‘Twas Two Nights Before Thanksgiving; United Cancels its Flight

Merida airport, November 26th, 2013

The lineups this morning
were moving quite well
United was full
but soon all went to hell

At the door of the plane
we were stopped in our tracks,
first class settling in
sipping drinks, eating snacks

The security man, flustered
for a moment or two;
then a woman came running
she said to us: “You

must stop here and wait”
while I see what’s the matter;
the captain and crew
are raising some chatter

Then I heard it myself:
about windshields and cracking,
this wasn’t so funny
and I began backing

up the ramp to the gate
where, sitting dejected,
fellow passengers waited
feeling specially selected

and that their god was not,
as benevolent this day
so perhaps they should turn
to the good book and pray

Alas, it was not
to be, as they say
and reservations be damned
we were all doomed to stay

When windshields do crack
on an airplane you see,
It’s not like Home Depot:
buy one, and get three!

In fact my dear reader,
what it means essentially:
is you’re stuck here in Merida
but WILL get out eventually

Another day in this city
and we wanted to go
we’d had enough tacos
de cochinita and so

We changed well-made plans
to make up for that crack,
some of us knowing, that
tomorrow we’d be back

and a fresh plane would come
and whisk us away,
to eat turkey with loved ones
and celebrate the Day

Of Thanksgiving and then,
with our bellies quite round
we’d embark on some shopping
as discounts abound

Twas two nights to Turkey Day;
United canceled our flight,
be thankful and grateful
you avoided a fright.

A crack in the glass
is a pain, on the ground
but at thirty thousand feet…
… we would most certainly not be having this conversation today.

Happy Pre-Thanksgiving!

 

The Full Story

Getting up at 3 AM is no fun for anyone, but if you are flying to Houston via the only American airline still operating a direct flight from Merida to the United States, you need to be up early to make it with plenty of time for its 6:50 AM scheduled departure, especially if you are anything like me and finish packing on the morning of the flight.

Although the french press – which admittedly is missing a part – did not produce the rich coffee I had hoped for but one that turned grey when milk was added to it, I was able to finish packing and get everything in the car. I even remembered to leave food out for the dog, whose full dish I put in the kitchen where only he can get at it, as he has learned how to open the screen doors and the black, squawking x’kaues with their insatiable appetite for protein filled dog kibbles, have not. I drove the police-ridden periférico without rushing for once and with the windows open, enjoying some cool morning Merida air. I had even planned ahead to have someone pick up the car later. No worries.

And yet, airport check ins are always a little stressful, what with the foreign passport, the residency card, the timing. Before the flight I think sometimes that I must be forgetting something important, like the expiration date on my passport or the actual date of the flight, and obsessively check them to calm my nerves.

However, today all went well. Plenty of time, the reservation was there, the immigration process went smoothly and I was able to chat with one of the ladies whom I know from years of renewing permits and has chosen the Instituto Nacional de Migración as her ticket to the much-sought-after government pension. Sucking on a Hershey’s chocolate milk breakfast, I plugged in my iPhone and “checked in” on Foursquare and checked my emails.

According to the United personnel, the TSA in the US is not completely satisfied with our lax security boarding procedures here, so we were soon herded downstairs to the arrivals area where some Costco tables had been set up and there, security people went through everyones carry on luggage before sending them back upstairs to the waiting room at gate A. Some confusion resulted as late arrivals were not aware of the extra security move and mingled with their non-marked boarding passes amongst those of us who had ours marked, until they were informed that they too, had to go downstairs.

Finally, boarding began. First class passengers, as well as a few others, were on the plane when I arrived at the plane door and noticed an airport employee doing that monkey-like grimace and the hand shaking indicating a problem. You know, like the kids do when something bad happens;  the arm comes up with the hand towards the face, and then the hand shakes back and forth. Something was up. A United employee came running down the boarding ramp, disappeared into the cockpit and came running out, telling us to remain where we were and that boarding would resume in a minute. I heard someone mention the word “quemado” (burnt) and joked to the people next to me that perhaps the pilot had burned himself with hot coffee.

An airport employee wearing a fluorescent yellow vest standing next to me was watching the commotion and I asked him quietly what was happening. “Se cuarteó el panorámico” he replied. This was interesting. The windshield was cracked??

Sure enough, everyone was sent back to the waiting area and an announcement was made that the boarding process would begin again as soon as the captain had declared the coast clear. No further details were provided but I soon heard other passengers mention the cracked windshield and a second announcement acknowledged that there was a mechanical problem and that further news would be forthcoming. Finally, a third announcement came that the plane would not be flying today and that everyone would be taken care of. Luggage had to be de-planed and picked up and those who filled out immigration forms, needed to collect these vital stubs from the security people who were in charge of handing them back to the passengers. Obviously it is a very important piece of documentation that you will not be able to leave the country without, and so, again we all stood in line while two flustered airport security women, stacks of stubs in their hands, went through them all for each and every passenger. The immigration officials, who had been there moments before, were definitely NOT authorized for overtime and although you would think this would be a sufficiently important function for them to at least supervise, if not fall completely in their jurisdiction, they left.

After the lineup for the stubs, there was the lineup for the luggage and then the line up for at the United ticket counter for re-routing and alternate flight plans. Some continued on via Mexico City while others decided to continue their trip the next day and accept a hotel voucher (Hyatt – nice!)

While standing in line for about 2 hours or so, thankful for my Hershey’s breakfast and communicating the change of flight plans to all concerned, I checked my United app (yes, there’s an app for that) and lo and behold, my flight was already changed for tomorrow. However, the connecting time between flights in Houston was 1 hour, 2 minutes, hardly enough time to negotiate the immigration and customs horror that is Houston, one day before Thanksgiving, with a storm in the area and Dallas Ft. Worth cancelling up to 200 flights today for weather reasons.

So the folks at United and I explored options and settled on a later flight to a different airport that would leave a more workable 3 hour window between connecting flights at Houston.

Throughout, everyone kept their cool and the United employees are to be commended for their handling of the situation which of course, was completely not of their making.

My one, supreme overwhelming thought – a thought that rose above all the others in my head – was one of gratitude that the cracked windshield had been detected on the ground in Merida, and not at 30,000 feet!

Tomorrow, we’ll try again!

 

6 thoughts on “‘Twas Two Nights Before Thanksgiving; United Cancels its Flight

  1. Oh Hunny! You are such a POET!!! EJ, Ralf is coming to NY to celebrate AMERICAN Thanks Giving with me and some friends. Thats what he meant! : )

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