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Last week, while most of you were basting like a Thanksgiving turkey waiting for the oven that was about to surround you at midweek, I decided to do something really snide and snarky and sneak north for a few days, to Minnesota.
And you know what happened: I had to wipe that smile right off my face, as my mother often told me to do.
My first tip came when I ran into Simpsonville Mayor Steve Eden in a convenience store. He asked if I was handling the heat, and I told him I was headed to Viking country.
“Didn’t they have record heat up there yesterday?” he said.
My second clue came when we left the terminal for our rental car, and my shirt stuck to my skin faster than I could say Minneapolis-St. Paul.
The car radio confirmed the worst: Heat index of 116. Heat alert until 9 p.m. Sunday had seen 103, and that was not an index. More coming.
So much for the cooling, relaxing family vacation.
But that wasn’t even the first and foremost surprise of our little excursion.
Let’s begin at the beginning, at around 5:30 a.m. on Monday, when we were just more than a mile from home and my wife received a phone message from Delta: Our flight has been delayed an hour.
Man, that would have been handy to know before waking at 4:30, but stuff happens, and at least we wouldn’t be harried at security and could stop at Starbucks.
At the gate, all situated, that extra time to kill, kids happily watching the ingress and egress of planes, adults trying to be patient, came this announcement: “Those of you flying on Flight 4567 to Minneapolis, we’re sorry to inform you that the repairs on the plane can’t be made, and the flight has been canceled. Please see a Delta representative for assistance.”
There were at least 10 times the four of us waiting for that flight, and you could hear the curses and the disperses as everyone scrambled to line up at nearby gate kiosks.
My wife, the travel planner, was ahead of them. Go get in a line somewhere, she said, and I’ll work the phone.
Off I trudged up the corridor to find the shortest line, which left me perhaps third from the agent, but before I could get there, my wife called to say that we already had been rebooked on a flight in an hour. Come on back.
Relieved, I returned to my seat, as agents passed out red cards telling us how to check on potential flights. My wife, still on the phone with Delta ticketing, decided to double-check with a gate agent, who calmly told her that the flight on which we were scheduled didn’t exist.
“What do you mean it doesn’t exist?” she said. “I’m on the phone with Delta.”
“It’s an old listing,” the gate agent said with remarkable calm. “It’s in the computer, but it doesn’t exist.”
My wife relayed that comment to the ticket agent, who disagreed with her comrade, my wife in the middle of their corporate miscommunication.
She handed the phone to the gate agent. “Here, you tell her,” she said. Which the agent did, explaining that the flight was “ferry flight,” which meant it was for internal use only to move employees. The agent apologized.
My wife really wanted to bring about the omega for Delta, but she had business to do. She asked about other flights. They offered one that would get us into Minneapolis at approximately 3 a.m., or nearly 24 hours after we had arisen for our scheduled flight and 18 hours after we were supposed to greet her family.
I suggested trying another airport, and we secured a flight out of Lexington, through Atlanta, that would arrive at mid-afternoon. We just had to get our car and drive the 75 or so miles in two hours. Seemed doable.
But then there was our luggage. Yes, we had checked bags, wanting to avoid the security scrutiny.
I asked a gate agent to have them removed from whatever cart and return them to the terminal. A long phone call, a computer form and some questions later, that seemed to be happening. Then we went to the baggage area to wait, where we ran into a guy with a similar plan who already had been waiting longer than we expected to be there.
For 15 minutes, then 20, that carousel wasn’t turning, and the hands on our travel clocks were.
Off to the ticket counter, I dashed. One employee couldn’t help much. The supervisor got on the phone and said 15 minutes. I returned with the message.
Another 20 minutes, still no motion on the luggage-go-round. This time, my wife went upstairs and confronted the supervisor. She threatened all sorts of things that we believe would throw the TSA into a tizzy, and by the time she returned, the bags had arrived.
The drive to Lexington was quicker than a commuter flight would’ve been, and we settled into yet another gate for our two-for-one flights, which, magically, departed and arrived right on schedule.
And our time in Minneapolis, if somewhat simmering, provided many wonderful moments, interesting sites – accidentally touring the tornado-ravaged area of the city among them – and interactions that made our insides feel as warm as our outsides.
The gods of travel smiled on our return, even if we had a Bataan-like march to a part of the airport we never had seen – our 4-year-old, “Daddy, I think we should’ve taken that tram” – and to deal with the fact that we were landing in Louisville and our car was in Lexington.
But there was one final little trick to send us on our way:
When we departed for our flight, the temperatures were in the 60s with low humidity. Cool and refreshing as you would expect in Minnesota.
Sorry, that weather didn’t follow us home.
To read more of Steve Doyle’s columns, visit www.SentinelNews.com/columns.