We’ve all had nightmare travel experiences, right?  Ours started on December 25th when our American Airlines flight landed in Dallas to the sight of snowflakes dropping from a low, gray sky.  Great piloting!  Kevin, our jolly Flight Attendant who had the best of humor even when one lavatory became inoperable and everyone chose that moment to have to go and when one mom set a really bad example for her kids, serenaded us with White Christmas as we waited 45 minutes on the tarmac for a gate to be made available to us.  The flight crew were positive and upbeat through it all, giving us no indication that we had landed into a mess, but when we left the plane and joined the zillion people already running around like crazy we started to get the idea that something just wasn’t going well.

We landed in terminal A but our connection to Montgomery which was scheduled to leave in about 20 minutes was in terminal B.  We raced with the crowd to the Sky Link but an airport employee blocked us from getting on and said it was now closed, shut down.  Everyone started asking the same question – how do we find terminal B?  C?  D?  No one seemed to know and as airport employees walked by we would ask and be ignored.  We finally joined the group that wanted terminal B and began the race that led to Hannah falling going up on the escalator, gashing her knee and ripping her jeans. When we finally found our gate we discovered others looking harassed and waiting including what we assumed would be our flight crew who talked openly about their doubts of this flight going out.  The departure board was showing CANCELLED on many flights already and after three times of being told the flight was delayed, we were then told it was cancelled so we all lined up to re-book on other outgoing flights.  Confusion as to what to do was shadowed only by the frustration over the length of time it took each customer to re-book.   A pleasant young woman worked patiently with everyone until it was our turn and then a young man with a decidedly different attitude took her place.  I was told we were re-booked for the following day at 8:30 p.m., 28 hours later.  Are you serious?  After asking about flights to other destinations that would get me near where we were actually going, I settled on the flight to Birmingham leaving at 8:30 p.m. that night.  It was leaving from terminal A and Hannah’s leg was aching.   Hmm.

I requested a cart to drive us over and while waiting for a cart a young woman and her son had a bit of a meltdown when she begged someone to tell her how to get to terminal C.  There seemed to be few airport employees who would give directions and many people were wandering around looking for that information.  Eventually a nice cart driver who wasn’t going our way took pity on us and we enjoyed being driven to the yells of “Scuse!  Cart!”  “Scuse!  Cart!” to warn people to move out of the cart’s way.  We were deposited with Tanya, a wonderful employee who shared that she was spending Christmas at work because she had nothing else to do.  She was so warm and grandmotherly that we wanted to bring her home with us.  Our cart driver had taken us under his wing and called for another cart driver to get us to the right terminal and we then enjoyed his stories and yells of “Scuse! Cart!” as we finished what he said was a two mile trip.  Hannah said no wonder her legs hurt since we had just raced two miles earlier!

We joined the anxious group waiting for the Birmingham flight and the desk agent kept us informed about delays.  At about 9:30 we were told a plane was landing and we would have  exactly 20 minutes to board and take off so the crew wouldn’t go illegal and the flight cancelled.  Happy people quickly boarded, stowed baggage and buckled in, and true to their word we zipped straight up into the rain and sleet and possibly snow for a turbulent but wonderful ride to Birmingham. Another awesome job of piloting the plane!  Loved the straight up take off!  The tired flight crew who had been going at it all day remained cheerful and upbeat as they saw everyone off the plane.

It was in Birmingham that we discovered our luggage wasn’t with us and when Robin, the American Airline employee, scanned our luggage bar code it didn’t show up anywhere.  She assured us it would be found, gave us information to file a claim, and told us to check to see if it came in the next day.  We then went outside to be robbed by a taxi cab driver who charged us ten dollars to go 1/2 mile down the road to a hotel.  It was cold, wet and we were drooping with exhaustion by then so we paid and tipped him anyway…Merry Christmas.  We were thankful to not be with the thousand people who were stuck at the DFW airport.

