This past March, I certainly thought I had it all figured out, this labor-and-leisure hand-in-hand co-existence that so many of us try to satisfy. Since many of my cleaning-company oversight accounts are in the Columbus market, where Mid-American Cleaning Contractors maintains an office, I scheduled business for Monday through Wednesday before hopping a big old jet airliner and heading to Florida for a long weekend.
After my Drury Inn and Suites checkout on Wednesday and my final day of labor for the week, it was time for some pre-leisure leisure.
My old college roommate, Gary Van Cott, lives in Reynoldsburg and offered to put me up Wednesday evening and drive me to the airport for my four-day hiatus in Fort Myers to visit my sister and brother-in-law, where they were in the final stages of their snowbird Floridian existence.
Following an evening of reminiscing and good food and spirits, Gary dropped me off at the airport. The previous day, on my Southwest Airline app, I’d gotten my boarding pass and was tickled to see I was TSA-approved. I also so much enjoy showing the boarding pass at the TSA entry point on my phone because it presents the illusion that I’m really quite tech savvy! My, things were going so well when I arrived at my gate, A-3, and plopped down to engage in one of my absolute favorite hobbies, people watching, secure in the knowledge that an airport gate is indeed fertile ground for such an activity.
As I sat down and began scanning the seating area, I saw the usual slice of humanity — from the youthful to the hoary-headed, from the gently countenanced to the facially severe, and from the swarthier-complected to the fair-skinned.
Perfect flying weather was in order, with the 40 mph wind gusts of the previous day having dissipated and a brilliant sun presenting itself.
Then, suddenly, some metaphorical gray clouds began swirling when the counter rep from Southwest made an announcement that, due to some mechanical issues with the plane that was supposed to be our conveyance after it arrived from Boston, the flight was delayed for 90 minutes.
Suddenly, the mood of what was a pretty happy and anticipatory group of sojourners grew a bit grim. In an environment where time seems to move at a tortoise’s pace, and airports are on that environmental list, an hour and a half became like canine years, as in multiplied by seven.
Several went to the counter to complain, but nothing could be done. When I went up after a space was cleared and asked if there was an alternative friendly-skies option, the sympathetic rep said there was a standby flight into Atlanta but there would be no guarantees that I could get a connector into Fort Myers, which, employing a movie “Fargo” way of discourse, “didn’t sound like too good a deal for me!”
In an industry that often offers upgrades as incentives, the upgrade within the next half-hour was the antithesis of getting bumped to first class from coach. Our upgrade was in time of delay, which went from 90 minutes to five hours. The groans were audible, ones accompanied by exhalations of disgust and resignation, and I heard more than one profane epithet from some.
Since the reason remained the same, some mechanical issues, it mystified me that some people would react with anger. I mean really, would they rather Southwest just pack us in and roll the dice and see if those pesky mechanical issues were really all that serious?
I actually felt somewhat sorry for the Southwest counter rep, who, again, was inundated with people coming up to the counter to complain, prompting the rep to conjure up the two very important S’s necessary in such inconvenient times, sympathy and solicitousness. People’s moods did get significantly better when another announcement was made, telling us that a $200 travel voucher was being given for the inconvenience imposed.
After returning with my voucher in hand, I settled in to observe just what people did with the extra time Southwest was providing to enjoy the amenities of Gate 3. Among the 50 or so of us, there were many slumberers, several playing with tablets and cellphones, sadly, for this old English teacher, just two reading a book, and just one guy writing in his spiral notebook (guess who).
In such circumstances with airline delays, and I’ve been a part of such scenarios many, many times, often at Chicago’s O’Hare, I have a recurring thought, and it’s one that may serve you well if you find yourself in such circumstance, and that is this. Even with a five-hour delay, for a trip of 1,140 miles from Columbus to Fort Myers, I still would be making a whole lot better time than my Conestoga-wagon wayfarers of the 18th century.
When it comes to self-comfort in such inconvenient times, that’s about all I had to allay my frustrations, that is, besides the obvious self-soother, which is, no matter how long it takes, fix the damn plane!
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News and Our Generation’s Magazine, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.