My youngest son, Kevin, had finally earned his Bachelor’s Degree the hard way, working during the day, classes at night. His bride, Savanna, wanted him to don the cap and gown and walk the walk, but he didn’t want to spend the money, the time, or any further effort. He was DONE! YIPPEE!! Instead, she planned a surprise graduation party for him. I had heard about it kind of by accident through Facebook, since living a thousand miles away, I obviously I couldn’t attend. On my nightly chat with Sarah on my drive home from work she told me she and Nate would certainly be there. I said if I were independently wealthy, I’d hop on a plane over the weekend and just surprise him. “But,” I said, “at least I’ll see him in June, so that’s okay.”
Two days later, rather early in the morning, I got a phone call from Sarah. When it’s that early, I have to wonder if she’s okay. It’s been a tough year. She sounded funny, kind of muffled. “I know,” she said, I’m under my covers.” Then she proceeded to preface what she had to say with, “I want you to be open-minded, spontaneous, think spur-of-the-moment.” And then she surprised me with, “I want to fly you home for Kev’s party.”
Three mornings and several excited phone calls to Savanna later, Thom, Sadie and I hopped in the car and headed to Daytona for my 8:30 flight connecting in Charlotte and Chicago and then finally to Traverse City. The plan was for Sarah to pick me up, drive to Boyne to change clothes, then head to Gaylord’s bowling alley before 6:00 p.m. where Savanna would bring an unsuspecting husband to his surprise graduation/bowling party. It seemed perfect, and I was looking forward to surprising not only my son, but some of my siblings, as well, who I knew would be there to celebrate with him.
20 minutes into the 30-minute drive to Daytona’s airport, I pulled out my boarding pass just to double-check the time. I literally gasped when I saw what was on it: “FLT 2291 DPT 7:02 AM DAB ARR 8:36 AM CLT.”
I can’t even begin to express my thoughts when I realized I had 10 minutes until my flight left and I wasn’t even at the airport. I picked up the phone mumbling frantically, “Who do I call?” “You can’t call the airline!” “You can’t even call the damned AIRPORT!” Thom – God love him – didn’t say too much, though I know without a doubt he was thinking, “How in the world did you get that wrong????” We just continued on our way at a bit faster pace, all the while my head spinning with a million thoughts: What do I do? How will I get there? What can I possibly tell Sarah who just spent MANY hundreds of dollars to fly me home? Will the flight be delayed? No! Of course not! It’s the first flight out!
I’ve missed a plane only once before in my entire life, and it’s a feeling you never forget. And now I was going to experience it again.
Thom pulled up to the front doors, and I grabbed my backpack and jumped out yelling, “Don’t leave!” I ran up to the now very empty ticket counter and saw two young men coming out the doors, no doubt finishing up sending my flight on its way. I asked them if the 7:02 flight had left, and they assured me it had. I put my head down on the counter, then looked up and said, “I need your help.” After a whole heck of a lot of typing, several bouts of tears, a half hour and a couple of phone calls later, Alex said to me, “Well, because you missed this flight, your seat from Chicago to Traverse City has been given away…
…but if you can get to Jacksonville, there’s a direct flight to Chicago at 10:40 with a pretty tight Traverse City connection that you could go standby on.” With my head spinning, I said, “Put me on it.”
The hour and a half drive to JAX was relatively quiet, but again, when Thom pulled up to the terminal, I suggested he not leave ‘just in case.’ The empty ticket counter yielded me an agent who, after listening to my tearful tale of idiocy, gave me back my seat to TC, but informed me that yes, I could most likely make the connection except that my flight to Chicago was now delayed 40 minutes, which would put me at O’Hare 10 minutes after my TC flight left.
Deciding NOT to tell Thom about that last bit, I called him and told him I was on my way, have a safe drive home, see you tomorrow, and went to my gate just hoping against all hope that we had good tailwinds and the flight to TC was delayed. What else could I do?
At the departure gate, I thought I’d see if there was any new information on the 40-minute delayed flight to Chicago, what gate this flight went into, what gate that flight left from, and if there were any miracles available. There was a lovely woman at the counter who, after listening to my story of my son’s graduation, my idiocy, and seeing my eyes filling up with desperation, finally said to me, “Listen, I’m definitely not supposed to do this, but I’m gonna ask that a cart be waiting for you when you get to Chicago, and they can get you to your next gate faster than if you ran, because they can go underground and around places you can’t go. I’ll do everything I can to get you on that flight, and we gonna pray it happens.” I quietly thanked her, and then started praying to the one person who I knew was the airport connection I needed. AMY!
My nickname for Amy is ‘Sparky.’ Living in Belleville and being 20 minutes from Metro Airport, she was always willing and able to get me to and from the airport any time of the day or night, sometimes through sleeting snow, sometimes out of bed and still in her red, one-piece star pajamas. She’d answer her phone, “Sparky’s airport transport. How can I assist you today?” I called on her again, “Amy…Sparky…Please, PLEASE help me make my connection in TC. See what you can do up there. Please…”
And while Ms. Lovely at the counter was typing notes into my ticket, I happened to glance at the information on the board. Suddenly my flight was only 20 minutes late, which meant I now had a 10-minute window in Chicago to make my connection!
I had the lady look at the board. I asked her if that didn’t just change from 40 minutes delayed to 20 minutes delayed. She looked at me and said quietly, “Yes.” I asked her if that happens very often, and she said, “No; hardly ever.” We looked at each other and smiled.
PS: Yes, I made the connection.