Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Angels & Pilots & Luggage, Oh, My!
Hello again Blogland! I am home now and finally feel recovered enough from my trip home to update. My four month visit with my family in Texas went (mostly) well. There were a few minor hiccups from time to time, but nothing major. I am thankful that my grandparents were able to put up with me, the boys and all our stuff in their space for four months. I was able to spend quality time with my family, be there to help out when Samantha had her operation, and be there to help Mom (and irritate the crap out of Dad) when he had his operation. I will tell everyone more about family interaction and operations in a later post (when the boys are NOT climbing the rafters).
I flew back to North Carolina on January 10th. I have never been a big fan of Delta Airlines, but since Army Support Services made (and paid for) my airfare to Texas and back I had no intention of arguing about HOW we got there. I arrived at the airport in Odessa an hour before my flight was scheduled to take off thinking that would be more than enough time to get checked in and through security (even with my four heavy carry on items and a gate checked car seat). I was apparently wrong. The one employee trying to get people checked in at the desk was way overwhelmed. She honestly was doing her best, but the people in front of me in the line had overweight bags that they decided to unpack and repack without moving to the side. By the time I grabbed my boarding passes (and later discovered I was missing one for each flight), rushed through security with the boys and our stuff and got to our gate, the plane was getting ready to leave. We were lucky that the door had not been shut yet and we had just enough time to RUN down the ramp and get into our seats before the plane pulled away from the gate. About an hour and a half later we landed in Houston, gathered our things and prepared to change terminals. An electric cart met us at the plane and took us as far as the bus that runs between terminals. After that, I was on my own. We were dropped off at our connecting terminal and discovered our flight was leaving from the extreme opposite end from where we had been dropped off. By the time I reached the gate, lugging four carry on items, a large car seat and two small (easily distracted) boys, I was in serious pain. I had started having back spasms and couldn't even think of getting comfortable enough to rest for fear that the boys would wander off and be snatched. We had time to grab a quick bite to eat and get loaded onto our plane.
Flight number 50 from Houston to Atlanta was where my travel experience made a turn for the better. After we pulled away from the gate the safety demonstration started and my boys (thankfully) fell asleep. My back spasms were getting worse and I could feel my muscle strength going as the pain got worse. Taking a muscle relaxer when I still had one more connection to make lugging the kids was not a viable option so I made the next best choice. When the flight attendants came by with the drink cart I ordered a $7 mini-bottle of rum and some orange juice. Halfway through my drink I could feel the knots starting to ease a little, but was still fairly certain I would be unable to make my connecting flight on time. As I was lost in thought trying to figure out a way to make my body cooperate, an angel appeared at my side in the form of a flight attendant named Gwen. She had the flight roster in hand and had noticed that I had requested help between gates. I explained a little about Fibromyalgia and that I was traveling alone with my two small boys. She asked if there was anything that she or the rest of the crew could do to help with the Fibro flare I was having, and I explained that I had purchased rum for that because it was as close to a muscle relaxer as I was willing to take with no one to help me with the boys. We chatted for awhile and she asked where my hubby was (because we are apparently a very obvious military family) and I filled her in a bit more about that. She took the time to thank me for my husband's service and our family's sacrifice (which always makes me tear up a bit) and then excused herself to speak with the pilot. When she came back, she let me know that they had radioed ahead for two wheelchair escorts to be waiting for us. One for the boys and I, the other for all our stuff. The flight crew also comped my drink for the flight. As our plane landed I realized I had about 30 minutes to get to my next flight... two concourses over.
The pilot came over the speaker to thank everyone for flying with Delta and their partners and then added a special thank you to the military members and their families on the flight. I felt the tears well up again as everyone on board burst into applause to show their appreciation. Gwen asked if I thought I could make it to the end of the ramp where the wheelchairs would be waiting and I gathered my things to make as much of a dash as possible. The gentleman who had been seated behind me was kind enough to take two bags to carry up the ramp for me and as I neared the front of the plane I noticed that the pilot himself had come out of the cockpit to help us up the ramp! As I settled into the wheelchair the pilot handed my youngest son to me and, again thanked us for our family's sacrifice. I thanked him as I was swiftly wheeled away and (once again) felt my eyes water over the acknowledgement. We made our connecting flight with, quite literally, seconds to spare. The rest of our flight home was thankfully uneventful and when we landed I was too happy to be home to even care that some of my luggage did not arrive at the same time we did!
So, to the ENTIRE staff of flight 50 from Houston to Atlanta on January 10th: Thank you from the bottom of my heart! You made a very stressful day so much better, and I do not have words to adequately express my gratitude. You have made my opinion of your employer go up quite a bit and I am so pleased and thankful that you were all SO WONDERFUL to my boys and I.
God Bless Every One Of You!
And to Gwen N.:
You Rock! Thank you for your compassion and understanding. You blessed my heart that day...