Games of the Travel Gods

Blondie is the trend-setting American rock band from the 1970’s. A blondie is also a rich vanilla dessert bar. But just for today, Blondie is the newspaper comic strip that, remarkably, still runs after 92 years. Blondie is the female lead and Dagwood is her food-loving husband. Which brings me to today’s topic. A Dagwood is a tall, multi-layered sandwich… the perfect image for my travel nightmare from last Friday.

It all started with a bridge.  Make that seventeen bridges.  As my wife and I were motoring mid-morning towards the Charlotte airport, en route to my niece’s wedding in Los Angeles, the Maps app colored the interstate yellow here and there.  No big deal; traffic slowed, then quickly started up again.  All of a sudden, middle of nowhere, we came to a complete stop.  Five minutes passed without movement.  Ten.  When I finally looked down at the Map app twenty minuets later, our section of the interstate was colored black.  Wait, black?  Never seen that color before.

My car is somewhere beyond the vanishing point

For future reference, Map app black means “not an option” (or better still, “you’re dead”).  Five miles of the upcoming interstate were closed off for nine days to repair all those bridges.  We didn’t “eye-spy” so much as a detour sign before we joined the monstrous backup.  When cars began leaking into the grass median and making U-turns, I sensed the presence of the travel gods, selecting a dawdling pawn for their vicious game.

Heading back the way we came, the first detour we encountered was the same idea as a hundred other drivers.  The off-ramp was backed up forever.  Instead, we continued miles further, finally exiting onto a two-lane highway to what can only be described as a drive through the backwoods of the back country of America’s uh… backside.  Tight little curvy roads sprouting driveways to nowhere, bars with bars on the windows, churches with desperate Easter pleas like “It’s not about the Bunny, it’s about the Lamb”, and one-stop-sign towns you really don’t want to stop in.  Eventually we emerged unscathed (physically, not mentally), flung back to a point on the interstate that wasn’t colored Map app black.

The travel clock ticks faster now.  When the travel gods remind you bags must be checked forty-five minutes before departure, beads of sweat start to pop.  The Dagwood sandwich gains another layer.

Our daughter (who I now refer to as “GPS Goddess”) expertly phone-guided us all the way into the Charlotte Airport hourly parking garage ($24 USD/day), where she offered a not-so-confident “you’ll make it” before hanging up.  And so we dashed, from one end of the garage to the other, down the elevator, across the lanes of buses and taxis, through the under-construction section of the terminal sidewalk, finally bursting through the sliding doors to the American Airlines self check-in kiosks to declare our victory.  Which was premature.

Just like the black of the Map app, I’ve never seen a self check-in kiosk dispense a piece of paper saying “See Counter Agent”.  Uh-oh.  Sure enough, we missed the deadline to check luggage.  Our bags were also too big to gate check or they would’ve pushed us through.  I thought we were done.

But at the ticket counter, I deflected phrases like “You can’t travel without your luggage, sir” or “We’re not finding any other flight options, sir” with “I have faith in you, American Airlines!” and “You can do this!”, and darned it they didn’t find an itinerary to get this “sir” (and his “ma’am”) to Los Angeles.  Through Boston.  Uh, sorry miss, isn’t Boston taking us in the wrong direction?  She told me not to argue.  Add another layer to the sandwich.

Cut to the Charlotte boarding gate.  Flight to Boston delayed.  Then again.  Then again.  In a phrase that sounds comical (just not at the time), the gate agent calmly informed passengers “the control tower can’t seem to locate our flight crew”.  But then they did, then we boarded, and suddenly we’re flying to Boston… knowing we have, oh, ten minutes to catch our connection once we land.

For the record, you can make a connecting flight in Boston in ten minutes.  You need five of those minutes to let the achingly slow passengers in front of you deplane.  You need the other five minutes to hustle down the concourse (ignoring the bathrooms that beckon for good reason), cursing the loudspeaker blasting your name with “Flight XXX to Los Angeles, this is your final call.  We’re about to close the doors”.

Which is exactly what the gate agents did, right behind us as we sprinted down the jetway, but not before shouting, “Don’t worry, your baggage has a much better chance of making the connection than you do!”  [Wrong.  Turns out only one of our bags made the flight.  The other would arrive (mercifully) the next morning, just in time to change into wrinkled formalwear before the wedding.]

Hoping I looked more like the guy on the left

On the Boston-Los Angeles flight, sitting in the very last row (where you meet/greet every single passenger headed to the bathroom) I let out a slow breath and assessed the good and bad of our whirlwind journey.  The good: we’d make the wedding after facing a dozen trip-blocks.  The bad: the Boston-LA flight ended up having to go wide-right over Canada to avoid some nasty weather in the Midwest.  Add an hour to an already long, seriously turbulent flight.  We could’ve headed the other direction and made it to Ireland in less time.

In total, the travel gods played their game for twenty-one hours, leaving us bleary-eyed by the time we walked into the wedding venue the next afternoon.  (Hey, at least they got married.  After all, the wedding was on April Fools’ Day.  A no-show at the altar would’ve been just another layer on the sandwich.)

