I was traveling a few years ago with PB (Publisher Boss), and our journey back to Little Rock was scheduled to begin with a flight to Atlanta at 11:25 a.m. Plenty of time to fill up the rental car, so Avis wouldn’t charge us $10.99 a gallon.
After dropping off the car, we were informed at the Delta check-in desk that our flight was going to be delayed an hour. Not good, as we only had about 40 minutes to make our connection in Atlanta.
A nice Delta lady put us on the standby list for a later flight leaving Atlanta at 2:32. You know the standby list. It’s where you stand by, looking desperate, hoping you make the final cut. It’s the airline’s version of “Deal or No Deal.”
As we walked toward our terminal, PB said, “There is a lesson to be learned here.”
“Always drive?” I said.
“Always give yourself plenty of time to make the next flight,” he said.
At the security checkpoint, I quickly filled four busboy tubs with my belongings — shoes, laptop, laptop case, watch, car keys, cellphone, wallet, loose change and some orange Tic Tacs.
When the beeper sounded, the young lady who was keeper of the flight gate asked me if I had any cavities. I showed them to her, and she rolled her eyes and told me to walk back through a little slower, which finally worked.
We sat at the gate awhile when PB came up with the idea that we try to get on with another airline in Atlanta. So we headed back to the check-in desk, where we were told that we were now confirmed on the 2:32 Atlanta-to-Little-Rock flight. Suddenly life was good again, and all from just standing by.
Back through security, which I passed without a hitch, but got a funny look from the gatekeeper. So I asked her if she ever saw that “Twilight Zone” episode where the lady was driving and kept seeing the same hitchhiker over and over. She told me to keep moving.
We sat down at the gate under the TV, which was on CNN. I was half listening to some story about a bunch of teenage girls who had made some pact to get pregnant when a voice from above said that our flight would be delayed another 15 minutes.
We boarded and taxied out for takeoff, and the pilot came over the intercom to tell us the pattern was full in Atlanta and that they wanted us to wait a few minutes before taking off; something to do with “airflow.” He said that once we did take off, he would try to make up for the lost time, which didn’t comfort me much.
We arrived in Atlanta at 2:25. Our flight to Little Rock was leaving at 2:32. Hopefully it was delayed. We got inside the D terminal, but needed to be at Gate C30. It was 2:40. We stopped at a desk and asked an attendant if our flight was still here.
“Nope,” was her answer. “But I can get you on standby for the 4:30 flight to Little Rock.” She did that, and when we arrived at our gate, we found out we were Nos. 12 and 13 on the list.
I sat down in a seat next to the counter, out of options. A woman walked up to the counter and said she was supposed to be on standby for the 4:30 flight to Little Rock. When she said her name the attendant told her she was No. 12 in line.
“I thought I was No. 12,” I said from below. They both looked down at me with what I thought looked like scorn.
To be continued.