They have ruined air travel. My step-mom Joan left my father home with the Yankees last week to visit Rehoboth. Since we didn't want Joan driving alone, we suggested a flight from White Plains, New York, to Philadelphia, where we'd retrieve her. I'd taken the round trip in reverse last June and apparently there was a glitch in the system because both flights were on time and without incident.
But when leaving N.Y., Joan endured a one hour flight that was more than three hours late because there was weather somewhere in the continental United States in the last 36 hours.
On Monday, after a wonderful weekend, Joan and I headed back to the airport. Leaving the car in Short Term Parking, we figured I might not make it back for "first half hour $4" but I'd certainly be there before an hour cost me 8 bucks.
We crossed from the parking lot to the departure area to discover we were at U.S. Air Terminal B and not U.S. Air Express, Terminal F. However, a woman behind the ticket counter, said "You can take a bus to your terminal, but check your suitcase here." How nice.
I was heaving the bag onto the scale when another, quite frantic employee rushed at us whispering "NO! Don't do it! We're having baggage issues!" We snatched the bag back from certain doom and schlepped it with us toward the shuttle to Terminal F.
Damn that ride was long. Do they stop in White Plains? It finally delivered us to the very last door in the entire six-terminal airport, 5-K from Short Term Parking. A few more yards and we would have been on the expressway to the Liberty Bell.
In the right place at last, we stared at the Departure screen, found the flight number and saw the throbbing words CANCELLED. CANCELLED. It seemed so, well, final. Joan and I exchanged helpless glances and headed for the ticketing desk.
"Our flight's been cancelled, what now?" I asked.
"Wait," the agent said, dismissively.
"How long?" I questioned.
"Until we can get you on another flight. Looks like 4:30," he responded, head down as if we'd been vaporized.
This time I did check the luggage but looked to see if another employee would throw herself in front of the scale to stop me from disaster. No crisis worker intervened.
"Can I ask why the flight was cancelled?" I inquired.
They decided not to operate? Granted, there can't be throngs of people anxious to suffer modern day air travel for a measly one hour flight, so they probably cancelled from lack of masochists.
Joan, having stood by demurely and quietly this whole time, addressed the agent.
"Aren't you even sorry?"
Way to go, Joan. The pompous, patronizing ticketing agent in this, the City of Brotherly Love, stammered some kind of answer as we turned heel on the heel and left. On our exit we spied a bank of "Courtesy Phones." I bet not.
That the next flight was five hours away was awful enough, but thanks to any number of terrorist networks our airports are now hermetically sealed. No one without a boarding pass can enter any part of the airport where they dispense books, souvenirs, food or, as was becoming increasingly attractive, something to drink.
"Let's take that shuttle back to the Marriott at Terminal A," I suggested.
We stood at the curb as three busses whooshed by without stopping. Turns out the shuttle only goes one way. Getting from F to A is not their problem.
So we hiked the U.S. Air Express 5-K. Did I tell you it was ninety degrees out? As it happens, every terminal had wall-mounted Automatic External Defibrillators, just in case. Airport humor.
Spending a few extra hours together with adult beverages was a lovely gift, but it galled us to realize we could be approaching New York's skyline now if we'd just kept driving.
After a deliberately leisurely lunch, we shuttled back to effing Terminal F where Joan opted to go through security to the gate so she could finish a book and I could get home. First, she had to creep barefoot through the line to be searched and treated like a woman with explosives in her shampoo.
Concurrently, I dragged myself back to Terminal A and short term parking, where I had been for the long term. The vehicle ransom was more than dinner at the Marriott. And then it was rush hour. I was still an hour out when I realized I could have been to New York, had a knish, and been back by this time.
Hey, Joan's plane didn't leave Philly until after 5 o'clock and she arrived in New York to discover that - ta da! - her luggage didn't. I wish I'd had money on that.
This is air travel 2007, brought to you by a merger of Corporate America and Jihad terrorists: F.U. Inc. Together they've turned Fly the Friendly Skies to Apocalypse Now. Fasten your seatbelts. We're in for a bumpy time.
Contact Fay at: FayJacobsrb@aol.com
Fay's website: www.FayJacobs.com
Fay Jacobs, a native New Yorker, spent 30 years in the Washington, DC area working in journalism, theater and public relations. She has contributed feature stories and columns to such publications as The Advocate, OUTtraveler, The Baltimore Sun, Chesapeake Bay Magazine, The Washington Blade, The Wilmington News Journal, Delaware Beach Life and more.
Since 1995 she has been a regular columnist for Letters from CAMP Rehoboth, and won the national 1997 Vice Versa Award for excellence. Her columns are collected in the books, As I Lay Frying: a Rehoboth Beach Memoir and the newly published Fried & True - Tales of Rehoboth Beach.
Fay is Publisher and Managing Editor or A&M Books, the publisher of the 14 classic Sarah Aldridge novels.
She and Bonnie, her partner of 25 years, relocated to Rehoboth Beach, DE in 1999. They have two Miniature Schnauzers and a riding lawn mower.