Mom, Dad, and enjoyed the free Comfort Inn breakfast. Terry (Lisa's fiance) was the only person in there when we arrived. A few others came and went while we were there.
We planned to check out of the hotel and leave for the airport at 11:00, since they were recommending travelers to be at the airport two hours before their scheduled departure, of which ours was 1:25.
At about 10:45, I ran across the street to fill up the gas tank before we got on the road, in order to bring the rental car back on full. My mom had given me her credit card to use, but when I went to use it I didn't have it. She had also given me a twenty, so I used the cash instead, figuring I'd forgotten her credit card on the bed where I had set it down when she first handed it to me.
Back at the room, it was nowhere to be found, so I retraced my steps back out to the car and looked in the car all around to see if it had fallen out. Annoyed at one more thing to do when we got to the airport, I switched the card to mine for checkout just to avoid any possible confusion of charging to their card and then canceling the card.
After loading the suitcases in the car, and while mom and dad were getting in, I stepped two parking spots over where I'd been parked before going for gas, and looked around on the ground. There it was.
The people at Payless were priceless, as they were upon my arrival, and let me pay for the car while my parents were still in it and then had someone drive us over to the terminal so my parents would have to 1) get out of the car, and 2) try to negotiate the rental car shuttle bus. I was very thankful for that.
At the terminal, I got them both into wheelchairs and then got in the US Airways check-in line to check the one bag we were checking. I had already checked-in online and paid for the suitcase, I just had to give it to them. As an aside, this pay-for-your-bags deal the airlines have going on his a huge gouge to the consumer and easy money for the airlines. And this, "Pay-for-your-bag-online-and-save-money"
In spite of that, everything was going smoothly until I had moved up to about fourth in line, when the word spread that our flight had been canceled, and then delayed. Turned out it was delayed by an hour, which would cause us to miss our 3:40 connection in Philadelphia.
It took about 20 minutes to get everything re-booked for the three of us. While that was being worked out, my parents who were sitting pretty far away from me, had no idea what was taking so long and I would look over to my dad every now and then and he would shrug his shoulders and raise his arms up with the palm of his hands face up, as if to say, "What's going on?"
I left the ticket counter with a quagmire of tickets, one with green stickers on them and another one with some penciled in notes on them. We had reservations on four flights for each of the three of us:
- Tickets for our original 1:25 flight that had been delayed until 2:25, with no real guarantee it wouldn't be delayed even further later.
- Tickets for a 2:00 flight, but with only one person confirmed and the other two on standby.
- Tickets for our original 3:40 flight out of Philly to RDU.
- Penciled in on those, notes about a back-up flight we were confirmed on, leaving Philly at 6:25, if we didn't make that 3:40 connection. We didn't actually have the three tickets for that flight, just the notes on the 3:40 tickets to remind us that we were confirmed with a back-up plan.
While waiting for the standby situation on the 2:00 flight. I walked with mom to get us a little lunch at "Johnny Rockets." It turned out it was going to be too far for her to walk all the way to with the limited time we had, so I took her and dad's order asking her to stay where she was until I got back.
I started walking, and then thought of something else I wanted to ask her, and when I turned around, she was nowhere in sight. I looked to see if she'd taken a seat at a Wolfgang Puck eating place where I'd left her. No. I looked across to a gift store, and there she was starting to shop.
Amazingly enough, we did end up all getting on the flight in which two of our seats were on standby, so catching that flight instead of having to wait another 30 minutes for the 2:25 one (the delay of our original flight), I thought, "Okay, there's another chance now that we'll actually make our 3:40 connection in Philly."
Taxiing out, and getting in line for takeoff, the pilot came on to announce that due to the heavy traffic we're going to be delayed 30 minutes taking off. Ah, 30 minutes. Easy come, easy go.
We arrived in Philly and when we emerged from the jetway into the gate, I asked an attendant if the 3:40 to RDU had left yet. He checked and said, "It says it's still on the ground." They got us an electric cart, and they drove us from end of the B concourse to the polar opposite end of the C concourse, at which we arrived missing the 3:40 departure by ten minutes.
