So we come to day four – actually, we slid into day four from day three. I had decided it might be best to stay up the night – after all, I was only a few hours away from the arranged wake-up calls. Yes, callS – as in two of them. When I asked for a 3:30 am call, the clerk suggested a second one for fifteen minutes later and I agreed that might be a good idea.
I packed up my backpack which was twice as heavy now that I had conference notes and additional printed materials picked up over the two days. Took a shower to wash off the smokiness from the varied casinos we four had walked through. Laid out my travel clothes – then settled into a comfy chair to read through the night.
Turned on the tv (for the first time in both trips!) for background noise and ate some of the chocolate covered coffee beans – okay, I devoured them. I had to stay awake you see. Brewed a pot of coffee about 2 am and finished my book about the same time.
Heard the phones go off in a couple of rooms on my floor – found out later that was probably our obscene caller. Oh, I didn’t tell you about him, did I? There was an announcement the second day that the conferees should not be concerned that they were being singled out by the OC – apparently he was calling rooms at random. I was blessed in that I never received any of the calls.
The only phone that DID NOT go off was my phone. Not even at 3:30 am or 3:45 am as promised. Nope, they forgot my wake-up calls. Pretty good thing that I stayed up, huh?
Grabbed my stuff and was downstairs to check out by 4:00 am. RR was supposed to share a shuttle bus with me at 4:40 am. He didn’t come down and didn’t come down. I finally asked the clerk if he had asked for a wake-up call and she said he hadn’t – so she called his room and the phone was hung up. You may not know that wake-up calls are generally canned calls – so he wasn’t being rude. He just thought it was one of those. She and I laughed and agreed that he was awake – and he appeared about 10 minutes later.
At 4:45 we asked her to call the shuttle company because the driver was late and we knew we were supposed to be at McCarren around 5 to check in. We were told that we had to give the driver an extra 10 minutes due to traffic – traffic – at 5 am!!! Yup, we’re in Vegas. They worry about traffic at 5 am. Of course we reminded the dispatcher that WE were required to be in place 10-15 minutes ahead of the scheduled time or the driver would leave us as no-shows! Sigh! This was only a portent of what was to come, I’m afraid.
Driver arrived, got us all boarded up and TORE out of there – making up for lost time – he stopped at two other hotels and picked up 11 more people. We made it to the airport by 5 am! I have no clue how he did it. Dropped us and told us which door to enter to find our airline and left. RR had to get a cart to tote in all of his stuff – he was carrying all of the display items from the Resource Fair – and we went to find our gate. He stayed to check in his stuff and I raced off to TSA – we had both had the concierge at the hotel print out our boarding passes the night before (good thinking, eh?)
Went up the escalator where I and a hundred jillion other people were funneled into a line of four for an ID check then into a line of two and then into a line of one to wend back and forth in Disney-like fashion to get to an empty security spot. That’s where I took the picture of Santa shown a few days ago.
By now I am on pure adrenalin – and caffeine from those beans – but I get my shoes off and my stuff onto the table to go through the security thingy and I am waved through the beeping thingy. Yup, beeping. The TSA official laughed at and with me, took my shoulders in his hands as I said “was that ME?” and said, “Yes, darlin’. Now turn around and go back and then come back through WITHOUT touching the machine.” Ohhhhh! That’s what happened. My hip hit the side of the xray machine and it beeped. So I turned, straightened up, grinned at him, raised my hands in the air and waltzed through mincingly. We all had a good laugh at my expense. Hey, I am to please.
On to the subway to get to the gate – a stop for a needed restroom break – and a cuppa the good stuff – and I made it to my gate – only to find RR already there! How’d he get there ahead of me? Fore-went the restroom and coffee stops, I’m thinking.
We boarded our plane – an MD80 – for Anchorage – by way of Seattle. Take off was great – I settled in for a bit of a snooze. The landing was a bit touchy, but I have gone through worse. We were scheduled to be on the ground for only an hour with the plane re-boarding in half that time, so several others and I chose to stay on board instead of getting off the plane.
I got up and stretched and walked around – used the facilities – visited with the others who stayed on board. And then took my seat when the old and new passengers began to board. Buckled in and waited . . . and waited . . . . and waited some more . . . finally . . .
Ladies and gentlemen, we are, uh, going to be on the ground for a bit while the ground crew does some checking around the aircraft. We should be in the air shortly. Thank you for your patience.
We waited . . . and waited . . . and waited some more . . . finally . . .
Ladies and gentlemen, we, uh, again thank you for your patience. The ground crew is continuing to check the aircraft. At this time the flight crew will be coming through the cabin with water. The air is on for your comfort. Please remain in your seats and, uh, again, thank you for your patience. We should be in the air shortly.
(you know this is coming, right?) we waited . . . and waited . . . and waited some more . . . only to hear the captain let us know we were going to be on the ground for at least another hour while the ground crew checked the brakes (BRAKES!!! DID HE SAY BRAKES?!!!). Thank you again for your patience.
At this time cell phones started beeping and folks began calling their loved ones and re-writing their wills. Okay, not quite – but some were getting a tad worried that they might not make their connections in Anchorage. Others just sort of shrugged and went back to snoozing or chatting with neighbors or reading or whatever suited their fancies.
