The Internet has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I can trace my history back to the days of AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve. Those were the days when “webdesign” was a loose term, at best, and Geocities was the place where all the cool kids had their personal pages dedicated to whatever was hot at the moment. The years passed and the Internet evolved to be a home to more sophisticated webpages which played hosts to actual communities of like-minded individuals (for better or worse), and media in the form of games and music started to emerge as legitimate enterprises. It is difficult now to imagine a time when the World of Warcraft did not exist as a household name, and any of a million movies are available to watch within minutes of thinking about it, but those days did exist.
As a child of the Internet, and an introvert no less, it is thus natural that I made acquaintances over the Internet. In particular, my time in an early multiplayer game called Final Fantasy XI (somehow still alive and active, though I am no longer a part of it) resulted in numerous friendships that have spanned near a decade now. It is hard to recall precisely when I met Chad and Jessica in the vast lands of Vana’diel, but a friendship formed which has resulted most recently in one of the strangest trips I have ever taken.
Chad and Jessica decided (not entirely by their own choice) to have their wedding in July of 2014. I say “have their wedding” and not “get married” because they were, in fact, already wed the previous year. This is not the proper way to do things™, apparently (perhaps it should be, though), and thus the requisite wedding festivities were planned. So, out of a sense of small obligation I received an invite to said wedding. And, out of a similar sense of small obligation, I agreed to attend.
For a while I waffled between flying to the wedding, and driving. Ultimately the convenience of flying won out again the 12 hour drive to get to the Maine wedding. There was still a 4 hour drive from Massachusetts (where I flew into) to the wedding, but I believed this would be a better alternative in the end. I no longer necessarily believe that is true.
The first omen that things were unwell occurred a day before my flight was scheduled to depart for more northern climes. As I gathered my suitcase from the back of my closet (I rarely use my suitcase as I prefer to bring everything as a carry-on, but for a wedding where I would have formal clothes this did not seem appropriate) I heard a cascade of what sounded like broken glass emanating from inside the case. Curious, I opened the suitcase and found it empty save for a few dust bunnies, which fled on a blast of air from the overhead fan. I picked up the case and tilted it slightly, which again produced the sound of broken glass sliding around.
Closer examination of the suitcase revealed a zipper at the back, which I carefully opened. Thousands of tiny pieces of broken black plastic greeted me. While I was relieved it was not glass I would have to clean the size of the fragments meant that it would still be a difficult task. Too large to suck up with my hand vacuum (I have hard floors, so a traditional vacuum is not in my arsenal), and too small to clean up easily by hand I began the tedious task of scooping them out and tossing them in the trash by the dozens. Each time I cleared out all the plastic pieces in view I would lift the suitcase, and inevitably the sound of tinkling shards would return. I shook the case around to move the pieces into view so I could clean them, and eventually enough shards were gone that it no longer sounded like a waterfall of glass whenever I moved the bag.
I must assume that there was a back plate of plastic meant to protect the suitcase against getting tossed around, and that it was at some point shattered. Assuming that there is not a mosh pit in my closet that I am unaware of, I can only imagine that this damage must have occurred on my last trip. I suppose that would have been Ireland, and thankfully I do not recall anything in my bag being broken during that trip (probably thanks to my policy of keeping anything important in my carry-on luggage). There was no time to replace the bag, so I had to hope that it would survive this flight without anything inside it being damaged. Since it was only transporting clothes I figured this to be a safe bet.
My flight was scheduled for 9 PM the next day, which I had planned so that I would have enough time to get some sleep before the flight, and I could drive to Maine overnight from the airport (I work overnight, so this is my natural “awake” time). I was awoken at 3 PM to a text message from Southwest informing me that the flight had been delayed until just after midnight. Excellent! I reset my alarm to give me a few more hours of sleep, and promptly nodded off.
The drive to the airport was fine, and thanks to a bus driver who must moonlight as a Nascar racer we made excellent time to the gate. A gate which was completely devoid of all human life. This was not a small airport, so the complete lack of any officials in the area (there were a few passengers milling around) was fairly disconcerting. There was not even a janitor to question. I had recalled seeing some men at the outdoor check-in counter, so I went there. They informed me that they were closing up and all flights were loaded, and there was no way past security.
“What about my flight? It does not leave until after midnight.”
Their blank stares in response suggested that the idea of a plane leaving after midnight was beyond ludicrous. Clearly either they had not been informed of the delayed flight, or I had made a serious mistake. I already knew which of these options they thought was accurate. And since they did not even have the authority to help me rebook my flight I was pretty much screwed.
I was, to say the least, pissed. By pure luck, though, in the glass window behind the baggage handlers I saw someone walking around behind the AirTran counter, and I quickly bolted to catch them before they went back into the offices.
I explained the situation, and what the handlers outside had said, and he got his manager. Fortunately, she was more in touch with what was going on than anyone else and she was able to get me checked in. She also pointed me to the only lane of security that was open in the entire terminal, and I got through that with no problems. That lady saved my sanity. Temporarily, anyway.
The flight departed on time and, aside from a few brief bits of turbulence, was as efficient as I had come to expect from Southwest. Since the plane was less full than expected (many people had either gotten tickets for another day, or flown standby on an earlier flight), I grabbed another hour of sleep in my empty row (with my C-2 boarding order (122nd in line, for those not familiar with Southwest’s boarding system) no less).
With that strange glitch out of the way I assumed my trip would be nothing but smooth sailings from there on out. To which the universe said “HA!”