Here’s a little Blondie trivia.  Dagwood was the heir to the Bumstead locomotive fortune, but when he married Blondie the deal was off.  I didn’t know that.  I only knew about his namesake – the tall, multi-layered sandwich.  Otherwise I might’ve thought to take the train to Los Angeles instead.

Some content sourced from Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

Author: Dave

Three hundred posts would suggest I have something to say… This blog was born from a desire to elevate the English language, highlighting eloquent words from days gone by. The stories I share are snippets of life itself, and each comes with a bonus: a dusted-off word I hope you’ll go on to use more often. Read “Deutschland-ish Improvements” to learn about my backyard European wish list. Try “Slush Fun” for the throwback years of the 7-Eleven convenience store. Or drink in "Iced Coffee" to discover the plight of the rural French cafe. On the lighter side, read "Late Night Racquet Sports" for my adventures with our latest moth invasion. As Walt Whitman said, “That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.” Here then, my verse. Welcome to Life In A Word.

19 thoughts on “Games of the Travel Gods”

  1. I laughed, I cried, this post became a part of me… as they used to say. What a mess getting to the airport, getting on a flight, but I do adore the hopeful truthfulness of: “Don’t worry, your baggage has a much better chance of making the connection than you do”. I haven’t flown in years now and stories like this one are part of the reason why. I’m not sure I’m emotionally strong enough to deal with all this crap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The worst aspect of this whole marathon may have been the plethora of rude, self-centered travelers we encountered every step of the way. Especially in these situations, we find the strength to be patient and courteous to those around us. I wish people would just take a breath and realize they can be the same way.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve had trips like that! Back in the 90’s I traveled to Spokane from San Jose a few times. This always involved a transfer at SeaTac and never did me and my bags make it to Spokane on the same flight. Once at the Alaska Airline’s counter the agent said, “Here you go, you’re booked through to Spokane.”
    “Great!” I replied, “Where’s my luggage going?”
    The agent lacked a sense of humor and I didn’t see my luggage again until I returned to San Jose. My luggage was eventually found in Anchorage and the birthday presents I’d brought with me were sent back to Spokane via the post office.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Your comment makes me wonder what goes on behind the closed doors of the airline counters, Andrew. No doubt some deliberate mistakes take place (I shudder to think the same of restaurant kitchens). But the “baggage before you” comment was a first. The gate agents seemed pretty darned confident, even if it didn’t turn out to be true.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a trip!! I hate when that happens. I held my breath when you spoke of the traffic to the airport, the getting to the airport and the ordeal with the luggage. This is not fun. Add that we’ve been having such bad weather in the Midwest, I can see how you had turbulence. Glad you are SAFE at home!

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    1. The turbulence had me thinking about those paint can shakers you see at Home Depot. It’s a side-to-side movement, which makes the plane creak (not a pleasant sound). Hardly a minute was smooth, but we weren’t surprised after catching up on the weather hitting the middle of the country that day.

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  4. That might have been the most stressful blog post I’ve ever written ha! Glad you made it to the wedding despite all the obstacles. Jon and I have a rule that we never check a bag because we are scared of things like this. Jon’s lucky I’m a food blogger and not fashion blogger or I’d have a serious issue with the rule. It’s also for the best because we don’t want to be lugging massive bags across Europe, it’s not very practical.

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    1. You make a fair point when traveling to something like a wedding, Lyssy. Had our bags been small enough for gate check we would’ve made our original flight (and I’d have had nothing to write about, ha). Not sure what compelled us to bring so much for such a short trip. My only rule with wedding travel has been: direct flights only. I need to add another rule from now on 🙂


      1. Direct flights only is another rule, luckily it’s pretty easy to abide by with our pick of LGa, jfk, and Newark. We also always try to pick one of the earliest flights. We’d rather wake up a little earlier than have hours of delays and the morning flights seem to have better luck.

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  5. My goodness Dave – what a fiasco. Here you were thinking you had plenty of time to spare before a wedding taking place the next afternoon – amazing! It has been years since I traveled, but what an experience you had and it would have been the ultimate April Fool’s joke if you RSVPd your attendance only to have unintentionally missed your niece’s wedding. I never knew that trivia about Dagwood giving up the family fortune to marry Blondie. I used to read that comic faithfully when we still had the paper. P.S. – Now I want a Dagwood sandwich. I used to like author Lawrence Sanders’ “Deadly Sins” crime novels. His main character, Edward X. Delaney, was an NYPD homicide detective who, while hot on the trail of a criminal, would stop to fix himself a “sloppy sandwich” and enjoy it dripping into the kitchen sink while pondering his next move.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny how the brain works. I mean, seriously, when was the last time I thought about a Dagwood sandwich? Almost never. But then the travel issues pile up one layer at a time and the image appears right in front of me 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow! I sure can’t top that story, but have spent enough hours on long haul flights and close connections to make me glad I don’t have to get on a plane any time soon!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, what a disaster. OK, a disaster would have been a crash, so let’s go with near-disaster. I see a new rule – live in the midwest, and you are only a half continent away from any event.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You win on that count. Traveling from one end of the country to the other – especially west to east – is an all-day affair even when everything goes as expected.

      Liked by 1 person

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