The next morning it was decided that my mom, who had driven with my nephew to Montgomery the day before to get us and then gone back home, would come to Birmingham now to get us…a much longer drive.  To make it easier on her, we needed to get away from the airport and closer to the I-65, south side of Birmingham.  Before figuring that out, we caught a shuttle to the airport and went to check on our luggage, hoping it had come in.

We found the American Airlines ticket desk and were helped by several young men, Jeremy, Martin, and Chris, who all worked to see if our luggage was there.  It wasn’t.  They, too, assured us it would be found and said it would probably go on to Montgomery. Their cheerful attitudes and helpfulness, jokes and attempts to help us have a better day did just that even though we still felt defeated by no luggage.  We asked about transport to a Cracker Barrel Restaurant just south of Birmingham and was told it would cost about $80 by taxi, but then something truly nice happened…and we were given a ride at no charge to the Cracker Barrel!  What a huge blessing that was!  It was now about one p.m. on the 26th.

We were tired from travel, Hannah’s knee was aching, we were frustrated at having lost “vacation” time to travel delays, worried about the extra costs caused by the delays and lost luggage that couldn’t be tracked, and we hadn’t eaten since 4 p.m. the day before.  Breakfast sounded wonderful!

Our Cracker Barrel server was Ally, a charming young lady who deserves the Cracker Barrel Server of the Year Award for her courtesy, promptness, and ability to make her customers feel pretty dog-gone special.  It wasn’t just Hannah and I who were treated so well; we noticed all of Ally’s customers were treated with the same warmth and Southern hospitality.  Ally rocked!

We stopped by Montgomery airport to see if our luggage had arrived and it had!  The ladies who brought it out to us were beaming right along with us!

After arriving to our final destination, Dothan, we thought our travel worries were behind us.  Not so.  On December 31st, five minutes from the Montgomery airport where we would leave to head home, we were rear ended while waiting at a stop light by a Mercedes going full speed.  The gentleman who hit us apologized profusely and said he was watching the state trooper with blue flashing lights on the side of road beside a pulled over semi.  The ensuing accident paperwork involved a state trooper, Officer Scott, a patrolman, Officer Ross, who earned my undying gratitude by taking pity on me and giving me a ride to the McDonald’s ladies room across the street, and an accident investigator, Officer Lamb, and it all kept us from making our flight.  When we tried to re-book , Lisa in Montgomery helped us navigate the calls with Reservations but none could guarantee us a flight that would allow us to get to Phoenix on the 31st.  There was a flight to Dallas, but after that, it was going to be racing from desk to desk to see if we could get on an already overbooked flight to Phoenix.  Dreading the thought, I went to check in our luggage for the Montgomery to Dallas portion and a gentleman named Ron Davis pulled a rabbit out of his hat and booked us, guaranteed, on an 8:30 p.m. flight from Dallas to Phoenix!  We would have a 7 hour layover in Dallas, but we’d at least get home on the 31st!  How wonderful!  I told him we could just hug him and we did.

We arrived to our house with our kitties and dog waiting for us just before midnight.  Happy New Year!

The circumstances of this trip were bad…delays, gashed knee, torn jeans, lost luggage, cancellations, a dishonest taxi driver who will someday overcharge the wrong person, lost time with family, an accident, auto repairs for my mom and medical care for all of us.  The people of American Airlines however, with the exception of the one young man desk agent at Dallas who’s name was neatly hidden by a scarf, were great.  During the trying circumstances of it all, there were some memorable people who not only did their jobs well, but reached out to us.

Hannah said she wondered what God was up to with all this.  Circumstances may cause annoyance and frustration and put us in situations that are less than ideal and sometimes pretty bad, but it’s the people connection that makes the difference.  Maybe we need that reminder.  Whether its part of our normal day, an accidental meeting, or during the adventures of traveling, our encounters with people along the way make an impression.  Our smiling faces at the end of the journey are our thanks.  We endured some nuisances, but we’re safe and alive and grateful for this time God has given us and the people we met along the way.

Travel weary but thankful

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