This year, RMAF started off with a bang. But not for me. For me, it started with a long series of groans, whimpers and even some abject weeping. Okay, maybe not that last, but it was close.
My flight out of BWI was delayed an hour. Which was fine as I had a 2 hour layover in ATL anyway, so no big deal. I had time to get off the plane, walk across the gate area to the connection, even grab a snack and still get to the gate on time for my connection to Denver. But strolling into the gate, I find out it’s delayed 30 minutes. Ok, no problem! Time for a bio-break! When I get back to the gate to find out we’re delayed another 30 minutes. I settle in and pass the time watching another episode of “Dollhouse” on Netflix on my iPhone. Go Echo, go Echo!
We eventually board the flight and after we’re all settled, we spend some time chatting while sampling the delicate aroma of jet fuel. Time passes somewhat hazily but someone in my row finally realizes that we still haven’t pushed back from the gate. This is when the pilot very helpfully tells us that there’s a “glitch” on a valve on one of the engines. Ahem. Okay …. This fix takes about 30 minutes to correct and a bit more to “complete the paperwork”. Why is he telling us about his paperwork?
The scent of jet fuel seems to have dissipated by this point, which is a shame, because I think I was getting a contact high. We pushed back from the gate, and we were on our way … except it turned out that Air Traffic Control sent us out to the wrong jetway, so we need to taxi to the other end of the airport and re-queue. This puts us something like 40th in line for take off, and by the time we’re ~10th (which takes another 45 minutes), the pilot now notices that there’s another issue with the plane. Back to the gate. Another 45 minute “fix” which turns out to be not a fix, as our pilot tells us, because “that part isn’t necessary for flight”. Comforting, no? So, after another paperwork delay (he’s totally counting the hours for his time card, I’m guessing), we’re now ready to depart – and it’s been about 3 hours since we were supposed to push back. That is, we’re now getting ready to leave about the time we would have been arriving in Denver. It’s 830pm.
As we’re pushing back from the gate, the pilot tells us that we, in fact, have another issue – apparently, Air Traffic Control has “lost our flight plan”. WTF? Look, I can’t make this stuff up. I asked the woman next to me if I missed the part when we all stepped into a sitcom. Anyway, this takes another hour to sort out, with us just sitting on the runway, before we’re set again to rejoin the take-off queue. Everyone holds their breath as we finally accelerate for our take off. It’s now after 10pm. We’re off the ground, the plane is shaking like a wet dog — and then we’re up. We’re giddy. Happy. Elated, even. Relieved. I crack a joke about circling the airport and having to land again. Everyone laughs.
After about 20 minutes, I notice we don’t seem to have climbed very high, the seatbelt sign is still on … and we’re circling. Oh, fucktards. After another 10 minutes, the pilot tells us that the doors that normal seal the landing gear didn’t close. And won’t. He proceeds to tell us that we can’t climb higher or go faster as this will “rip those doors off the plane” … and we’re going to have to land. Unreality washes over us in waves and everyone is staring around the cabin with eyes the size of dinner plates. It still takes Atlanta another 30 minutes before we’re cleared to land. We are de-boarded, back into the gate terminal, at 1130pm.
I’ve already called Delta and rebooked for the 8am flight, but a glance at the board shows that there’s a new flight posted, leaving for Denver at 1250am. Wha-? Delta got us a replacement plane? Yes. A flight inbound will be refueled and sent out as our flight. That plane arrives. Passengers disembark. All our bags are transferred and the crew is ready to go. But the pilot, isn’t. Apparently, he’s worked too long today, so off he goes. We need a new pilot. As that search mounts, the crew passes their expiration date, and they too, flee. The departure — still on the board — is now pushed back to 215am, with an arrival in Denver of about 4am. We’re still going, we’re assured. As everything in the airport has been closed for hours, Delta brings out a snack cart and lets us have all the water and snacks we want. Nice of them. Hmmpfh.
I call and cancel my Super Shuttle appointment as the pickup is now five hours past, and Super Shuttle is really nice about it. I look to rebook a ride, but the first I could catch wouldn’t leave the Denver airport before 8am, so that’s clearly out as I’m not going to hang out in the airport for 4 extra hours. So I hang up the phone, and that’s when the flight gets delayed again! Reposted for a 3am departure. I’m left wondering about calling Super Shuttle back. When the pilot shows up at 245am, we clap and cheer, but it’s not because we’re happy to see him. The pilot has the grace to look embarrassed. I think the only reason we haven’t rioted is because we’re exhausted. I feel for the parents with their toddlers, either lying about in limp piles or pelting around with the manic energy of their recent naps, whether taken or delayed. I’m thoroughly glad my kids are at home and thankful my wife decided not to come out with them to go play in Colorado while I hung out at the show.
We’re up in the air at 320am and I’m out like a light 5 minutes after liftoff. I arrive in Denver at 430am local time, grab my bags, and talk a Delta rep into giving me a free cab voucher. But there are no cabs. For over an hour. I give the first two cabs that finally show away to the two women I’m standing with in the 40 degree taxi zone. There’s no way I want to leave one of them standing alone in an abandoned airport pickup area. Off they go, and it’s just me standing alone in an abandoned airport pickup area. Suboptimal. A cab finally comes and I pile in with my voucher – which turns out to be only valid for the SuperShuttle — which still won’t pick up for another couple of hours.
I give up and pay the $70 for the cab ride – I just need this experience to be over. When I arrive at the hotel, they’re sympathetic, but won’t refund my missed night as it was after the “cancellation period”. Fuck it. I check in, take my key and shuffle off. I’m asleep by 630am, and dead till noon, when I resurrect and shamble off like a good little zombie.
When I finally arrive at the Marriott at around 1pm, the registration line is out the door and curving around the building and spilling into the parking lot. Whoa! Luckily for me, I managed to pre-qualify for a press pass, so I totally line jumped (sorry!) and after grabbing a monstrously oversized cup of coffee with 3 extra espresso shots, and a fresh set of batteries for my flash, I’m off.
First stop, Classic Audio.