Loose Leaves, 1st published Sunday 3 December 2000 in The Morning News of Northwest Arkansas
By Ben Pollock
Copyright 2000 Donrey Media Group
Some Mondays need more than 24 hours.
My wife is doing some work for a project in London. We decided I would join her there for Thanksgiving week.
TW Express 7608 was to leave Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport at 4:18 p.m. Monday, Nov. 20, arriving 5:35 at St. Louis. TWA’s flight 720 was to leave at 7:30 p.m., arriving 9:50 a.m. Tuesday at London’s Gatwick airport.
I am told to be at the airport by 3.
Around 9 p.m. Sunday I phone a good-bye to my mom in Fort Smith. Two hours later I write my wife an e-mail of last-minute thoughts about our romantic getaway, but the computer tells me the phone is dead.
Maybe No. 1: Maybe I should have gone to a pay phone and punched the phone company’s repair number Sunday night.
I wash a load of laundry while packing, writing and phoning. There is a gurgling in the walls. Two weeks earlier the bathroom flooded, but everything has been OK since.
Maybe No. 2: Maybe I should call a plumber every time there’s an overflow or a leaky tap.
By 2 a.m. Monday I am packed. Bet I can ignore the noise and the dinky seats and snooze for most of the long flight.
I am up at 7. Oh no, the bathroom floor’s a soggy wreck. I try to call the plumber but — the phone is dead, still.
I borrow a neighbor’s phone. The mechanized phone-company voice tells me that the problem is within the house. I am to unplug every phone line, wait five minutes then replug one to see if the dial tone has reset.
The plumbing dispatcher listens to my story and says the sewer is backed up and recommends a couple of “roto” services.
The one I call tells me someone will be at the house about noon, calling me at work so I can meet them.
The roto people do not phone, and I leave my half-day of work. I call and learn a man will be at the house by 2. At 2:02 I phone and learn the man will be there any minute. I load the car.
He arrives at 2:45. I phone the neighbor, and she comes over with a book to read. I give her my house key and a blank check for the expert.
(Her reward is anonymity — and, later, a tin of English chocolate.)
I hit the airline counter at 3:25. The ticket agent tells me to relax, that my flight to St. Louis is a little late.
What about the flight from there to London? She tells me TWA 720 itself is at least 35 minutes late, which leaves me just enough time.
At the gate, TW Express announces its plane has a maintenance delay and that its passengers will leave about 5:30. What about the TWA to London? It is at least 35 minutes late, I am told by another agent, and that with hustle I can make it.
Maybe No. 3: Maybe I should not believe two airline officials with the same information.
We leave Arkansas about 6 p.m. It arrives at the B-concourse gate about 7:20.
The departures screen says the 7:30 flight is — on time.
I make the C-concourse gate at 7:29. Really.
But the door to the jetbridge is locked.
The agent there tells me two things. Boarding for any international flight ends 30 minutes before departure. Second, my 7:30 flight left — four minutes early.
Please, someone laugh.
For most of the rest of Monday I hang out at two TWA service counters and the TW Express service counter.
The next flight to London leaves at 7:30 Tuesday night, the same No. 720. Going to Cincinnati or New York or Dallas or Atlanta for another airline will get me to Europe at best at 8 a.m. Wednesday instead of 10 a.m., at a cost of sleeping in a chair at one of those airports.
TWA offers me a night at a St. Louis Holiday Inn and $15 for its restaurant. For 24 hours of meals? That gets me a $10 voucher for airport food. TW Express gives me a $9 voucher for more airport food.
Eventually I get five or six coupons for 1,000 frequent-flier miles each and a whole $50 off my next TWA ticket.
Also, TWA gives me a plastic pouch with razor, folding hairbrush, toothbrush, mini-toothpaste and a packet of Woolite for my underwear.
The Holiday Inn extends the noon check-out to 2 p.m. I use the time calling my travel agent, the big airline and its regional partner.
Finally, TWA gives me a ticket exchange, allowing me to return home a day later, thus returning my full week’s vacation. Ordinarily, changing an advance ticket costs $75 plus the difference between discount and full fare.
The inn’s waiter at breakfast Tuesday asked me if I was another “DP.” That’s short for “Distressed Passenger.”
This DP gives him $3 cash after learning TWA’s voucher may not be used for tips.
At this point Monday was over just about everywhere, and I got to London at 9:50 a.m. Wednesday — give or take.