Love makes you do crazy things, or so I’ve heard. This old saying was proven true last week as I was struggling to find a way home from Oklahoma City in a snowstorm. The typical work week now involves travel on first flight out Monday morning, travel on last flight home Thursday evening. Wednesday evening is not usually too bad, since I go to sleep knowing I’ll be home the next day. Last Wednesday a wrench was thrown in that happiness as I received the dreaded automated call from American Airlines. “I’m sorry, but your flight XXX has been canceled. We are working to reschedule your trip.” There is no true emotion in that recorded “I’m sorry”. Are they really? Like a seasoned traveler, I brushed it off and got on the phone to reschedule the flight more quickly. After an internal battle struggling with the question of whether to reschedule for Friday morning or an earlier flight on Thursday (which would mean leaving work earlier than planned), I decided to go with the earlier flight to try and beat the storm. Life went on, and Wednesday evening happiness prevailed as I packed up for traveling home the next day.
Thursday morning dawns with ominous forecasts for Dallas – Fort Worth, and a possible dusting in the Oklahoma City area. With weather.com and aa.com up on my screen all day checking for delays or travel problems, I’m optimistic that I’ll get home at some point that evening. I check in without a problem, through security, sit down at the gate and think “Maybe a delay here or there, but ultimately I’ll get home.” After all, I’m from New England. A few inches of white stuff? No problem. And then I get the dreaded automated call. I guess I was living in la-la land thinking that Texas could handle a little snowstorm.
In a flurry it begins again, call for rescheduling, decide what to do. Regardless, I needed a rental car again – either to drive home or to drive to a hotel that I no longer had a room at. Luckily the client approves a change in plans last minute and agrees that I can take a one-way rental home. While waiting in line at Hertz, the jokes begin that people should just pool together to get a car. After all, everyone’s trying to get to the same place: DFW. Of course, these jokes were just that, jokes. Who wants to ride with a stranger? My turn comes to reach the counter only for me to find out that Hertz is sold out, as is every other car rental agency. The desperation begins.
The kind gentleman in front of me in line that I had been talking to has left to retrieve his rental car. The last rental car. In a split second decision, I chase after him. He’s too far away to call to, not to mention I don’t know his name. I see him duck into the men’s room, and think “Now what? Do I just wait here and look like a fool?” Yes. Others may say I stalked him. Perhaps. With a sheepish grin, I ask if he was serious about sharing a rental car to DFW, explaining that he got the last rental car. After wiping the shocked expression from his face, he recovered and said “Of course, let’s go!” I should mention he was trying to catch the next segment of his flight to San Francisco, and we had no idea how bad the roads were or how long the normal 3+ hr ride would take. Juggling baggage and hustling to the car rental lot, we introduce ourselves and set off on our journey south. Before getting in the car, I learn that my mystery hero is from New England as well – Vermont – and I breathe a sigh of relief that he should know how to drive in snow. Granted, halfway down to Dallas I learn that he hasn’t lived in Vermont for 40 years. oops!
After an animated 3.5 hours, I’ve learned all about his family, work and travel. The time flew by and we were driving through the tolls at the DFW airport. By this time, the roads were terrible, with about 3″ or more of slush / snow / mess every which way with even more on the side of the road. I guess DFW has never thought to buy a snowplow. We arrive at the gas station where we were meeting Ben, and my heart soared. I made it. We fish tail around headed home, while my new friend Bill stays at the gas station on the phone with American, trying to reschedule his flight that was … you guessed it: Canceled. I hope he finally made it to San Francisco to watch his 16 yr old son’s hockey tournament.
Thank heaven for kind strangers.