Before I begin to talk about my “Italian adventure”, it is important that I stress that all of my travel plans were with airline buddy passes. If you aren’t familiar with these, let me briefly explain. When you travel using a BUDDY PASS (an employee benefit), you are able to fly for free or dirt cheap on flights that have unsold seats, but you are on standby. This means you don’t know if you have a seat on the plane until moments before the doors on the plane close. I was aware of this before I started my trip.
Monday morning 5/20/2019
I woke up at 5 am. (actually I think 5 am is more the time I gave up trying to sleep, and began moving.) I “Coffeed”, showered, put on a DRESS , and…wait for it….a little bit of make-up. This is another thing about the buddy passes, you have to “dress up” . I threw a couple of last minute items in my carry on, TRIPLE CHECKED that I had my boarding pass, passport, and bus ticket for when I arrived in Italy. Check, check, and check.
I checked the standby list and was still at number 2 (my chances were good that I would make it on the plane.) Whooo hoooo!!!!
My dear friend Brian arrived at 7 am to take me to the airport. We spent the hour plus drive catching up on all the things that had been happening in our lives since the last time we were able to “hang out”, almost a year ago. Traffic wasn’t bad, in fact we arrived early. He dropped me off at a door that had wheelchair access and assistance was just inside the door. ANOTHER win.
I checked a large suitcase. Having a medical condition makes traveling for any amount of time with just a carry on, very impractical. ( Pads, diapers, waterproof pads, medication, surgery shoe, etc)
Going through security was a breeze, other than a small oversight on my part which COULD have been very embarrassing. I was able to STAND in the scanning machine instead of having to be completely felt up. I didn’t have to take off the boot, and the lines were relatively short. WIN WIN! The moment that could have been embarrassing was when they had to open and inspect my carry on because I forgot to remove my laptop. DOH!
I arrived at my gate at 9:15 and immediately checked the standby list again. Number 17?!?!?!? What the hell had happened in the last 2 hours? Did everyone suddenly feel the urgent need to travel to Milan?
After people watching (active listening) for about half an hour, it was more than obvious that the standby list was going to continue to grow. The 9 am flight to NJ (My first stop) was cancelled because of the storms that were pounding the east coast. So all of the customers that missed the 9 am flight would be squeezed onto later flights.
As a NON PAYING CUSTOMER, getting me on a plane was of very little importance to anyone but me. Ok, I knew this COULD happen, let’s make the best of it. I chatted with several other passengers which made the time pass pretty quickly. I looked up other flights that were leaving for NJ, and there were several, before my flight from NJ to Milan would leave at 6:30 pm. Chicago to NJ is a 3 hour flight, and there were flights leaving at 10:00 am, 11:30 am (my flight) and 2:15 pm that would allow me to make it to NJ on time. CLOSE, but still on time.
I waited at the airport and watched the 10:00 and 11:30 flights depart without me. The airline personal said that it was only going to get worse, and may feed over into the next day. I was number 45 on the standby cue for 2:15, so at 2 pm I “gave up”. Again, I KNEW this COULD happen but I certainly didn’t expect it. I had asked my friend Marisa a couple of weeks ago if she would pick me up if ended up stuck. I made the bail me out call now.
She picked me up from the airport and we went back to her house where I could use my laptop to explore any other options that might be available. During this time I began searching the airlines for flights to NEW YORK, PA, or Dulles that might allow me to still make a connection to Newark in time for the 630 flight to Milan. While I could fly from O’hare to any of the other states without issue, the lists for flights into NJ were all full. Hmmmm what if I rented a car and drove to NJ from one of the other airports? Probably not a good idea considering my right (driving foot is still in a boot). It’s one thing to drive with my left foot on country roads where I know how to avoid the traffic, but not very smart and probably illegal to do in a big city.
After researching all the options, we decided that I might as well try to catch one of the 4 other flights to NJ that night. The flight to Milan had over 30 seats available for the next 2 days, so if I could at least get to NJ, half the battle would be won. I would just need to stay in Newark for the night. ( yay hotel points) So back to the airport we went. If I didn’t get on one of the flights, Marisa would come back and get me at 9:30 pm and I would just crash at her place.
The trip through security this time did not go as smoothly. (not terrible, just not smooth)
While I remembered to take my laptop and tablet out of my carry on bag this time, I forgot to take off my sweatshirt, and to remove my cigarettes and lighter from my pocket.
So this is how I appeared on the scanner. ( lighter on my hip and zipper from my sweatshirt in my groin)
The sweatshirt and cigarettes had to go back through the x-ray machine, and the poor TSA agent had to reach between my legs. She grabbed the poise pad I was wearing and asked, “what is this?” As we looked into each other’s eyes….We had a moment…. kidding. I said ” a pad”, she said, Ok” . Kind of awkward .
She finished her inspection of me. I re-packed all the items as quickly as possible in my carry on bag and quickly moved away. 10 minutes later I realized that I had not recovered my cigarettes and lighter. YES, we had to turn around. No one in security could find them, so I shrugged it off :(. As we were approaching my gate, the security girl came running up to me with my cigarettes and lighter. This time, we did have a moment. I even told her I loved her 🙂
When we arrived at the gate, I immediately checked the standby list and learned that I was number 33. 😦 I spent the next hour and a half catching up with the “new friends” I had made earlier in morning ( the other people that were stuck at the airport). At 6:10 I heard one of their names being called to make the flight (#8) and went over to “congratulate” him. As I leaned against the counter, I felt something move behind me. It was his laptop falling off of the counter.
(This is not his laptop, but it did look as bad as this 😦 )
OMG!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What had I done?!?!?! How do you apologize for something like that? He said, “don’t worry about it”, as he picked up the pieces and rushed to board the plane. How do you not worry about it??!?!? OMG I was going to go to hell for this. I was going to be stuck in the airport for days. I was…… hearing my name being called. I had made the flight! The other 20 something people between this man and I had given up, or found another alternative. I was actually boarding the plane!
Have you ever flown standby? Do you have any security mishaps you’d like to share? I would love to hear your stories!