasn't making the plane. A woman in front of me hearing what had happened, offered me her space in front of her. She was so sweet, but I still wasn't close enough. Then to my right, an American Airlines agent was escorting a gentlemen to the front of the line. The woman behind me told me to follow them and pushed me toward their direction. I took her cue. Unfortunately, I reached the front of the line and nor the American Airlines agent or the TSA agent would let me through. I was back in line in seconds. As we stood there with the clock ticking away, several passengers who had family in wheelchairs were being brought through the line. The woman once again told me to follow them. But this time, I recognized some of them as being in the Spirit line with me. It was fellow Las Vegas travelers. I politely approached them, explained I was going to miss the plane and asked if I could attach to their party ... they agreed. It was pure pleasure to see the look on the TSA agents face when she had to let me through with them.

I had found out from other Las Vegas flyers that the flight was being held for an additional sixteen minutes. After running through the airport and jockeying between gates because Spirit mislabeled them, I made it to the departing gate with one minute to spare. As I expected to walk through the tunnel to board the plane, I couldn't help but breath a sigh of relief; until I passed through the door and onto a platform outside. It was freezing and the wind was picking up.They escorted all of  us down a large flight of stairs, through a bridge-way and then up the stairs to the plane waiting on the tarmac. Afterward, we found out that they had been so backed up, if they had pulled in to the slip it would have been another hour until take off. Our short excursion through the outer depths of the airport, was worth saving that hour.

Once in the air I had my coffee, a bottle of water and a muffin. I loved the city of Chicago. I had the best time at the Expo and the Con and met some of the most wonderful authors. They each made
this trip so memorable. But I can say with complete confidence that I will never land in O'Hare again and Spirit can go on with one less passenger ... forever!

1 comment:

  1. It was wonderful to have finally met you, Vicki, and the Book Expo was fantastic. I'm so sorry that you had such a hard time. :(