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Day 1116: The Irony Of A Preemptive Ike Evacuation To Ohio

Ike came to Ohio.

September 7th, 2008 - I was all set to leave for Chicago on Friday, September 12th.  D, in his infinite freak-out-itude after Gustav, warned me that once Ike entered the Gulf and neared Texas towards the end of the week, the chances of planes flying out of MSY on Friday would be slim to none.  Ok, I’d stay in New Orleans following Friday’s flight cancellation.  There was nothing doing – D would not leave me behind here in case Ike erred on the northernmost end of its cone and I had to evacuate, especially since he did not want relaxed consumption of adult beverages with friends in Las Vegas disrupted by worry over my possible last-minute evacuation.  *sigh*  An entire Sunday afternoon on the phone with Delta and $155 (including the helpful Change Fee) later, my weekend flight was rebooked to leaving on Thursday to … Columbus, Ohio.  Rebooking the Chicago flight to Thursday would have cost me $460 extra, over and above the $300 I’d already bled on the initial booking.  No thanks, this would be a great opportunity to hang with the fam whom I don’t get to see on a regular basis anyway.

September 11th, 2008 – D was right about not being able to leave on Friday.  On our way to the airport early Thursday morning, we saw the first of Ike’s bands and then came the showers.  I’m not the airsick sort, but Ike-related turbulence that hit the aircraft between here and Atlanta almost made me lose my Cheerios on the person seated next to me.  Once on Ohioan ground, all was well for the rest of the weekend, barring worrying about Houston and the occasional political brawl over great home-cooked South Indian meals.

Ike Over Ohio

September 14th, 2008 - Mom, Dad and I looked outside that afternoon and saw nothing but falling leaves and branches and tall, sturdy trees swaying in the wind.  We doubted that any flight out of Ohio would take off that evening, but decided to make the three-hour trek to Columbus because Delta’s website stated that the flight was taking off as scheduled.  On I-71 south of Mansfield came gusts so forceful that Dad had a really tough time keeping the car on the road.  At one point, between the corn silos and the sky turning a bizarre shade of grey-green, all I needed was a small dog and a couple of flying monkeys to re-enact my own version of The Wizard Of Oz.  What we didn’t realize until we got to Columbus was that Ike had crossed Illinois and Indiana and into Ohio very rapidly and that we were driving against its hurricane-force winds.  One would think strong local weather warnings and Delta canceling flights was in order, but no.

After negotiating an obstacle course of hollow orange drums and flying traffic signs in the circle of construction surrounding the Columbus airport, my parents dropped me off curbside and took off for home.  One look at the long lines and my flight not even showing up on the monitor and I knew I was screwed.  Delta ticket agents soon informed us, “the Columbus airport is closing, all flights are canceled, get home safely and call the Delta 800 number for rebooking.”  What.

Although the city was experiencing CATEGORY 1 WINDS and the airport was running on its backup generator once power went out ALL OVER COLUMBUS, Delta was the only airline that hadn’t outright cancelled its flights that evening IN THE HOPE THAT IT WOULD FIND A WINDOW IN WHICH TO HAVE FLIGHTS LEAVE.  So, Delta wasn’t officially cancelling the flight but we were discouraged from boarding it because it may or may not take off.  Why not make a firm decision like the other airlines and cancel the flight?  I could have just stayed at home, not have had my poor dad drive me only to get stuck in a bad storm and have rebooked my flight on the internet or over the phone.  From, did I mention, the safety of my home!  Something told me to stay put and get in the long rebooking line right there at the airport.  I called my parents and told them to come back.  Why would my sixth sense guide me so, you ask?  Follow.

