Thursday, April 15, 2021, 10:00 PM
It’s way too early to go to bed but I’m falling asleep on my couch, dreading the idea that I have to be at the airport at 4:30 AM. Guess I’ll try to get some sleep.
Friday, April 16, sometime around 2:00 AM
Sleeping on nights like this is an uphill battle. Leave time is too early to get any serious rest but too late to simply stay awake. As I doze off, I have a nightmare that my ride to the airport doesn’t show, and when I call Uber, the voice on the other end of the phone says, “It’s 280 now.”
I say, “280-what, dollars?”
“Cancel the car.”
It was just a dream, but when I get out of bed (notice I didn’t say “wake up”) it fuels my stress while I wait for the pickup. The car is a few minutes late, but off we go.
Friday, April 16, 4:35 AM
As the car pulls up to JFK Terminal 4, my phone rings. I see an 800 number on my screen, which is not a good sign. At this hour it has to be the airline, and they’re not calling to ask whether I’d like eggs benedict or banana hotcakes for breakfast.
The first flight (from JFK to MSP, Minneapolis) is delayed 2.5 hours. The gig is in Oshkosh, Wisc., and we’re supposed to eventually land in nearby Appleton (ATW, the closest airport). Green Bay (GRB) was a possibility, but that would have required a connection, so might as well fly into the closest airport.
I don’t have the itinerary in front of me and my synapses aren’t really firing yet, but I’m pretty sure the delay means we’ll miss the connection. This will no doubt be a problem because you can bet there aren’t flights from MSP to ATW every hour—more likely there’s one in the morning and another in the evening.
Our cartage company is scheduled to meet us at the airport and deliver our fly gear. Having seen this movie before, my brain is starting to lurch into tour manager mode. What was it that our travel agent mentioned a few weeks ago? Was there a direct flight into Milwaukee? Ouch. A two-hour drive and the promoter won’t pick us up from MKE. I think that flight was out of LaGuardia. Ugh.
I politely ask the cartage driver if he can hang near the airport for a few minutes while I suss this out, just in case we need to go to a different airport. Getting the guys to another airport wouldn’t be difficult, but dragging the gear would be miserable. He agrees to maintain a holding pattern.
4:45 AM EST
I call our travel agent, aka Saint Roy, wake him up and tell him what’s happening. He tells me he’ll fire up his computer and call me back. While I’m waiting, I look at the Delta app on my phone to see if we’ve been re-booked. Sure enough, we’re not. Interestingly, the app shows that we’ll now depart from Terminal 2, so maybe we will need cartage to help us with the gear.
5:00 AM EST
My phone rings and it’s Saint Roy. The options stink: there is no direct flight into Milwaukee from any nearby airport, nor is there direct service into GRB, though we knew that a few weeks ago when we booked the tix. We will fly into ATW on a later flight, but seating is very limited and we won’t land until late afternoon.
Saint Roy informs me that he can grab two seats from LGA through Chicago, landing at GRB at 2:00 PM. That would put my crew at the venue around 3:30 PM, which is better than 6:00 AM. Do I want to send the crew separately? That makes my belly ache and requires a call to the band’s manager because we’re flying Delta and that’s an American flight. Might as well get him out of bed, too. He agrees that it’s better for the crew to arrive earlier than the rest of us so they can start working on backline.
The flight departs LGA at 9:00 AM and we decide to pull the trigger. Have I mentioned that we’re at JFK? The cartage driver kindly agrees to take the crew guys and some of the gear to LGA. We can’t send all of the gear with just two guys because it would cost a fortune to fly it that way.
Before I send the gear, crew and cartage guy away, I take another look at my Delta app. It now shows that we’ll depart from Terminal 4, which is where we are. Maybe Terminal 2 was a hallucination brought about by lack of sleep.
Saint Roy explains that the rest of us will have a four-plus-hour layover at MSP, and our connection will land in ATW at 4:45 PM. “When is show time?” he asks. “7:30,” I reply. In his best Inspector Clouseau, he quips, “Not anymore.” He tells us to check in for the flight. Days like this happen only when I’m up on no sleep.
5:45 AM EST
We head for the check-in counter. In the interim, Saint Roy has been changing the plane tix. Except that when we get to check-in, the airline has two of us going to MSP and no further, and another person going to Appleton tomorrow.