The head flight attendant called out several names and asked those folks to please get their belongings and come to the front of the plane for debarking. I was thinking at the time that it was probably due to their Anchorage connections – yes, I’m sure it was that. I’m sure it had nothing to do with spy thrillers which have such folks being taken off because they are the “T” word or some such . . . right? Right.
The pilot announced that we would be leaving as soon as their luggage was taken off the plane – and there ensued much bumping and juggling of luggage while the lady behind me worriedly said that she for sure didn’t want to leave yet because HER bag was on the tarmac. We (her hubby and I) reassured her that we weren’t going anywhere because not only was her luggage on the ground, but that conveyor belt thingy was hooked up to the (open) belly of the plane.
I leaned over to the very uncomfortable young man seated squished in next to me and pointed out two empty seats two rows in front of us. “You might consider taking one of those empty seats. You would be more comfortable and so would I.” He replied that he was thinking about it and I told him not to think too long because I could see that other folks were thinking about them, too. He motioned an attendant over and asked permission (such a sweet boy) to move himself and she said sure.
By this time our crew has been up and working for a long time. By this time I have been up for closing in on 30 hours (since 6 am the previous day). The flight attendants and I are looking for a bed, pillow and blankie – maybe even a binky if we’re lucky. But these poor folks are scheduled to fly with THIS aircraft beyond Anchorage to Fairbanks. They are not going to get any rest anytime soon. I felt so sorry for them.
Finally we are cleared to take off and we begin to batten down the hatches – only the belly of the plane is still open even as the pilot is warming up his engines. The ground crew hurriedly
throws - erm, places – the final pieces of luggage into the plane and gently slams - erm, closes – the door. We are shuttled out of our parking spot – my former seatmate is lounging luxuriously as a single in two seats and so am I. Yay.
We taxi out where we are now about 5th in line. We are leaving two hours (TWO) late. But we are leaving and we are assured that the brakes are fine, just fine, really, really fine. (sigh)
The crew comes through the cabin with digi players (on special for the month of July only for $5 – normally $10) and I dig out a five spot to snag one. Turns out I get the LAST one they have – heh. Pays to be in row 27 and NOT row 28, huh. (like I had anything to do with my seating!)
“Dinner” is brought through and I settle in to watch League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – and I sort of drift in and out snoozing through both.
Several hours later I am aware that we are descending into Anchorage airspace and I grab my camera to take some pics of the mountains and glaciers before we are told we have to turn such things off.
Our landing is a bit squirrely, but manageable. The flight crew comes on the horn to thank us for our patience (we had no choice, people! We were locked in a sardine can!) and to let us know that this flight will end in Anchorage – the people going on to Fairbanks will change planes – and crew (this one is whupped! But they will be deadheading with the passengers to Fairbanks) and everyone for that plane should make their way to gate such and such. Others should check the blue boards inside the terminal to see where their connections might be, etc. Make sure your seatbelts remain fastened until we stop at the gate, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Everyone is so happy to be on the ground that we comply with all requests – finally standing up only after the seatbelt sign has been turned off. We get our carryon luggage out of the overhead bins (being careful because the contents may shift during flight) and chat amongst ourselves. I congratulate those around me for having been such good sports and telling them that I appreciate their attitudes through the whole thing – you know, small talk among survivors.
We are waiting patiently for the crowd in front of us to begin moving. After all, we ARE in the back of the plane. But nobody moves – for 10 minutes nobody moves. People are in the process of calling their loved ones to tell them we are safely at the gate.
You know it’s coming, right?
“Ladies and gentlemen. We appreciate your continued patience throughout this flight. As you can see we have arrived safely at the gate. However, due to our late arrival (TWO HOURS LATE, DUDE!) there seems to be no gate attendant available to open the plane’s door. (WHAT?!!!!! We’re STUCK in this plane again?) Someone should arrive momentarily to let you all out.
I kid you not, friends. At this point we all laugh a bit and the cell phones again come out. I called Mr. Moose and told him not to come to the airport just yet – that we were on the ground but that we were stuck on the plane. At this point all I can do is laugh – I apologize to the folks in the seat behind me (the lady with the luggage on the ground in Seattle – oh a hundred years ago or so). I had told them the story of the beginning of my journey and she quipped that if she had known that before she got on the plane she might never have boarded. Hahaha. I asked their forgiveness – if this is in any way my fault I sincerely apologize. We all laugh some more.
One half hour later (!!!!) the door is opened and the line ahead begins to move. People pleasantly allow others to move ahead. I have one target in mind (bathroom!) after which I call hubby and tell him I am in the terminal and we set up a meeting spot.
My beautiful little car never looked better than when hubby moose drove up to pick my tired bones up. We drove over to say hi to some friends we haven’t seen for awhile – he has been hanging out there waiting for me – and I tell them the whole saga and we all laugh and laugh and laugh.
Because, really, friends. What else is there to do? I live in Alaska, I make my own fun!
p.s. I snoozed all the way home – hubbie drove the 150 or so miles. Bed never felt so good as it did that night.
there you have it – the long, drawn out story of my conference trip to Vegas. Worth the wait? I hope it was worth a giggle or two. There is a tiny possibility, btw, that I might be taking another trip in a few weeks – for another conference with the same group of folks – this time in Nashville, TN. Maybe. I’m an alternate. We’ll see.
hopefully the brakes are fixed by then.