We’re on our way to Portland – kinda. We got up at 3:30 this morning so we could be ready when Danny and Sherian, performing way above and beyond the call of friendship, picked us up at 4:30 to drive us to DFW. I guess after years of living in the country they’re used to getting up before dawn because they were good company on the 97-mile drive from our house to the airport.
We made it through security without incident – no alarms sounded and no body parts were searched – and we were seated at the gate with over an hour to spare. Unfortunately, our promptness carried no weight with the seats-available gremlins. For those who don’t know, David retired from Delta Airlines and still has flight privileges – kinda. We can fly free if there are seats available, and there usually aren’t. Since DFW is no longer a Delta hub, flights are limited, and there’s a lot of competition for the few empty seats. A hierarchy determines how these seats are assigned, and the only potential passengers lower on the priority list than retirees are those flying on “buddy passes,” a kind of discount coupon available to friends and family of those with regular flight privileges.
Things looked fairly promising when we arrived. The monitor showed us as #5 and #6 on the standby list with 8 seats available. But as departure time drew near, the future darkened. People with higher priority checked in, and we moved down the list to #9 and #10, just shy of one of the coveted 8 spots. There was a little drama at the end. The gate attendant called our names, and I jumped up hopefully, grabbing my computer case and reaching for my carry-on.
“I may have one seat available if you want to split up,” he said.
I sank back into my chair. No, we’re a team, and we fly or wait together.
Another spark of hope flickered when the attendant made a last minute announcement that the flight was in the final boarding phase and two errant passengers needed to show up immediately or be left behind. That spark was quenched, though, when a final check with the flight attendant showed that one of the missing was already seated. David and I watched as a woman with a screaming infant struggled to get her baby and all the necessary paraphernalia down the jetway before the door closed.
Now we’re sitting at another gate waiting for the next round of standby roulette. My ancient laptop and I are tethered to a charging station, and I’m trying desperately to concentrate in spite of the constant announcements and the conversation of the young pair who chose to sit across from rather than next to each other.
There are several bright spots to this sad tale. First, I’m not flying with Mom and Dad. The last time I flew, it was just the three of us, and challenging is not a strong enough word for the experience. Second, our kids and grandkids are waiting at the end of this ordeal, whenever that is. And finally, we’re not sitting next to the lady with the screaming infant.