I am back home. I spent a night stranded in the Detroit airport. I never made it to Indiana because of multi-day, weather-related flight cancellations. My Mom is doing better and has started eating. She has left the hospital and returned to the nursing home. You can stop reading right now if you do not want to hear the gory details.
The Gory Details:
I flew to Detroit at 3:32 pm Monday afternoon, totally expecting to connect with my 8:05 pm flight to see my Mom. Before I left, my sister called to tell me 1. There was a blizzard there with extreme, record breaking cold, and 2. My mom was eating, talking, and generally bouncing back well enough that they were moving her out of the hospital and back to the nursing home. In retrospect, I should have cancelled then; but nonrefundable tickets being what they are, I figured I would take my chances and at worst spend a night in the hotel. I am currently trying to change my life for the better by being more positive and trying to look on the bright side. Plus, I really, really wanted to see my mother and my extended family.
My destination is in Northern Indiana near Chicago. When I checked in to start my trip on Monday afternoon I was told I had two options once I arrived in Detroit; I could either get a 5:45 pm flight out (for which I was on standby) or an 8:05 pm flight (the flight I originally booked). I was thrilled to have two options – it gave me false hope that the weather in the Midwest was getting better, and as a control freak I like options a lot. I was happy. Once I boarded the plane, the stewardess came to tell me that the 8:05 pm flight was cancelled, so I should try to get on the 5:45 pm flight. I was immediately less happy. I was also little worried about making it because there was so little time between the landing of my plane and the boarding of the 5:45 plane. Endless games of solitaire on my iPad and a strong family tradition of denial helped me achieve a state of perfect calm. Once we arrived in Detroit I ran to the nearest Delta information desk only to discover that all flights that day (Monday) were now cancelled. I was not happy at all. She sent me to “Gate 43” where all rescheduling was done. I scurried to Gate 43, dragging my luggage with me. It was quite the classic airport scene as people at the gate were told they were now stuck in Detroit overnight. After waiting in line, a very sweet Delta airlines representative (I will call her Delta Lady #1) told me she could put me on a flight at 8:05 p.m. on Tuesday night. I snapped at her and immediately apologized, saying I was sorry, but I was just angry. She looked me in the eye with the liquid promise of loving salvation and said “Oh, don’t get angry! Everything happens for a reason.” In my mind my eyes were rolling towards the back of my head. Ok, maybe they were in reality, too. But at that very moment, I knew that Delta Lady #1 was on to something and that I needed to relax and try to enjoy the experience, because truthfully the only alternative was trauma and fear. I had a choice to make. I needed to believe. Then I told her that my mother was sick and I really had to get there sooner. Yes, I actually used the sick mother card! I have no shame. ‘Cause, well, I really do have a sick mother and I really have no shame. Delta Lady #1 was super kind and caring. She was able to put me on an earlier flight to Indiana leaving at 8:46 am on Tuesday morning. I was thrilled. I was also ready to find that reason and experience the bright side. Who knew, it was so crazy it might even work. Perhaps this awful experience was going to change my life? Yes, I was alone in the Detroit airport and I was stark raving mad.
The flights were cancelled due to “an act of nature” which is airline code for “the airlines will not pay for hotel rooms.” However, they passed out discount tickets to motels surrounding the airport. That, of course meant that one had to compete with the poor, unfortunate rescheduled masses and call one motel after the other until reservations could be made, arrange for a shuttle to pick you up, figure out how to get outside the airport to the right spot, and wait in the extreme cold until a shuttle has room to pick up up along with everyone else. All this is required to spend one fitful night in a seedy motel in the outskirts of DETROIT, for crying out loud. I have had this “discount motel” experience before when flying through and getting stuck in Philly, thank you very much. Back then, T and I ended up waiting outside in the cold for hours with many angry strangers until a shuttle actually stopped to pick us up. It was beyond unpleasant. I was younger then and with my husband, who is much more level-headed than me. On Monday’s trip I was 62 years old, alone, and stark raving mad! And considering this particular flying experience was in the midst of the 2014 Polar Vortex, I opted to stay in the airport’s Westin Hotel. It is a lovely hotel inside the airport. Way more money, but you know…I’m worth it, and all that crap.
LOVED the hotel. Maybe this was the bright side? I settled into my lovely room at the safe and convenient Westin. I was thinking how sinfully relaxing it was to be in a great room with millions of pillows and a huge bed all to myself when I got THE call from Automated Delta Man#1 - I was informed that my 8:46 am flight out was now cancelled and I would have to call a certain number to get another flight. I sighed deeply and called, only to discover from Automated Delta Man #2 that there was an hour to an hour and a half wait just to get a call-back. So I dialed my place in “line” and then waited for my call back. An hour later I got the call and was helped by sweet, kind, compassionate Delta Lady #2. These ladies are dynamite, by the way. In truth, I congratulate their trainers because they simply ooze kindness. By then I was ready to explode, so their kindness was the only thing keeping my bad temper in check. I surrendered to their compassionate professionalism. Delta Lady #2 softly and sadly informed me that the only remaining option was a Wednesday afternoon flight. That meant I would have to spend two and a half days in the Detroit airport. I said no, just send me back to NYS tomorrow. She reassured me that she would but wanted to check into a few things concerning a refund for which she would put me on hold. I waited for a long time (playing solitaire like crazy) and I was eventually disconnected. I waited a few minutes but she did not call me back. I called the same number and Automated Delta Man #3 put on the waiting list again for a call back. This time it only took 45 minutes to be called back. Delta Lady #3 was another treasure of grace and composure. She confirmed that I was on a flight from Detroit to NYS at 10:00 am the next morning. Yay!!!! Delta Lady #2 had pulled it off. Delta Lady #3 was happy that I was happy. Happy? By God, I was positively giddy. I was going home. I almost cried. I tried to watch Swamp People on the History channel, but I was so exhausted that I had to just turn off the light and go to sleep.
The next morning I got up and caught the flight home. I only had to wait on the tarmac for an hour while they fussed with some mysterious mechanical problem. I had my iPad and played solitaire. I am only $750 poorer. Sheesh. This looking on the bright side stuff is really hard work.