  • a) Delta Internet Sucks: When I called my brother (far enough away with power and a working internet connection) and instructed him to rebook my flight online, he couldn’t as the website showed me as checked in for a flight that was still set to depart that evening although THERE WERE NO FLIGHTS LEAVING COLUMBUS THAT EVENING.  If you’re checked into an itinerary, there is no rebooking it without a long conversation with a human ticketing agent.
  • b) Delta Phones Suck: The Delta phone agents are blockheads.  They were blockheads when I spoke to one and a manager a week earlier regarding the Chicago-Columbus rebooking and they were blockheads while I tried to get help from Columbus.  None of them had heard of a flight cancellation – of course not, Delta hadn’t canceled the flight, never mind the FLYING FRAKING COWS outside – and insisted on charging me an exorbitant fee to change my flight out to the next day.  While in line, I got the attention of a local ticketing agent and asked her why we were being told to contact the 800 number for rebooking when they don’t even know what’s going on on the ground in Columbus.  This was honestly, really, absolutely her response, “Those agents are in Dallas, India and wherever, and they don’t know about the weather we’re having in Columbus.  Just get it rebooked to tomorrow and follow their instructions and we’ll take care of the rest tomorrow morning.”  Um, lady, have you heard of the WWW DOT INTARWEBS DOT COM?  Do you at Delta SEND ADVISORIES OVER THE EMAILS?  Jeezus Backwards-Ass Christ On A Popsicle Stick With Mustard, where am I and who are these people?  Delta – we love to fly and it blows.  Regardless of the obvious incompetence, I waited while the phone ticketing agent put me on hold three times to “check on something” and then HUNG UP ON ME.
  • c) Waiting Is The Hardest, But Only, Part: My only choice was to stay in the three-hour-long line at the airport and get rebooked.  After an hour of moving three feet every fifteen minutes, other passengers said no one was even picking up the phones at the 800 number and Delta internet was still hosed.  How are you supposed to change the itinerary for a flight on which you’ve already supposedly departed?  Great.  My parents drove back to the airport and patiently waited while I stood and stood and stood there.

Once rebooked on a Monday flight, my parents and I left the airport for home.  Only to find that Columbus really had no power, no traffic signs worked and there was little to no power in many of the little towns along the highway we were on.  I drove us out of the airport and to where I thought was sufficiently far away from airport traffic, after which my dad got in the driver’s seat (my eyes work for crap at night).  That’s when the true misery started.  The rain was coming down so hard that the wipers couldn’t keep up, on and off ramps had no traffic or street lights whatsoever and we couldn’t see where the GPS unit wanted us to go.  After driving around in circles in a northern suburb of Columbus, almost getting killed by cars that refused to stop for dead traffic lights and a turn into the wrong lane of traffic which could have gone very disastrously BECAUSE WE COULDN’T SEE ANYTHING, we made it back to I-71 North towards home.  On the way back, my brother called to inform that his power was out, a lamppost on his street had fallen and was blocking traffic and to be very careful as power lines had fallen all over the place to the point that local officials and the energy company could not keep up.  Doesn’t this stuff happen in Louisiana or Texas?

September 15th, 2008 – I made it back to New Orleans, but only after one major anxiety attack (and attendant chest pain) on Sunday evening when I thought we were all going to be killed by oncoming traffic or a falling tree and a major onset of the weepies once we made it to my parents’ place.  Fortune has smiled on me and I don’t know why.  Enjoy every sandwich.

This post is dedicated to my father and mother, who have taught me through their actions that being a parent means not shying away from danger to support and protect your child, even an incorrigible one like me.  That love is more intense than any 75mph storm.  So is customer dissatisfaction.  Here I come, Delta.

4 comments… add one
  • kalen September 16, 2008, 10:55 PM

    Wow, Maitri… How f-ed up was that? I hope that things are coming together again in a way that minimizes the aggravation and promotes well-being.

    Ike’s northward journey was like Gustav in reverse for me. After six days of updating my Dad and staying in regular contact while bouncing to/from Alabama during the evacuation, it was my turn to worry about him until he could get in touch with me again (he’s in Pennsylvania in a small town a stone’s throw away on the other side of the border, the Eastern side of the Ohio Valley). In his near 50 cumulative years of living there, he’s never experienced a storm so fierce… He was definitely rattled, even after six years of experience with typhoons in Southeast Asia.

    I’m glad that you and yours are safe; mine are, too (and Dad’s finally agreed to get a friggin’ cell phone for emergencies).

  • Blair Tyson September 17, 2008, 7:59 AM

    Although it wasn’t meant to be, what an entertaining post! I’m glad everyone got home safely.

    Kitty’s Dad found out that his “cell phone for emergencies” is a joke when there is no backup power at the cell tower. He lives near Houston and is expecting to be without power for several weeks.

  • liprap September 17, 2008, 12:02 PM

    ((((((hugs))))))

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