Planes, Benches, and Starbucks: Part Two

For Part One of this story, please click here– http://pearlriverdiaries.com/blog/2015/03/27/planes-benches-and-starbucks-part-one/ .

Next day was a blur of standing in lines at check-in counters, retrieving my bags, standing in more lines, shuffling my bags again, and trying to get things sorted with Bob, Denise, Patrick and Mary (you know it’s bad when you start greeting the airline employees by name). Somehow, amid rebookings 3-7, the only thing they actually managed to accomplish was to uncheck my bags from going through to China. I had to pick them up in Dallas, keep them with me overnight (wherever I would be; I still had no idea), and then recheck them the next morning. As a special bonus, they calmly informed me, I would have to pay more money for my luggage “because the other airline’s baggage policy is different than ours. At this point, I put my foot down. I also may or may not have cried. There was no way on earth that I was going pay more for the dubious privilege of being inconvenienced by this corporation.

By the time we finally had it “worked out,” I had a sheaf of baggage tags, boarding passes, itineraries, and other paperwork. I again pushed my trusty cart through security, and headed straight to Five Guys for the first real meal I’d had in more than 24 hours. The only open restaurant in the unsecured area didn’t have food I could eat, so I’d been living on fruit, cheese sticks, and Starbucks. Burger patties with fixings (no bun) and fries never tasted so good.

This doesn't look so bad...Southerners; we can't HANDLE the sleet.

More sleet was forecasted for the evening, so I was pretty much champing at the bit to get on a plane and fly anywhere else, although another night on my bench did sound tempting. By that time, a friend in Dallas had seen my plight on Facebook, and offered to pick me up, feed me, give me a bed, and get me back to the airport in the morning. Things were looking up. We boarded the plane…and again sat on the tarmac. I kept checking the time, knowing with every minute we sat there I was closer to missing my connection to Dallas and any chance of sleeping in a bed that night.

Finally on a Plane!

Fire and Ice

Fortunately, the flight to Charlotte was a short hop, and I landed a good seven minutes before my next plane was slated to take off. Striving for patience, I waited my turn to exit the aircraft, and then flat-out ran to my next gate. I needn’t have worried. That flight was also delayed (for once, I was glad to hear it) due to engine trouble. Was the entire US Airways’ fleet falling apart, plane by plane? No matter, at least I knew that I was on time, and could make this flight. What’s more, there was a Starbucks conveniently nearby. My aunt had given me a generous Starbucks gift card before I left (which was obviously coming in very handy), and I was determined to use every penny of it. A woman has to have goals, even in times of crisis.

Refueling

Chai in hand, I stood in line an hour and a half later, ready to board the flight. It was actually happening! I was a mere four hours away from a shower and a bed! Handing my boarding pass to the attendant, I smiled tiredly as she ran it under the infrared reader, which emitted a loud buzz. Frowning, she ran it again. Buzz!

“I’m sorry, Ms. Dexter, but it seems you’re not on this flight.”

“Um, yes I am. See? Here’s my boarding pass. There’s the flight number. I’m definitely here.”

“Well, they didn’t think that you were going to be here in time due to your last flight’s delay (which, may I remind you, was nearly two hours ago), so they switched you to a later flight.”

Sigh. “Of course they did. Okay. Can you please tell me where and when this later flight is? Am I still going to Dallas? Will I get there tonight?”

The Waiting Game

With yet another boarding pass in hand, I trudged to my next gate and slumped into a chair. In my mind, I was trying to go over the things I had to be thankful for, and praying that the Lord would give me a good attitude when I was feeling anything but cheerful. His answer was to send a chatty man with whom to trade travel stories, and eventually share about Jesus. I think he was more interested in commiserating than hearing about the cross, but who knows how God will use the seeds sown?

Honestly, I don’t remember one solitary thing about my flight to Dallas, except that its city lights at night were fantastic, and I was awfully glad to be one step further in my journey.

Dallas Lights

Carrie, my sweet Facebook friend whom I had never actually met before that night, was waiting for me in the baggage claim area. Right off the bat, two of my bags came down the conveyor belt. It was my lucky night! After a longer wait, a third came. Then…nothing.

Perhaps I should explain at this point why I had so much luggage. I’d never done that before, always opting to take only the two free bags that the airlines allowed, plus my carry-on. However, early in my stay in the States, I’d checked with the airline, and they’d said that I could have a free checked-on medical missions bag, because I worked with orphans. So civic-minded of them! I was impressed. The bag was filled in no time with medication, vitamins, supplements, essential oils.

The week before I left, we cleaned out our storage unit, with the things we hadn’t gotten rid of during the previous purges. As I was sorting through my few boxes, I found stacks of photos, my baby book, a picture my grandmother had painted, another a friend had done, a baby blanket my grandmother had crocheted for my first child, and a number of other precious keepsakes that I couldn’t bear to lock up again and probably not see for another twelve years. I prayed about it, and decided that I’d bite the bullet and pay to bring another bag over, since my other bags were full of gluten free food and other things I’d need for my next years in China.

Just a couple of nights before I left, I called the airlines, and received the first rude shock- my medical missions bag was not, in fact, free. And the bag I’d planned to pay for was $50 more than the first representative had said it would be, as well. Everything was already packed, weighed, and ready to go. Leaving the medicine was not an option, so I decided to still take it with me. This was the baggage that they first overcharged me for in Raleigh, when I had no recourse but to pay ($300 more than they had originally told me it would be). These was the suitcases that they unchecked from going through to China, and told me I was going to have to pay more for on another airline (now you see why I put my foot down about that). And these were the bags which were now sitting before me…minus the medical missions bag.

Leaving Carrie with the other bags, I went to the office to file my claim. Sorting through the twelve baggage claim tickets I had on hand (I’ve no idea how I ended up with so many, but I was afraid to get rid of any of them), we figured out that my bag was safe and sound…in Washington D.C. I had not been to Washington D.C. that day, or at any date in the near past, but apparently the powers that be thought that one bag needed to be there. With a decidedly blasé attitude, the agent said that there was nothing that he could do, the bag couldn’t travel internationally without me (since when???), and I would have to figure it out when I got to China.

Fighting back tears, I told him that I was not just some rich woman, and these weren’t excess clothes—this bag was a medical missions bag, and it had medicine for orphans in it. His careless attitude cracked just a bit, and he was like, “Wow, for orphans, huh? That’s too bad. Let me see what I can do.” What he could do was still basically nothing, but at least he was a little nicer about it.

Poor Carrie, between waiting an extra hour at the airport for me to deal with lost luggage, listening to my tale of woe in the car on the way to her apartment, and helping me haul my remaining bags up the stairs, she didn’t know what she’d gotten herself into.  She and her husband were the consummate hosts, though, and made sure my every need was cared for. Soon I was fed (yay for real food!), and I had showered (bliss), and had laid down in a real bed for a solid 5 ½ hours of sleep. Until that night, I never knew it was possible for one to literally be asleep before one’s head hit the pillow.

To be continued…

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