I flew to Dallas in late May, Memorial Day weekend. As always, there was driving to be done—up to Denton and then Sanger to see my dad. The weather was okay (one whole day without rain) so we went out and about checking out the flooding and dam site at Lake Ray Roberts, not too far from where he lives. The water was up, but nothing like the flooding in south central Texas where the Brazos River reached a record 59 feet on Memorial Day.
I lived in Texas for several years, and crazy, fast driving is just expected. In the 1960s and early 1970s a lot of the wackiness was fueled by a culture that did not always separate drinking from driving. Texas is a big state and a long road trip sometimes meant first buying a case of beer in order to cut down on the boredom of a 600 mile jaunt—in retrospect, really bad judgment. While most folks are more controlled these days when it comes to drinking and driving, the need for speed has not subsided. While the posted speed may be 45, 55, or 65, it does not matter. It can be dark and weather may be awful, it does not matter. At least one driver will be going 80 or more, even if road construction requires frequent lane shifts and those nasty concrete barriers have narrowed lane width such that the side mirrors on adjacent cars are engaged is some type of mating dance.
My flight to Dallas was not without adventure. A two hour flight became a seven hour ordeal because of the kind of weather that jumps up in the central plains at this time of the year. My flight was to depart at 4:05 PM. I knew I might be in trouble on my drive to the airport. The gathering clouds looked threatening, and sure enough the wind had started blowing pretty hard by the time I reached the terminal. I moved through security quickly, I love that Pre-TSA, and strolled to my gate where the board read, on-time. I suspect that that the folks behind the counter knew better, but the 4:05 PM departure time stayed up for several more minutes. And, then it changed, again and again, for the next nearly five hours. Let me repeat, five hours. Well, I was in good spirits and a bit entertained by the delay, so I decided to document the sights and sounds regarding my adventure.
5:25 PM—Still delayed. Our ride took some hail in Denver (the plane is still in Denver), so they had to make sure that it would still fly, a good idea in my opinion. Our delay is now to 6:30 pm, but I’m not believing that. There are no attempts to allay any fear of flying at this airport. Some dudette just came on the speaker announcing that flight so and so was in its final approach, but had to check up and go around because the weather is so crappy. Yee ha, there is now frog strangling rain outside the airport. The least of our worries is how some fool tried to smuggle a five ounce plastic bottle of shampoo onto a flight to Las Vegas.
So far, it is a well-behaved crowd. But, it’s early and once the cancellations start some people will begin to get surly. Think La Guardia airport (remember my post from last May?).
News flash, she’s back and telling us that the aircraft is still circling (the one that went around) and if you have connecting flights in St. Louis to Dallas, or some other place, forget it.
5:50 PM—Well, the flight to St Louis has been diverted, to Des Moines. That plane was the one that was on final approach, but had to go around — poor passengers. So, after they get some gas over there in Iowa they will fly back here — do you believe that?
I have never seen this many people in the north terminal at Eppley Field. The lines for plastic hotdogs and coffee are long. Kids are freaking out, sort of. Parents are reaching into their bags for their tranquilizer guns. A lot, and I mean a whole lot, of tequila is being consumed. The bar area is absolutely jammed with people. Some have been there for hours. No announcement about missed connections can affect them now. They ran out of pizza and the Blimpie sandwich supply is dwindling — only the turkey, catsup, and liver special remains.
Announcement: a United flight is ten minutes out and the pilots are going to try to land. Try? I hope that they try hard, and give it their best effort. It landed. Do you suppose that those St Louis passengers are miffed? I am sure that they will be happy in Des Moines.
I think that I will mosey over to the gate area and see if the boiling point is near. Someone should be ready to erupt.
7:24 PM—Pizza here is back on, and for the past 45 minutes there has been a long line to get some of it. Here’s a new one for me. A flight to Newark is delayed because the ride to Omaha was so rough and the plane shook so much that it now has to be inspected for damage (shaken plane syndrome?). I am pleased that one is not my ride to Dallas. Some guy got on the horn to announce that the delay could be 20 minutes, an hour, or longer. Mmm. Take your time.
The buzz from the bar is growing louder. We are beyond the three hour mark from the time when the first of the delays were announced. There is a well-oiled bunch over there. One of the TV sets is showing an NU football game from last season, something that will certainly get the barflies to drink more.
I have made several laps around the boarding area, and people are starting to look familiar. I have seen only one person that I know — she won’t be getting to San Francisco tonight.
Aircraft are taking off and landing at regular intervals now. I wonder when the flight diverted to Des Moines will be back. There have been more announcements about missed connections to Detroit, Nashville and a whole bunch of other places — new announcement: they are still checking for damage on the flight to Newark. I will keep you posted.
The crowd continues to be upbeat, half have their faces glued to their devices, thus numbing them up. IPads and other electronic devices are the only things protecting us from full scale kid meltdown. If we have a power outage, I will head for the garage and drive home.
The night shift of passengers has started to arrive. They look stunned, where did all of these people originate? Welcome to the Twilight Zone.
There is a family sitting right next to me (wife, husband, and three kids) and they are trying to get to Orlando. All but the youngest kid has been looking at some device to find possible alternative flights. The parents are calm as well as the kids. I like them so far. That could change.
We have now surpassed the three hour mark — Flight 3977 to Dallas. I hope that we leave by 7:45 pm, but…
8:40 PM—We are boarding the aircraft, no signs of hail damage, but it’s pretty dark and I may have missed it. We should get to Dallas by 11:00 or so, only five hours late. The flight diverted to Des Moines has made it back to Omaha and now it will be on to St. Louis. Better the delays this week and not last week.
11:10 PM (or so)—I arrived safely, though shaken, at Dallas Love Field well more than two hours after take-off. In order to avoid the worst of the bad weather, we flew southwest to near Liberal Kansas (didn’t the current governor try to change that town’s name?) and then over Wichita Falls Texas on our way back to Dallas—look at a map, that is one circuitous route. The rain in Dallas had subsided by the time we landed, but the traffic at the airport was crazy. As I exited the terminal (there is only one terminal) I was greeted by what looked to be a parking lot that had no marked parking spaces. Cars would only park for a few moments, and then try to speed away, honking horns, giving one-finger salutes, and offering words that were not very nice.
The Dallas headlines were full of stories worth mentioning:
- The affluenza mom, Tonya Couch, was indicted on two felony charges in Tarrant County (Fort Worth)—money laundering and hindering the apprehension of a felon, her son.
- A six foot alligator was found outside a Dallas middle school (no, I did not make that up).
- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was charged with two counts of securities fraud, and some are calling for him to resign.
- A second Zika case has been documented in Dallas County.
- Ken Starr was stripped of his presidency (Baylor University) and football coach Art Briles was fired (read his daughter’s tirade) because of their inaction when notified of sexual abuses by members of the football team. The athletic director, Ian McCaw, resigned on Memorial Day. Bulletin: Ken Starr just resigned as chancellor as a matter of conscience. He retains his position, Professor of Law. Will he be teaching ethics?