Saturday night and I knew it wasn’t a good sign when I couldn’t find my flight out of Raleigh to connect to Chicago, which would then take me to Cedar Rapids for the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. It was to depart from RDU at 9:45 on Sunday morning. I first checked with US Air, and found the second flight on United. I went downstairs to share my confusion with Keith, who remained extremely calm. I wasn’t calm. We called the US Air Help Desk and they said that my flight did exist, but we still couldn’t print out my boarding pass.
The next day Keith and Daniel dropped me off at RDU, neither early nor late at Terminal A, where US Air is located. There were four people in front of me and the agents took at least ten minutes to process them. When it was my turn, the agent said I was in the wrong terminal, since my flight was a United one and it would leave out of Terminal C.
“What! Will I make it?” my temperature rose.
He said, “You can hope that the plane will be late.”
My suitcase and I rolled down the stairs and through the parking garage. Upon arriving, I recognized a couple that been in Terminal A and they had had the Terminal A agent on the phone for at least ten minutes. I slid in next to them, while a quick, bald agent asked us if we were headed to Chicago. I piped up and my bag was checked after another agent had to verify and verify that I was indeed on this flight. My original flight was wiped clean by United and I was given another flight in its place. I hate United (and I’m on two United flights bound for home).
Turns out that Chicago flight was oversold and maybe it wouldn’t have mattered if I had made it through the security line in thirty seconds or less (I had to take off my belt and bracelet), as well as unpack my laptop. As I ran to the furthest gate possible, clutching my fanny pack like a football and only dropping my cell phone once, I squealed to a halt at the gate agent desk, with a few other folks waiting to see if they could fly standby. No luck for any of us. I didn’t have priority since I was behind the other ticketed passengers who had assigned seats and printed out boarding passes. I had neither. Our plane rolled away. Have you ever seen the plane you were supposed be on fly away? Lucky for me, I got another flight with American at 2:40, which meant that I would be late for the Iowa Registration/Welcome dinner, but I would still make the first class and orientation if I arrived in Iowa City at 7:30 pm.
At least I got a free lunch from United at any of the food places in Terminal C. After picking up my dry sandwich, chips and chocolate milk for Daniel, Keith picked me up. “Hi, again!” and we had lunch together and later I lathered Daniel up with sunscreen and got him ready for their pool date later that afternoon. I printed out my new boarding passes and made certain I had assigned seats.
Then everything went like clockwork. I insisted on getting to the airport early. My number came up in the security line and I had to be patted down, but at least I left plenty of time for this, right? We left Raleigh on time, made it to Chicago and then to Cedar Rapids. I had to wait for the shuttle for a half hour, but then we were soon on our way. Boarding the mini van was a lady in her forties with a cane and a shoulder sling who sat next to me. She immediately spoke to me and I found myself relaxing. Turns out Susan, my new friend, was headed not only to the Festival, but she was in the same poetry class as me! Unfortunately, her mother-in-law had recently passed away, so she had to leave for Dallas on Tuesday, missing most of her writing week. She also was missing her bags since a woman in California (where she’s from) had picked them up by mistake. Susan’s travel days were much much worse than mine. I told her things can only get better and then they did.
Next: a summary of Iowa Week with pictures!