Day -2: Oct. 8, 2003
Lounging in Louisville



Like the Arizona Triangle Fish trip in September, this jaunt became possible due to a business trip to Phoenix. Getting to and from Phoenix and the time at the customer site really have nothing to do with the trip but the flight out was such an "adventure" that I feel justified in adding it as a sort of preamble to Doin' Eighty.

With Delta's strangle hold on CVG, a Cincinnati-Phoenix flight is a $1000 deal. Columbus, Indianapolis, and Louisville are all within a couple of hour's drive from Cincinnati and all are serviced by Southwest Airlines. Flying Southwest is a $400 deal. By driving an extra hour and a half south of CVG, I could save hundreds dollars, catch a non-stop flight, and get to the work site somewhere around 10 AM - early enough to actually get something done. So, awake at 3:00, on the road at 4:00, at the airport at 6:00, and sitting on a blue 737 pulling away from the terminal at 7:20.

"Welcome to Louisville"? I was to depart from Louisville. There is a problem as we approach the runway for takeoff. The problem persists and we return to the terminal. It may be an easily replaced sensor, we're told. It isn't. Eventually the need to replace a hydraulic motor is announced and the plane is emptied of passengers. Welcome to Louisville.

A replacement part is not immediately available but one is being flown in. They are also contacting other airlines looking for a local source. There are hints that another aircraft might be used. The part currently on its way would not get there until well past 11:00 but it was a last resort. Any one of the other plans might suddenly bear fruit and the plane depart within the hour - or maybe not. In any case, the flight is not officially canceled and alternatives are few.

Around 10:30, they decide we are to be fed. All we need do is show the big pink cards we had been handed as we deplaned. In spite of the many plans speeding toward a re-launch, they were certain we had time to eat lunch. On that point, I had no doubt. I dawdled for awhile but eventually headed for the main part of the terminal where the "free lunch" awaited ruefully noting that this meant another security check would be required to return. In the terminal, there was a pizza stand on the verge of opening, a Burger King serving breakfast, a dark KFC, and a bar & grill. At the bar & grill I stood behind some fellow passengers as they were told that no one there knew anything about feeding the stranded. I walked on to the Southwest counter thinking that I might find an SWA employee without a line of fifty disgruntled passengers in front of them. The three I found were busy checking in other travelers so there was a short wait before I could find out that they knew nothing about the situation either. But, apparently, they had already been asked since someone was "checking on it". When that round of confusion passed, I was told that the three fast-food counters were the only places honoring the big pink passes and that all would be open shortly. Once that happened, flight 1752 passengers would have a variety of lunch possibilities - up to $8 worth - in front of us. I dawdled some more then settled on the now open KFC. Following a leisurely lunch, I removed my laptop from its case, my feet from their shoes, and my belt, with metal buckle, from my waist. In the fluster of making sure that the laptop had a tub all to itself (I'm not a frequent traveler and have not figured out some of the more subtle rules.) I ended up walking through with the belt in my hands. That resulted in a more detailed examination of said belt than I can recall ever seeing. All cleared, I could once more wait near the gate.

As 11:30 approached, there was an announcement that another plane had been found and that we would be departing at 12:30. The plane wasn't full but neither was it, as I had assumed, empty. It was what had been, until that moment, a non-stop flight from Columbus (the airport I had used on my last flight to Phoenix). It had been diverted to Louisville so that the faulty motor could affect another plane load of flyers. Now the pace of the fun increased.

I must have been dawdling again because I was one of the last to board the plane. As I inched down the aisle, it was obvious that this would be a very full flight and that was soon confirmed when the back of the line reversed its direction of inching on finding no open seats in the rear. So, a few of us were ushered back off of the plane while attendants took a look. The flight attendants from the original plane were among those already seated and removing them allowed all of us in the group at the door to be accommodated. With everyone seated, departure seemed imminent until it was announced that three more passengers were at the door. Southwest would pay $200 for volunteers to take a later flight. I'm sure I wasn't the only one who thought they might have had it backwards when they offered payment for getting off of the plane and excess volunteers were soon being turned away. The escapees retrieve their luggage, their replacements stow theirs, and the door is closed. Here we go.

Well, not quite yet. The door opens and the fellow who has been doing MC duty for this event makes another announcement. Because the airport has closed a runway (never did get an explanation for that) we would now have to use a shorter runway and the plane was too heavy to accomplish that. Some baggage would be removed and would follow us in the plane with the still broken (as far as I know) motor. My shorts and socks were being called upon to face the danger I had been spared. This time, it was for real and there were plenty of cheers when the passengers of flight 1752 left the ground just a little over six hours later than planned.

The flight itself went reasonably well. After he heard my (much abbreviated) story, the man on my right stopped muttering about being subjected to the unscheduled stop and the mother & child on my left were not all that bad, either. Several times, I held the kid while mom retrieved items from luggage or from the floor. Even the one glass of Sprite he knocked over on me was mostly empty. In Phoenix, it wasn't long before I could be certain that my toothbrush had been among those traveling in the blue plane and would be along in about half an hour. The group of twenty or so that waited with me discussed a possible reunion but no firm plans were made. I doubt that many of us will need a reunion to remind us of the experience. Picking up the rental car went amazingly fast and I was even at the customer site shortly before the contact person headed home for the day.

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