The back-up plan kicked in, and I looked to see what gate that 6:25 flight was leaving from and found out two things: 1) It was leaving from the gate next to the one we'd just come from, and 2) It had already been delayed until 7:15. A very fun lady drove us on another cart clear back to that other side. She kept yelling, "Beep, beep, beep, beep," making the sound like you hear when vehicles are backing up. Everybody who moved out of the way was either smiling or outright laughing.
Once there, we settled in for our three-hour wait. I was actually going to pay for some Internet access, but it took forever to connect, and I thought, "If this is how slow the connection is going to be once I pay, no thank you."
Fast forward two-and-a-half hours to about 6:45 for this announcement: "Ladies and gentlemen, the flight that we're going out on is en route from Nassau, and is now scheduled to land at 7:07 (so much for a 7:15 departure), and as soon as it does and we clean and ready the aircraft for your departure, we'll start boarding. Our new estimated departure time is 7:40. Groans and cell-phones flipping open galore.
The next announcement about 15 minutes later: "Ladies and gentleman, we've just had an update on the flight coming in from Nassau. They're now scheduled to land at 7:20. Again, as soon as we get the plane cleared and cleaned, we'll start our boarding process."
About 30 minutes later at about 7:45: "Ladies and gentleman. I'm just the messenger. (Uh, no, not really. You work for the airlines that is providing this (non) service.) The plane from Nassau has arrived, so we do have a plane and a crew (meaning the pilots). However, we do not have flight attendants for this flight now. We've called in for back-up flight attendants, but with these weather delays and rescheduled flights over the last two days we're not able to get any. We now have to wait for flight attendants coming in on the next flight from Charlotte. They're scheduled to land here at 9:24."
OMFG. Land here at 9:24??? Then clear the plane they come in on, and then get to our gate, and then we can start boarding. OMFG. People went ballistic.
At one point in the next two hours, mom walked down to the ladies room, down a ramp and around a corner—slow-moving and holding on to the rails. When she turned the corner, a gate was across the ladies room door that said, "Closed." There was an airport worker nearby, and mom said to her, "Can you open that gate for me?"
The lady said, "Ma'am, there's a flood in there."
To which my mom said, "And if you don't open that gate, there's going to be a flood out here."
"I can let you in this handicapped bathroom, ma'am."
For this flight, which ended up leaving at about 10PM, we originally had one seat in the 7th row, one in row 20 and one in row 22. We'd decided we'd put dad in the 7th row seat, as he is the least mobile and getting all the way to the back of the plane is cumbersome. But before all the drama happened, I'd asked for changes, and we ended up moving those other two back seats up to one in row 6 and one in row 8, so all pretty close together at least.
Once we boarded, two people around us offered to switch with us so we could all sit in the same row side-by-side. Sweet.
On the flight attendants' "last pass through the cabin" during our "final descent," I stopped one of them and reminded her that we needed two wheelchairs upon arrival or one to get up the ramp (for dad) and an electric cart at the top in the gate in which case we wouldn't need the second wheelchair.
"I've already called that in," she said.
Arriving at 11:30, we waited until the entire plane emptied, and then a guy came down the jetway with dad's wheelchair, and we made our way up the ramp. In the gate, nothing. No second wheelchair, and no electric cart. We waited for about ten minutes in a deserted airport at coming up on midnight for another chair to arrive. I was livid.
Two guys pushed my parents, while we swung by baggage claim to get our three bags (one good thing that did happen was way back in Providence at the beginning of our trip when we got on that standby flight, there was no more room for bags, so they checked our two carry-ons—neither of which mom or dad were "carrying" of course—all the way through to Raleigh for no charge, so we didn't have to mess with them at all in Philly), and then out to the garage, where after getting them up the elevator to the third story of the deck, they exited the chairs and waited for me while I ran to get the car at the other end of the garage.
On the way out of the airport, mom asked if I'd just get them a room at the nearest hotel to my house, and then come pick them up in the morning. I just ignored my dad saying, "You're gonna get a hotel room this late at night?" and my mom answering, "What do you think hotels are for?" We pulled into the Ramada Inn by the fairgrounds at about 12:30 and I got them a room, settled them in with their bags, and I headed back to my place.
As if the day hadn't been long enough, as I approached Hillsborough Street on Blue Ridge about to go through the intersection, the train gates came down. WTF? Do we really need trains stopping traffic at 1:00 in the morning? Fortunately no one was with me to say, "That's what trains do."