20 September 2005

Third World St. Louis

I had an early flight today.

I dawdled at home because my dad believes one must be at the airport 3 hours ahead of time in order to prevent missing a flight. I disagree, and so I took my time getting ready to leave the house so as to avoid the lengthy sitting at the airport scenario.

I arrived at St. Louis-Lambert airport approximately 70 minutes before my flight was to depart. After a brief stint at curbside check-in, I made my way down to the security line. Generally in St. Louis, this line is approximately 2o minute.

Not today.

Today the line was approximately 1/4 mile long. Fearing I would miss my flight, I ventured to another - rarely used and little known - security line that would also connect me to my appropriate gate. I moved quickly through the line (I was the only one in it) and progressed down the busy, well-lit hallway toward my concourse.

As I rounded the bend into concourse C, I noticed that the lights were nearly all turned off. Upon further examination, I saw that the clocks, computers, and pager systems were also disabled.

Concourse C was without power.

Running amidst the gates were hundreds if not thousands of passengers, all frantically trying to find their flights. I moved to my gate, asked the woman at the counter if I was in the right place, and she responded, "For which flight?" I told her the number and she said, "Is that the 8:10? Honey, we haven't even gotten to the 6:00's yet. Have a seat."

So I sat.
And I watched.

The flight attendants had been re-assigned as messengers. They were wandering the concourse shouting things like, "If you're on 5814 to Newark, you're boarding now at C10!!" (Remember, no pager system.) I pulled out my book and began to read in the mood lighting. I began to wonder, though, if I might get distracted and not notice the random person shouting my number, so I decided to take a short walk to the lighted section of the concourse (about 15 gates down), presuming I would be waiting a few hours.

As soon as I neared C25, I heard the pager system announce my flight -- and announce that it was now boarding at gate B14!! In the St. Louis airport, this is at least a 10 minute walk. I frantically begin to head to B14, make it in time, and when I arrive, the board has approximately 7 flights posted on it.

"You going to Atlanta?" the man asks. I respond and he takes my ticket.
"I'm going to Newark." the man behind me says; the attendant takes his ticket and ushers us both through the same door.

At this point I'm highly confused and not sure I'm going home after all. Beyond the door, there is a flight of stairs. Down the stairs I go and at the bottom a woman says, "Wait here." So we all wait. When she returns, she says, "Follow me," with no question about who is flying to which city. So we all follow.

She ushers us over to a plane - we walk about 100 yards across the runway, under other planes, around gas trucks - and tells us to get on. ("But where is the plane GOING???")

When I board, I confirm with the stewardess that this plane is, in fact, going to take me South, not Northeast. I take my seat in 6C, stow my bag near my feet, grab a blanket (it's freezing on this plane!), and settle in with my book.

"Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen. If you're sitting in rows 1-7, please don't get too comfortable," the flight attendant says AND THEN GETS OFF THE PLANE!

At this point, I'm hardly surprised by anything.

She returns in a few minutes and says, "If you're sitting in rows 1-7, we need to ask you to move to the back of the plane. But don't worry! You can return to your seat as soon as we take off!"


Images of a plane too heavy to lift off begin to race through my mind. Especially since there are less than 30 of us on this flight.

She makes sure we move and GETS OFF THE PLANE AGAIN!!!

A few minutes go by, she returns to the plane, leaves the cabin door open, and buckles herself into the jumpseat.

And we sit.
And sit.

About 20 minutes later, the PILOT comes on the loudspeaker and says, "I'm sorry for the delay but because of the power outages, we've had to do things the old way around here today, and we were waiting for the people to bring us the instructions for take off on a sheet of paper!"

You've got to be kidding me!

At this point, I am certain my life is to end in just a few minutes.

The flight attendant unbuckles herself, closes the cabing door, and we take off.

I thought I was leaving one major US city for another; little did I know I woke up in a third world country this morning.

But of course.

1 comment:

Tim said...

lol! Great story. I've had some adventures in travel too, but nothing quite like that. I find it amazing that the system worked at all without all of the computers and such. Thanks for sharing Erin!