I get Saint Roy on the phone while explaining to the ticket agent that we really need to fly into ATW today because the gig is tonight, and it’s much too far to walk from Minneapolis to Oshkosh—especially with the gear. After a lot of click-clacking on the keyboard, she finally finds info showing that we are in fact going to ATW. Except we can’t check in, and one guy’s destination still shows GRB. More click-clacking, and finally the correct itinerary pops up.
As we settle into the lounge, Saint Roy calls, emphatic that we confirm with an airline agent that our boarding passes are valid because his info still shows that one of the guys is not checked in. Of course, the agent wants nothing to do with me because I’m such a pain in the arse, but hey, that’s what I get paid for. The agent assures us that we are checked in. We cannot, however, get boarding passes for the connection from MSP to ATW because it’s too early in the day. Really? I hadn’t noticed.
7:00 AM EST
I send an email to the promoter breaking the news that we’ll be a bit, um… late. And we’ll need three pickups instead of one. And some of us are not flying into the airport that’s 25 minutes away, but the one that’s an hour away. Fun times.
8:45 AM EST
We’re at the gate when the gate agent makes an announcement that we’re waiting for a first officer to arrive. I guess the airline didn’t realize that they’d need one. Wasn’t this flight supposed to depart two-and-a-half hours ago? The agent is blabbering about how this is a new type of aircraft and they need a FO specially trained for this aircraft. That’s funny, four weeks ago when Saint Roy booked the tickets, he told me we’d be flying this new aircraft. He should have told Delta, too, so they could line up the proper crew.
The blabbering fool then suggests we should applaud the officer when he arrives. Really? I applaud you for making me six hours late to work, and for dragging me out of bed at 3:00 AM so I can come to an airport and wait an extra three hours to depart? ***censored*** I contemplate the letter I will send to Delta.
Airline travel never fails to astonish me. There’s no other business where such behavior is acceptable.
Friday, April 16, 10:39 AM CST
We land at MSP and now have four hours until the connection to ATW. As soon as we come off the plane, a very nice gate agent prints our boarding passes for the connection. I check my email and find that the promoter will indeed make all the required pickups. Bless him.
11:40 AM CST
I get a text from one of my crew that they arrived in Chicago without any issues.
12:30 PM CST
I text the band members (some of whom are now in Oshkosh), telling them to be at the venue between 5:00 and 5:30 so that at the very least they can check their instruments and maybe we can squeeze out some kind of soundcheck. I ask Eric Bloom, our lead singer, to send me a set list so I can have it ready when we arrive at the venue.
2:10 PM CST
I get another text from my crew telling me that they are on the ground in Green Bay. Thank you, God.
2:45 PM CST
The flight from MSP to ATW is boarding. Somehow, the people at MSP knew that they’d need a crew to fly the plane and they’re all present and accounted for. How refreshing.
3:30 PM CST
We land at ATW. Thankfully, all the bags arrive (it’s amazing how one missing bag can turn a day sideways). Our ground transportation is waiting; we load up and he punches it like Chewie switching to hyperdrive.
5:50 PM CST
We arrive at the venue. I set my gear down in the production office, get the five-cent tour of the venue and head out to front of house, where I tell the sound crew that I’ll be with them as soon as I can stop running around like a chicken without a head. Have I mentioned that doors open at 6:00 PM? I call the band to the stage for a quickie soundcheck, and the promoter agrees to hold doors for a few minutes.
6:15 PM CST
Soundcheck is over, doors are open. I go to the lobby to count in merch. I love doing that when doors have already opened (not).
6:45 PM EST
I choke down dinner and get ready for the show. The house is only allowed to sell a portion of capacity, and it looks pretty good.
7:35 PM CST
The show starts, barely five minutes late. Not too shabby. I breathe a sigh of relief, 17 hours after the start of my day. The show goes off fine, and the following day everyone gets home without incident. Maybe the universe is giving us a practice run for the coming tour season.
Monday, April 19, 9:16 AM EST
I get an email from Delta asking if I would like to share my experience and provide feedback regarding my recent flight to Appleton. Okay, Delta. You asked for it…