Good news first: my trip to New York was fantastic! Publishing University was even better than I had anticipated, and Book Expo America? One word - WOW! As I have described those meetings in detail in my Write Formation blog, I won't rehash them here. I had to leave Book Expo early in the afternoon on Thursday as I had a 4:30 flight back to St. Louis. I had checked my bag at Javits Center that morning so that I could take a cab directly to the airport and not have to go back to the hotel. But I now had an additional 50 pounds (or so it felt) of autographed and other free books to get back home. A heads up from a Book Expo veteran advised me to ship them back via the Fed Ex booth at the convention center. After standing in an inefficient, long line, I spent $40 to ship my "free" books back home.
In the cab on the way to the airport, the cabbie asked me if I had called the airline as some flights had been canceled due to storms. I called Katie and had her look up my flight on her computer, and American Airlines showed it to be on schedule. The weather in New York was fine, but apparently storms in the Midwest were causing problems. At the gate it was apparent the flight would be late as there was no plane there. At 5:20 we finally boarded, and the plane left the gate around 5:45. Then we sat out on the tarmac for 2 hours. I counted 17 planes on the runway ahead of us. In the meantime I chatted with the gal in the center seat next to me, and the guy in the end seat. The gal had grown up in Ferguson and was on her way home for a baby shower. Her own, as it ends up. She is 7 months pregnant with her first baby, and since she now lives in New York the family was hosting a virtual shower so that everything would be shipped to her home in New York. Smart! The guy was on his way back home to Chicago via St. Louis, which I thought was odd since there are lots of flights direct to Chicago out of LaGuardia.
After 2 hours the pilot took us back to the gate because nothing was flying out and with the new FAA guidelines he cannot keep us on the plane longer than 3 hours. He knew there was no way we would get out before the 3 hour timetable was up. If the plane returns to the gate, then the 3 hours can start over again. Back at the airport we were asked to wait 10 minutes until a decision would be made on whether we would fly out that night or not. Then we de-planed and they said it would be 8:45 before a decision would be made. Around 8:30 the flight was canceled. No flights heading west were allowed to leave that night.
The people on the plane who had smart phones were able to schedule their flights for the next day. Those of us stuck in yesterday's technology had to do it the old fashioned way - we stood in line. One sole AA rep was trying to handle the entire flight. My pregnant seat mate and I decided to go upstairs to the AA counter where there would be more agents available. Big mistake! Since all flights were canceled, the line was atrocious. We headed back downstairs to collect out luggage, and seat mate got both of her phones (yep, she carries two of them!) going on the AA 800 number. She finally got through, and after she booked her flight she took my information and changed my flight as well. She was able to get a direct flight at 9:00 p.m. Friday night. For me? A 5:30 p.m. flight to Dallas, with a flight from Dallas arriving in St. Louis at 11:30 p.m. Friday night. Are you kidding me? According to the agent, that was the best thing they could do.
The luggage finally arrived and I bid farewell to my pregnant friend and went to tackle the next issue. Where was I going to sleep that night? I waited for my turn at the Airport Hotels phone bank, asking each person I saw if they could recommend a decent place in the area. We were all in the same boat, with no idea of which way to sail. I struck up a conversation with a nice younger woman who also needed a place to stay. She had one hotel phone going and I had the other. We agreed that if either of us found a hotel with rooms, we would grab 2 of them. It was soon apparent that all the canceled flights had resulted in a run on neighboring hotels. A number of people headed back to NYC for the night. But new friend and I persisted. I was on hold with Holiday Inn Express when she struck gold with the Comfort Inn. YES! They had openings. Could we have 2 rooms? No, only 1 was available. I looked at my new BFF and said, "I'm not an axe murderess." She replied that she was not an axe murderess either, and with that we agreed to share a room. She told the man she would take a room with 2 beds. Uhhhhh.....the only room available was a king bed. Alrighty, then....We had agreed to share a room but did we want to share a bed? It was that or the airport floor. We booked the room ($180 per night for a Comfort Inn!) and headed out in the now rainy New York night to catch the shuttle.
At the Comfort Inn I called AA and again asked about a different flight. The frazzled agent said there were no direct flights available, but if I would hold she would check on some alternatives. She came back with a 10:00 a.m. US Airways flight to DC followed by an AA flight to St. Louis, arriving at 1:55. Much better than 11:30 p.m. My new BFF Michele and I settled in for the night, but I have to say I did not sleep well. I never did get any supper with all the delays at the airport, so my stomach was a little upset. I didn't want to pass gas and embarrass myself with my new BFF. Plus I was afraid that since I had slept so poorly on my trip I might snore. Also not a cool way to impress a new friend. Michele got up at 6:00 a.m. to make her flight, so we bid each other a safe trip. Slept with Michele on a first date and never even got her last name. I am such a slut!
I got to the airport at 8:00 only to discover that AA had neglected to tell US Airways that they were to be blessed by my presence. My blood pressure started to rise as the USA agent tried unsuccessfully to get through to an AA agent. He finally got the information he needed, and fortunately there was a seat for me on the 10:00 flight. As I headed to my gate I could hear a woman behind me sobbing. I was wondering if she missed her flight and was that upset? Then I realized if I missed my flight after all the delays I had already experienced and how tired I was, I probably would cry as well. A USA agent took the woman by the arm and led her to the agents at my gate. They apparently were able to calm her down and work things out for her. Then she came and sat down right next to me. I could not help but overhear her conversation as she made a phone call. Apparently her son is at Clemson and he and some other boys had been jumped around 2:00 that morning. He was severely beaten and had been transferred to a trauma center, and all she was able to get out of the nurse is that she would not be able to recognize him due to all the broken bones in his face. He was in a coma and they did not know if he had brain injuries. They had also called in a cardio-thoracic surgeon, which made me wonder if he had broken ribs and/or lung damage. It sounded like the son of Clemson's President might be involved, so it was being kept out of the press. As I listened to her heart-breaking story, I realized that it was no big deal that my flight had been canceled and I had been delayed by a day. Everyone in my family was safe and that was way more important. And I called my son in D.C. when I landed just to hear his voice and tell him that I love him.