May 28, 2022, 4:30 AM Eastern Time
The alarm in my phone sounds off. I swear that one day when I retire I’m gonna put a hammer next to the nightstand, and when that alarm goes off I’m going to smash the thing to pieces, roll over and go back to sleep. Where are we going today? Right… Emmett, Idaho. Ugh.
I’m on my way to the airport. Traffic is light, so it should be an easy ride. Our first flight takes off in a little less than three hours..
I arrive at the airport, and the United counter is absolutely dead. Holiday weekends are hit and miss once you get inside what I call the “bookends” (the first and last days of a holiday weekend). I’m sure if this had been Friday, the airport would be a madhouse. The rest of the band and crew arrive within a few minutes.
Band, crew and gear are checked in, so we go look for something to eat before we board the airplane.
As we board the plane, I’m looking forward to passing out on the way to Denver (just shy of four hours), though lately my finely honed ability to sleep on planes has deteriorated for some inexplicable reason. The interior of the plane is uncomfortably hot, though I expect they’ll get the AC cranking shortly and cool down this sweatbox.
I’m half awake and hear the pilot announce that one of the air conditioning units is broken. Really? I had no clue. “We’ll get that looked at and be on our way,” the pilot assures us. Yeah right. I have as much confidence in airlines as I do in the Great Pumpkin. Come to think of it, I have more confidence in the Great Pumpkin.
We were supposed to take off 25 minutes ago. The pilot announces that they can’t fix the AC unit, but the cabin can be kept cool if they fly the plane at a different altitude (news to me, and sounds like BS). Since we’ll fly at a different altitude, we’ll need more fuel than has been anticipated. I guess they don’t just fill ‘er up. We should be ready to depart at 9:00 AM. Brilliant. I’m becoming concerned that we’ll miss our connection to Boise, and I’m doing my best to stay awake in case I need to call our travel agent. If we take off by 9:00 we should be okay.
I send an email to our travel agent warning him that we’re still on the ground. No need to drag him out of bed just yet. I know that once he’s up and running, he’ll look into alternatives.
The ground crew starts fueling the plane.
The plane finally takes off. My attempts to fall asleep are mostly unsuccessful.
10:30 AM (Mountain Time)
Still half-asleep, I turn on my phone and try to log into the plane’s WiFi to check my email in case there might be some news from our travel agent. Maybe he can get us “protected” on the next flight to Boise (whenever that might be), but I can’t get connected.
One of the flight attendants starts making announcements that we’ll begin our descent and should be on the ground at 11:00 AM local time—cutting it close, to say the least. Our flight to Boise is scheduled for an 11:30 AM departure and the weather in Denver is clear, so the chance of the connecting flight being delayed is slim. Unless, of course, they have problems with the AC. The Denver airport is pretty big, so I’m hoping that the arrival gate is near the departure gate. I’m also hoping that one of the band members—who is already in Denver—can put his foot in the doorway of the connecting plane and hold it till we get there.
11:03 AM, Denver, Colorado
Our plane lands. As soon as it hits the ground I check my email and find a note from our travel agent: “Run like hell. You are departing B25 and arriving B23. There are no good options otherwise.” He wasn’t kidding. I’d later learn that the next flight from Denver to Boise was booked full, and the one after that would be too late to make the gig. Who’da thunk that Boise would be so busy? Then I recalled a news item I saw last week… Boise is one of the top rated (and fastest-growing) places to live in the U.S.
We walk off the plane and head toward the gate. I can’t help but wonder if the band member who’s waiting at the gate will be arrested. The charge: interfering with closure of an aircraft door. The arrival gate has changed to gate B11. It’s not as close as we expected, but it’s only a five-minute trot.
We all get on the plane. It’s a miracle! The door hits me in the butt as it closes (not really).
I get seated and call our travel agent to tell him the good news. I can practically hear him jumping for joy, saying, “That’s great news!!! But your bags won’t make it.” Ugh. Nothing he can do about that. As we often say to each other, “Hope not to speak with you again till next week.” Meanwhile, I look out the window to see if any bags are still being loaded, but there’s not even a mouse on the tarmac. I text the rest of the guys, asking if they see anything. One of them responds, saying that he saw baggage handlers remove the loading ramp. Looks like I’ll be searching for mandolin strings in the middle of Emmett, Idaho. Yikes.
I call the band’s manager to give him the good news. He’s much relieved and somewhat surprised, but asks me to keep him posted regarding the status of the checked bags and instruments.
I open the United app on my phone, go to Track My Bags, and see the magic words
“loaded on flight” for 10 of the 14 bags and instruments. The remaining four items were checked under other names, so I can’t access their status—but I try to convince myself that if 10 were loaded, then why not all 14? I think better of texting everyone to let them know because the Cynical Tour Manager in me doesn’t trust that any airline’s app is accurate. Witness to that: the next day, the app still shows “your flight is delayed.”
The flight from Denver to Boise taxis to the runway and takes off. I try to fall asleep, but it ain’t happening. I need a crossword puzzle.
1:23 PM, Boise, Idaho
The plane lands. I breathe a sigh of relief, but only a small one, wondering if there’s any way on God’s green earth that our bags and instruments really were loaded onto this tin can before it took off.
All of our bags arrive at baggage claim. I’m stunned. Maybe there really is a Great Pumpkin.
The gig? That’s a story for another time.