I’m trying to find the silver lining in all this…really I am.
Currently, I’m imprisoned within the friendly confines of O’Hare International Airport, making my fourth attempt to board a plane, and head out to San Diego. Flying “standby” is definitely a special experience, but today the fates seem intent on making it particularly interesting. But such is the fate of those wishing to fly for almost nothing.
Through a close relative that works for a major airline, I have the option of boarding commercial flights at a healthy ninety percent discount, but the drawback is the aforementioned enigma known as “standby.” It consists of crossing one’s fingers and hoping to whatever religious deity you deem worthy, that someone booked for the flight (that probably actually PAID for their tickets) declines to show up. If they do, you’re shuffled from gate number to gate number, in the hopes that eventually you’ll get lucky…and hopefully it won’t take the entire day. The recent All-Star game has the planes booked solid to the West Coast it seems, and there’s no room for a writer and his sexy business cards.
The time is now 12:52 p.m., I’ve been up since 5 a.m., and have already missed flights out at 9:15 a.m., 11:08 a.m., and even a connecting flight going through Dallas at 12:30 p.m.. I’m told there’s a really good chance that the 3:09 p.m. will have me aboard, which puts me in San Diego around 5:15 p.m., which is reasonable because Preview Night is still a possibility for me. Cross your fingers. I’ll go back to reading the last two trades of the Invisibles (great fucking comic, stop laughing at me because I just found out) and drafting out a script that I just sent out a loose plot for.
End Transmission 1:01 p.m.
Fuck…I almost made it.
An American Airlines employee that was beginning to take pity on me, after watching me miss TWO planes, catches me sitting and typing the previous entry, disappointedly asking, “You’re still here?” After I finish pounding the keys, we start going back and forth, as I’m trying to keep a sense of humor about all this, despite my natural instinct to completely flip out. She eyes the bookings for the 3:09 p.m., and feeling sorry for me, forcibly assigns me a seat on the flight and issues me a boarding pass, which allows me to relax a little bit. Make a few calls to let people know when I’ll be coming in, and head to the food court for a bite to eat.
After lunch, I stroll to the loading gate, relived that I’ll be able to make Preview Night before the Convention Center turns into a weekend circus, and I crack open an Invisibles trade and zone out. Then they call my name to the counter. The women eyes my boarding pass for a split second before tearing it in two, and commenting, “they shouldn’t have issued this. They jumped the gun.”
Count to ten…1…2…3…4…5…6…
So back to “standby” it is, with only one little twist…because I’ve spent the last two hours with an official boarding pass, now I go back to the very end of the standby list. I am not making this up, I swear. So at this point, I’ve completely lost any hope of getting to SD in time for Preview Night, and it appears my fears are well founded…the time is now 3: 50 p.m., and I’m waiting on something leaving around five. The woman who tore up my boarding pass tells me chances are good, right before saying, “Oh, I’m working that flight too.”
Wonderful. Did I mention that my bags have been in San Diego since probably eleven this morning?
I think someone is trying to tell me something…
End Transmission 3:52 p.m.
Okay, this entry feels strange to be writing, but…I have to tell you how I almost died today.
So I’m finally set for the 5:09 p.m. flight out, with a nice cramped window seat that doesn’t recline because it’s situated right next to the emergency exit. At this point, I was willing to travel with the baggage. But all is good. I’m finally on a plane and moving toward the con. The first thing that was notable was the roughness of our takeoff, and while I’m probably the farthest thing away from an airline veteran, our ascent to about 31,000 feet was wrong somehow. Whatever right?
About a half hour later, the captain comes over the PA system and announces that there’s some mechanical problem, something involving loud booms and landing gear, and as a precaution, they’re going to return to O’Hare for an emergency landing. So then we proceed to fly in circles for about two hours, burning off as much fuel as possible, presumably so that if we came crashing down to Earth, we wouldn’t erupt into an instant fireball. Meanwhile, the tension in the craft is taking on its own consciousness, as the passengers became more and more nervous with every passing minute, and you got it, just as a precaution, the flight attendants seriously briefed us on emergency landing procedures. And I’m sitting next to the emergency exit remember?
I drift from blind panic to unnatural stillness, placing an emotional call to my best friend, and telling him to handle things in case…well you know. Being able to even place the call was a bit of a lark, as everybody on board was trying to trick their phones into finding service at 20,000 ft. Hell, I only succeeded by letting the thing roam. But it was serious for a long time, the flight attendants were trying to mask their concern (most of them did pretty well), but the man seated next to me said he wasn’t going today.
I wasn’t so sure.
Strangely, I changed my mind as the situation continued, and began having insane thoughts. Maybe it was the Invisibles I’d been reading, or perhaps my subconscious began to merge with the man next to me, but not only did I make a decision that, if I survived of course, that I was still going to San Diego, but that I was getting on the next thing smoking. I started thinking that shit again, the blind and largely undeserved bravado that makes me think I’ve been put here to accomplish certain things, and that I’m not leaving until I’m finished with them. So there.
But for a while…I thought my young black ass was history.
Ultimately, the plane touched down safely, the landing gear held, and the fire engines they put on the runway for us went unused. I’m not shitting you, there were fire trucks there, waiting for us, crossing their fingers that the landing gear wouldn’t snap into tiny pieces, and we wouldn’t slide across the cleared runway.
So right now, I’m writing on the quick flight they shuffled us all too (different plane of course), with the same crew and a pilot I’d happily kiss in public. After this fiasco, the con should be cake.
Still think I can be stopped?
Fuckin’ prove it.
End Transmission 9:56 p.m.
Tomorrow: Hopefully I’ll get to the convention finally, and probably awake with the most wonderful sensation. I swear everything’s an adventure with me…