I ran into trouble last week trying to leave Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport. Not as much as this guy, but a difficult time nevertheless. Severe weather passing through Atlanta made it impossible for anything else to do so.
So we sat.
Earlier that morning, I spoke to national staff and volunteers at the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation about making connections. Wished I could have made one to Atlanta. Instead, my 5 p.m. flight was delayed, and then delayed again.
Funny thing happened among those of us waiting at Gate E11. We formed a tribe. There was the businessman on his way to Brazil. The father and son trying to get to the Master’s in Augusta. The guy who relayed flight status updates via his Delta app before they flashed on the TVs. He was very popular.
We cheered if there was good news and groaned in unison if the news was bad. (We didn’t cheer much.) To keep this from becoming a novel, I’m going to speed through the sequence of events it took to get me home.
As I began, a special thanks to Justin Shugart—national special events manager for CCF—who not only invited me to speak, but by default, became my traveling partner. He will be referred to several times going forward.
3:30 p.m. – wrap up Crohn’s & Colitis talk, head to the airport—amid the occasional snow flurry by the way. Have I mentioned that I didn’t pack a warm coat?
5:30 p.m – a 25 minute cab ride took nearly two hours. Flight scheduled to leave in fifty minutes…this was going to be close. While going through security, get text from Delta, flight delayed. I raise my hands in jubilation. Pants drop to dangerously obscene levels since my belt is in plastic container.
6:30 p.m. – rendezvous with Justin at Gate E11. We are on same flight to Atlanta. He drove to the ATL from his home in Auburn, while I flew up from Pensacola. Flight delayed again. Departure now 9:30 p.m. I’m going to miss my connector flight to Pensacola, but wait! It is also delayed! Hooray! (Pants stay up this time.)
7:30 p.m. – Starving. Eat a $13 pizza that would disgust Mr. diGiorno. Wash it down with a Starbucks white chocolate mocha since I will be up six more hours. Good thinking on caffeine. Terrible mistake with pizza. Stomach churning on two accounts—anxiety about making it home, and the newly introduced contents.
9:30 p.m. – Justin texts mother-in-law who lives in Atlanta. Last line of severe weather marching toward Atlanta like Sherman. One in our E11 Tribe jokes that at least it will put out the fire on Interstate 85. We laugh. The guy with the Delta app groans. We all groan, cringing at the coming news. Our flight has been cancelled—no wait, that was the flight over at E13! Everyone cheers except the seasoned travelers in our tribe…
10:19 p.m. – The seasoned travelers were right. Now our flight is cancelled. Justin wastes no time. As a priority Delta traveler, he knows how this works. He reschedules us for the first flight out in the morning and finds a hotel nearby.
11:05 p.m. – Arrive at hotel. Ophelia (front desk) has no idea how we got a reservation. The hotel is full. We sweet talk Ophelia. I tell her she’ll be in my next blog. (Your welcome, Ophelia.) She gives us a room with one bed and a pull out couch. Mr. Delta Priority gets the bed.
5:00 a.m. – Wake up like this…
6:00 a.m. – At airport, security stops me. According to TSA agent, I am not scheduled on first flight out. I start walking aimlessly around O’Hare, pulling my suitcase behind me. Justin finds me near Panda Express murmuring softly, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” He slaps me hard and I snap out of it. We are told to go to Gate E16 and speak with Lynn.
7:30 a.m. –Lynn is good. She communicates a lot, gives us free Coke products, and takes care of Justin and me. She informs us that our flight is delayed because we have no pilots to fly plane—all routed to ATL to clear out the logjam. She promises pilots by 10:00 a.m.
Justin high-fives Lynn as we pass by her to board the flight. I promise her that she will be in my next blog. (Your welcome, Lynn!)
Lynn is definitely all in with Delta. So were the fine people at the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation. Both are emotionally engaged at their jobs. Here’s why:
- They work to make the lives of the customer better.
- They have a long leash that allows freedom to take care of the customer.
- They believe in their mission.
How do I know this? I watched the CCF executives model all three principles for their management team in Chicago. I experienced Lynn doing the same for Delta. You cannot behave like this without the endorsement and support of leadership.
Now back to the story…
10:30 a.m. – Lynn does in fact get us on a flight to ATL, but warns me that I will be stuck there for a day. As we approach Hartsfield International, I am obviously suffering from delirium. I lean across two passengers to snap this shot. Not sure why … just happy I think.
2:30 p.m. – Justin reminds me that he is in a wedding in my hometown this weekend. He offers me a ride with no delays. Sold! Drive to Auburn to pick up Justin’s wife Amy. She is responsible for our son Jack attending AU this fall. I don’t speak to her for the entire four hour trip to Fairhope.
6:30 p.m. – Pull into driveway, kiss the ground when I hop out. I hug Justin. I don't curse at Amy. There are no snow flurries. The temperature is 72 degrees. It's good to be home. I do miss the Tribe at Gate E11 though. I hope they made it to their destination.
*Speaking of reaching their destination, if you would like to help the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation reach theirs, visit here to find out how you can help!