"There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign." Peru 2019
Quote ~Robert Laus Sherman
The Terminal - 30 hours Destination Error
Bags are packed and that initial excitement to travel begins to invade my soul. It feels strange, I realize, the cheapest flights are usually early mornings, or late nights, so having a mid-afternoon flight seems luxurious. We have time for a sit-down lunch in Grand Junction before our escape...our adventure awaits!
We land in DFW, an expansive airport, with an electric train system to take us from one terminal to another; to international; to Deepest, Darkest Peru. We board, deep into the plane, row 33, out of 36. We still opted for the best ticket deal we could find. With 5 people, it’s the only way to fly. All our faces bright and hopeful and percolating with expectation! An overnight flight, sleeping on the plane, a requirement for our itinerary.
The captain speaks as our plane sits at the gate: “We just need to hold-out while we wait our turn, the hailstorm has slowed the take-off line-up. Please be patient. Thank you.” My son opens the blind to his window seat, there is no evidence of hail, nor any sounds of pelting. Just rain.
I have been here before, my traveler instinct can read between the lines. That sinking feeling sets into my numb bottom languishing upon the thin upholstery. This is not a good sign, we haven’t even disengaged from the concourse.
The Captain: “due to the storm, we are required to do a hail inspection, I have never had this happen in all my 28 years of flying, but we are now in a cue of all other planes for inspection. Each plane can take up to one and a half hours.”
I start my Ganesh mantra, ya know, the Remover of Obstacles god. I wonder how every passenger’s karma is so bad to collectively have this happen to us. I remind myself that this is a lesson in patience. Then I start questioning pagan explanations of the Universe. Does this shit even work? I have time to mull this over. My book is just making me doze-off and I needed to stay alert.
30 minutes later...”Due to this inspection delay, we will now disembark the plane, for your comfort and safety. Please take all your belongings.” I believe this was a nice distraction tactic, to keep the cattle from becoming agitated. Flight attendant: “Please do not leave the immediate gate area, as we intend to re-board shortly. Thank you.”
We dutifully disembark and wait and then reload. We resume our seats, this time, everyone just puts their overhead luggage back into the same location as when they first jostled for pole position. We nestle in, excited again. The familiar sounds of engine checks and attendants locking cabinets envelope me with traveling nostalgia.
And then we sit, the numbness returns, the sinking feeling sinks deeper. Then I hear that ding, the captain announcement ding.
“Um, ladies and gentleman, we just have a little issue with the primary communication antenna. Hopefully this will be just a minor tech test, but we do need the technicians to run the equipment. Should just take a little bit longer.” I try to read and distract my thoughts, my book was really bad. Boring, but I was over halfway and it was a murder mystery, so I had to solve the crime...3 chapters later...Ding...
“Um,...ladies and gentleman,...due to the hail storm...the antenna has irreparable damage. We will need to disembark again and locate a different plane. I, unfortunately, cannot tell you how long this will take, but your safety is our utmost priority. Please gather all your belongings, you will not be returning to this plane.” The groans reverberate down the rows, like a wave of disgruntled pelicans fighting over fish carcass. At this point, we are 4 hours behind our departure time, it’s nearing midnight.
My darling tech husband, has all the flight updates pinging his phone. Since we are nearly the last to step back into the terminal, before we have even transitioned from the alternate gate tile to terminal tile, we know, the flight has been delayed until 10am, now the same new day. We try to book a hotel room at an attached airport hotel; alas, we are not the only plane to have suffered such issues. All rooms are booked, many planes are grounded. Fuck you spring weather.
I seek the Admirals club, willing to pay the day rate with my flyer points; however much, they are closed from 10pm-5am (It's 12:08am). So, we seek the furthest end of the terminal, the fewer people, the more chairs to spread-out upon. While sleep on the 7 hour flight is not ideal, sleeping in a terminal is like chinese-water-dripping-on-your-
forehead kind of torture. 15 minute power naps, bad novels and a human hum of rolling suitcases.
I am reminded of a flight I once had, a school trip to the Former Soviet Union. We were flying from Moscow to then Leningrad, and due to a storm, we were grounded in a remote Siberian airport. Stuck in a small square room, with 2 couches and 100 people. The only door to our imprisonment let out to a winter blizzard, like true Siberian tales, the snow was deep and swirling, the darkness of night swallowed the landscape. A souvenir from Moscow was stolen from my luggage that night, while us students, shivered, huddled on a Formica tiled floor.
Not quite so bleak was our DFW terminal. 24/7 McDs (my 1989 USSR trip only had 1 McDs, in Moscow. We went, it was a big deal). But, DFW is definitely ready for a remodel, and there is nothing quite like people-watching in airports. From the guy wearing eyebrow make-up, a surgery cap and grey sweats, to another guy kneeling his way through the customer service line. There's nowt so queer as folk.
Finally, 10am approaches, I finished my book (the old lady did it). And left the novel on a chair, lost to DFDub. We load our new plane. All the same faces and all the same places, we resume our spots.
Ding...”This is your Captain, happy to tell you, you have a whole new cabin crew, fresh for the trip!” I little f-you slips my thoughts. “We should be leaving here in a few minutes.”
Ding...”Um, ladies and gentleman, the inspection crew has found a hole in one of the cargo nets, we just need to source a replacement. We don’t know if it will be a quick run or how far the replacement center is, please stand by. We apologize, we know you have been through a lot. But safety first.”
We finally lifted wheels, 12:08pm. And I must say most all of us kept up pleasantries, we nearly felt like exchanging addresses and Christmas cards by the time we landed.
I would love to write this and say, everything went great for the flight. And really there were no great mishaps. But there was no movie on the flight and the crew poorly timed food service. The Captain made-up 45 minutes of flight time, but failed to notify the crew; food service was halted for the mid-section of the plane. Literally, they were pulling half-eaten food trays out of passengers hands as we began our descent.
Nonetheless, while we were grounded, living like Tom Hanks in The Terminal, we were able to extend our flight home by a day; hoping the Peruvian travel agent we used would be able to shift our reservations so we wouldn't miss any tours.
|Lima Hotel, Pisco-Sour|
Our original plans, had us landing in Lima, then catching a same-day flight to Cusco, and having the rest of the evening at our leisure. Instead we landed early evening and stayed in an airport hotel in Lima, catching an early flight to Cusco the next day. Sweet! We got a shower, dinner and white-sheeted beds. Then we would be able to resume our trip, on schedule.
So, in all, we didn’t need to extend. But, American Airlines did not charge us for the date change. I actually think, the ticket agent felt sorry for me. John had a conspiracy theory that “something else” was going on at DFW, to have grounded so many planes. He tried to get the real story from our poor agent. Rolling his eyes and humming and ha’ing. I acted the the beleaguered wife. She took care of us.
I told him that Russia had closed the airspace over DFW and was having a party for 45s successful bamboozling of the American people. (The Mueller report had just been released.) He mulled that over for a bit, not fully satisfied with that idea. But you can talk to him about your theories, if you’d like, over a Pisco-sour.
Now we will have an extra day in Lima at the tail-end of our trip. We didn’t really have an opportunity to tour Lima with our original itinerary, so, bonus!
But wait! Our Terminal saga, does not end there. We had a 7:27am flight to Cusco. A 4am rise and shine wake-up, breakfast buffet and kids out the door. It’s going swimmingly. We get to our gate...delayed. There is a storm over Cusco, 11,000ft, probably happens frequently during this shoulder (autumnal) time of year. Wheels lifted 9:10am.