Josh and I followed the directions the GPS woman gave. We’ll call her Elsie, because that’s what Maura called her, and because it’s a silly enough name that it allows me to rightly mock her when she makes mistakes. For example:
Elsie told us that the fastest way to the
Walmart Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport was to take backwoods roads in bumfuck Arkansas. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to bumfuck Arkansas, but despite its vast picturesque qualities, meandering through dirt roads speckled with crumbling houses with plastic over their windows, brokedown station wagons in their “driveways,” inevitably evokes Deliverance-esque feelings of unease. It’s the perfect place for anything to go wrong. Josh mentioned that if we were to get a flat tire, we could very well be in some deep trouble, and even though I reassured him that I have changed a goodly number of tires in my day, I secretly agreed with him.
Elsie, of course, directed us to go over a bridge that was barricaded with concrete dividers that would allow only the slimmest vehicles to pass. I got out of the car and motioned for Josh to go through — slowly, slowly. We could have made it, but on the first attempt did not, and so I ran back to the car, over the little backwoods creek bridge, to consult with him.
“We can make it,” I said, “but I don’t know about that rock formation up ahead.” Josh agreed. I ran over the bridge, rickety — a bridge for pioneers and four-wheelers, not motor vehicles. The rock formation was foreboding. Sure enough, there were four-wheeler tracks, but equally sure enough, there was absolutely no way we could make it past the second obstacle. I jogged back to the car. We backed up and changed direction. Elsie got upset and told us to “Turn around as soon as possible,” in her vaguely British lilt, thinking, as is her wont, that her selected route was surely the best one. When we finally made it clear to her software that the bridge she had directed us to was impassable, she recalculated her route and directed us the rest of the way to the airport on paved roads.
Unbeknownst to us, our flight was the last leg of a four stop trip that began God-knows-where and ended in Newark. There were significant delays in Waco and Houston, pushing us back to 9:30. I had Josh watch my stuff while I went outside to smoke cigarettes and fume at the Arkansas sunset, the rows and rows of parked cars, pinks and oranges bouncing off the windshields. I went back through security and had “dinner,” which consisted of a shot of bourbon and an IPA. I went back down to Gate B and our flight had been delayed until 10:30. Josh and I went to the only proper restaurant in the establishment, ate chicken, and proceeded back to the waiting area.
I told Josh I’d be at the bar drinking. I wrote emails to Vin about apartments and ordered a Bud Light with a shot, ever counting the calories. Josh frantically texted me: “Get down here.” I settled up on my company’s dime and rushed down the escalator to see what the fuss was about. Long story short, the United rep made it clear that our best bet for getting home that night (this night? You’ll pardon me, I suppose, as I haven’t slept a wink) was to re-book, fly to Chicago, and make a connection there for Newark. “You sure we should do this?” I asked Josh. “The guy basically said that our original flight is canceled,” he replied.
The original flight wasn’t canceled, just delayed another half an hour, but that’s beside the point. At least now it is.
Step one: fly to Chicago, O’Hare.
Step two: wait on the tarmac for 45 minutes for our gate to open up so that we can unload.
Step three: run like a motherfucker to Concourse C from Concourse F to see if the flight to Newark has been equally fucked up by nationwide delays that we have a chance to get onboard.
And that’s what we did. We power-walked and jogged through O’Hare with our fellow 20-or-so passengers trying to make the same connection. An older couple tried to take a shuttle from Concourse F to C, to no avail, as it was out of service. We heard them complain at the bottom of the stairs and abandoned them. They were not our friends, and they were not our responsibility.
Step four: land in Newark at 4:15 in the morning, five and a half hours late. Take a $99 cab ride home to Brooklyn. Bill it to the company Monday morning first thing.
It’s good to be home, but it’s time to go to bed.