The wonderful part of being a retired airline employee is the ability to stand by for flights, and get on if a seat's available! Checking flights, it seemed the whole airline was traveling to and from Hawaii! In standing by, the airline employees who are retired get on "after" the employees who are still on active payroll. I found a flight with lots of seats available going from Honolulu to San Francisco, with a one hour connection time in San Francisco. for a flight to Detroit. So, that was my goal. The flight was to leave at 10:45 p.m., flying through the night to San Fran.
I first realized this might be one heck of an adventure when I got to the gate. There were people- EVERYWHERE! In checking with the desk, I was told that- yes, there were 38 seats available, but 100 people on standby. (Oh my!!) Eventually the agent printed out a list of standbys, in the order of who would get on first, etc., and posted it on a wall. The crowd of 100 people jostled for a view of that list. I was happy to see- I was #13!
I had been looking at flights to take out for three days straight. Ron decided that I really just wanted to stay in Hawaii, and had somehow maneuvered the numbers! (This is true to form, since we have had a "brother-sister ribbing" relationship for the last 21 years!) In truth, he has been an excellent host, but he did have his own life to get back to. So here I sat at the gate knowing I'd get on. But then it was announced- the flight was 1& 1/2 hours late! It was coming from Atlanta, where the weather was pretty bad, so the flight had been delayed there.
Ron and I kept texting as things progressed. The following is the good humored banter that went on:
Me: The flight is delayed by at least 1 1/2 hours! Late inbound aircraft!
Ron: You're not fooling me...I know you did something to that airplane!
Me: LOL! Weather delay out of the departure city! Interesting to see how/when I get from San Francisco to Detroit! I may not make the connection! At least I won't be paddling home from there!
(Note: That last remark about paddling was in response to an earlier comment from Ron that he'd lend me his Kayak to paddle to the mainland!)
Ron: No- but it's a long walk!
Ron: Maybe you can watch your movie I downloaded for you- to pass the time?
Me: Bus, plane, train, or hitch hike- I'll get home somehow!
Ron: (who has computer access to the flights, since he's a flight attendant) I just checked- your inbound plane is 40 minutes from landing.
Me: What's your condo door code again?--- Kidding!
Ron: Just in case, I'm calling a 24 hour lock smith!
Me: Gate agent estimates departure from Honolulu at 12:15 midnight!
Ron: They are starting to assign seats!
Me: At this point I'm #13 on the list.
Ron: Your plane is now 27 minutes from landing. There are 3 people ahead of you, waiting for seat assignments.
Me: Thanks. They are beginning to call names (of standby passengers that have gotten seats) They have a list of over 100!
Ron: I'm checking as they assign seats!
Me: Oh-My, you're ahead of the game! Lol! I love it!
Ron: Your seat is 17E.
Me: Oh ya? They haven't called my name yet. You're good!
Ron: Your plane is 18 minutes out.
Me: They called my name, and surprise, they gave me seat 17E! (Kidding, I text) I gave it to a poor soul who needs to get back to a sick cat! I'll be home (to you)...as soon as I can get a cab!.....Hello?! LOL!
Ron: Sorry, wrong number! No read English!; me not home!
Me: :D The aircraft just pulled in! Good night. Thank you for everything! Aloha!!
And so the good natured kibitz back and forth kept the wait at the gate interesting. The inbound flight landed, people got off, the aircraft was cleaned, we were ready to board. I felt sorry for the ones who were on standby that didn't get on. It was well after midnight and they were going to have to find rooms. Needless to say, I did get on. We departed from Honolulu 2:00 hours late.
I sat in the back in a middle seat. I wasn't going to complain- at least I got on the airplane. The people on either side of me were pleasant enough. The gentleman who was seated next to the isle fell asleep as we took off. I was a bit envious! I've rarely been able to sleep on airplanes! The only issue I had was eventually I needed to get out of my seat to go to the restroom!
The first time I spoke to him, he didn't move a muscle. I waited for a bit. It wasn't urgent- yet. The second time, I gently touched his shoulder and said "Sir? Sir?"--Nothing! The man snored quietly! (Oh dear!) Again I decided to wait just a bit longer. As you can guess, there came a point where I HAD to get out of that seat! The man who sat between me and bathroom freedom was still sleeping like a baby! I used my flight attendant voice! "Sir! Sir? I'm sorry, but I need to get by. Sir?" He struggled to regain consciousness, mumbled an apology, and moved out of his seat. I thanked him, my tail bone thanked him, and most importantly, my bladder thanked him!
I spent a bit more time than necessary in the lav. I was happy to stand for a while! (Can you tell? For the long haul flights, I made a better flight attendant than I now do a passenger! I just don't sit well for long periods of time!) As I woke that poor man yet again to reclaim my seat, I saw hope on the horizon in the form of a sunrise!
We had made up a bit of time- so I was hopeful that the flight to Detroit from San Fran was a bit late. Once off the airplane I checked with the nearest gate agent. "Where is the Detroit bound aircraft?" The agent apologized as he told me- the flight to Detroit left 15 minutes ago! The next one leaves in 5 hours! There are seats available, so you should get on.
I now had been up over 24 hours. I stumbled towards a restaurant, praying for an angel with a bottomless pot of coffee and a good sense of humor. (I didn't need to cope with "grouchy" at this point!)
|Perry's Pub at the San Fran airport, where angel "Dennis" awaited my arrival!|
The "Angel" came in the form of a kindly gentleman named Dennis! He was busy, but stopped right away to take my order, then asked what time my flight was leaving. When I told him it was in about 5 hours- but I needed coffee- BADDLY- he chuckled and said "Alrighty then- right away!"- or something of that nature. The coffee came quickly! (God bless Dennis!) I ordered a veggie omelette, and have to say- it was the best veggie omelette I've ever tasted! Dennis said it was because the chef sauteed the veggies first. He stopped to chat briefly- which helped me stay awake! Dennis was at the end of his shift, but stopped by to see how I was doing. What a trooper!
A "THANK YOU" to Dennis, for your great service and kind words!
I went back to the gate area, listening to the chatter around me and thinking about ways to stay awake and alert. I wandered a bit, read until my eyelids felt heavy, and walked some more.
The flight to Detroit was posted, names were called, and I received a seat assignment. Once on the aircraft, I quickly sent a text to my roommate in Detroit on my flight number and arrival time. I was off for home!
The next angel came in the form of a flight attendant named Mary. I had now been up over 30 hours. I decided that eating may be a good idea, so ordered some food and LOTS of coffee. Mary impressed me. She was gracious to all I saw her deal with, full flight and all. And so the time passed, with me munching away, sipping coffee, and occasionally taking a walk up and down the isles.
We landed a bit early in Detroit. It was now 8:30 in the evening, and I had been up for quite a while. Once I claimed my suitcase, I opened that sucker up, grabbed slacks and a sweater to add to my outfit, and quickly put them on! (I was dressed for Honolulu weather when I left there, and Detroit was MUCH colder!) My last angel of the day was my roommate Diana, who had come to the airport to give me a ride home. Thank you, Diana!
I didn't unpack my bags! I simply unpacked the car, took a shower, and FELL into bed! I had been up over 36 hours!
So- the journey home was longer than expected. But I met some angels along the way, and all is well that ends well! My bed felt wonderful! And though I have a wonderful love affair with Hawaii, it was good to be home!