Due to unforeseen circumstances, I won’t be able to post stories today (Thursday, August 16). My sincere apologies! I will catch them up for Friday—have no fear, if it’s newsworthy, it won’t escape my attention.
The extremely long explanation…
Did you ever have “one of those trips?” What you hopefully have not noticed over the past few days is that your intrepid editor, Jim Willis, has not been filing stories from home base in the Binghamton, NY area. Instead, I’ve been sitting at an undisclosed beach location in Florida enjoying a short “working” vacation with my wife. Instead of not filing stories, I aim to give you your money’s worth each and every business day. So I’ve held to my morning routine of scanning the news and writing about those items I believe you would be most interested in knowing about.
When my wife and I left late Friday, we needed to fly through the Delta hub in Detroit. Binghamton to Detroit? Don’t ask.
Problem is, Delta’s flight into Binghamton was delayed “because of weather” in Detroit, hence we were delayed on the return leg from Binghamton to Detroit and we missed our connecting flight to Florida. It seems because of the weather a lot of people were delayed and missed connections—we stood behind them in long lines. By the time we spoke to a Delta agent to get rebooked (sorry, nothing until morning!), and called for a hotel room, there were no more hotel rooms in the immediate area. Even if there were rooms in the area, Delta would not pay for it “because of weather.” So we decided to regroup at a nearby bank of chairs and review our options. About then, I spotted an entrance to the Westin Hotel not far from where we were standing, right in the airport terminal. What luck! I told my wife to wait and I would return in 10 minutes.
I entered the Westin lobby not knowing I had just exited the secure area of the airport. There are no warning signs. When I saw the long line in the lobby (and how incredibly expensive the Westin would be), I tried to walk back out the same way I entered. A security guard turned me away and told me to follow a set of exit signs to get back in to the secure area of the airport. I wandered inside the Westin for a good 10 minutes before asking for help. The first guy I asked was worthless with his directions (yes, he was a hotel employee). After going up and down multiple floors and in circles repeatedly, I finally asked another hotel employee for help—a young woman. She took pity on this middle-aged man and walked me to the exit I needed.
“Whew,” I thought. “Finally!” I phoned my wife and told her where I’d been and that I’d be right back. Wrong.
In arriving at the entrance back into the secure part of the airport, I saw I would need to re-enter through a TSA line. But I had no boarding pass with me! Uh oh. I thought, “Maybe they’ll just take my driver’s license.” No such luck. The TSA agent told me to run upstairs to the ticket counter and get a new boarding pass and to hurry it along because they would close in 15 minutes (at 10 pm). So I hurried upstairs. And waited in line another 15 minutes before I could tell my sorry tale to a Delta agent. She printed out a new boarding pass for me, which I then took back to the TSA line.
For the second time in a half hour, I took off my shoes, my watch, took out my wallet, and put my phone in a bucket. Got up to the agent (after waiting in line), and this time the agent looked at my boarding pass and told me it was for the next day, I couldn’t get in until midnight. What!!!??? I told her, in an increasingly loud voice, that my wife was waiting for me just a few hundred yards away, and the reason why I had exited the secure system in the first place (stupid lack of signage in their own airport). It wasn’t my fault! No pity from the TSA agent. She stood her ground and several other agents hurried over to assist her in case they needed to taser me down. The agent finally said I could get a gate pass to reenter before midnight, if I could convince “upstairs” to give me one.
Back upstairs to the same Delta ticket counter, and I had to reenter the same #@%! line and wait another 10 minutes. Yes, it was now well past 10 pm, but since there were many missed flights that night and many people in line, they stayed open. When I finally got to the front of the line, and told my story to yet another Delta agent (about the fifth time I’d told it that night), she looked me up and down and finally took pity. However, she did give me a “tisk tisk” and scolded me for leaving the secure area. I didn’t bother to reiterate that I didn’t intentionally leave it!
This new agent filled out the required information on the computer screen—typing with one finger at a time, talking to an associate the entire time. And then the computer would not print the gate pass. What!? She slid over to another computer, and filled out the information all over again—typing one finger at a time. I stood there for a total of 15 minutes waiting for that gate pass. By this time, my poor wife was frantic that I’d not yet returned. But finally, I had a gate pass. That gate pass was worth more than a winning lotto ticket to me at that point in time.
I returned to the TSA line for the third time. It was quite a bit shorter (being so late) and it only took me two minutes to get to the front of the line. The agent took my gate pass and license (she and I were now on a first name basis), and her eyes got real big. “Oh, they gave you a gate pass!” she said, as if she really didn’t think that “upstairs” would issue me one. “Yah” was all I said.
I got through the TSA line and into the terminal once again. It was an hour and a half after I left my wife standing there, telling her I’d be back in 10 minutes. I felt like we had been reunited after a tragedy. Come to think of it, it was a tragedy!
We tried calling for a hotel again, got nothing, and decided to camp out in some relatively comfortable chairs in the Detroit airport lobby. We got about three hours of sleep, got up early, ate breakfast and paid for it—no vouchers from Delta, thank you Delta.
The Beach! We did board our early flight at Detroit and we did make it to the beach (staying with friends who had invited us). Sitting in the sun, swimming in the warm ocean, and eating great meals left the Detroit fiasco as a distant, fading bad memory. Until it was time to come home Wednesday afternoon.
We arrived at the departure airport (Ft. Myers, FL), and because of Delta’s nutty scheduling were were due to fly first to Atlanta, then from Atlanta to Detroit, and finally from Detroit home to Binghamton. And guess what. The flight leaving from Ft. Myers to Atlanta was late getting off the ground. This time it was not weather. There was no explanation—they were just late. But the late departure made us get to Atlanta at 6 pm and our next flight was due to leave at 6:30 pm. We RAN through the airport, the whole way. Got to the gate—and no one. Nothing. Nada. Flight already gone (even though it was just 6:30 pm). Thanks Delta!
We walked another 15 miles (it seemed) back to the Delta “help” counter. A very nice young lady apologized, thinking that an apology magically makes it alright. We couldn’t get a flight to anywhere tonight (Wednesday), least of all to Binghamton. So this time they paid to put us up—at a nearby Best Western. They even gave us vouchers for dinner.
We’ll be on a flight to Detroit, and then to Binghamton, hopefully by the time you read this.
Why have I gone on at length about this little venture? Three reasons: (1) Catharsis. I needed to get it off my chest. (2) So you would know there really is a good reason why I won’t be posting any stories on Thursday. (3) Most importantly, to tell you to never, ever, ever, ever, ever fly Delta. NEVER!