Guest post: Will I Stay or Will I Go?

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It’s a momentous occasion, folks.  Today I welcome my first guest author to the blog – Tucker Pope, my fellow Jeopardy! College Championship contestant.  He insists his travel story is more dramatic than mine.

The gauntlet has been thrown down.  Decide for yourself. 😉

Take it away, Tucker…

~~~

I have my own story to tell about a trip I took to LA to be on a little TV show called Jeopardy!

I got to take things relatively easy the morning of my travel, as my first flight was at 10:45AM. I was set to take a 90 minute flight from Lubbock to Houston, then have an hour-long “layover” in Houston, then finally a three hour flight to LAX. I was worried about being able to get all the way across the airport in that hour, while also needing to be at the gate ahead of time, especially considering that I would have to go 3 terminals over. But I had faith that United would be able to get me there on time.

When I got to the airport that morning, the line for United was longer than any other check-in line. After 10 minutes of the line not moving one single iota, I quickly realized just how utterly useless the two desk workers were. Luckily I erred on the side of caution and got to the airport two hours ahead of time. Another 10 minutes and a total of 2 passengers checked in later, one of the workers changes the time displayed for when my flight will leave, adding an extra 45 minutes to the original departure time. Panic time. Fast forward 30 minutes, and I finally make it through the second worst line of the day as well as security, which was mercifully short. I finally get some breakfast and get to my gate a mere 45 minutes before my original departure time, leaving me a lovely 90 minutes to freak out about what was going to happen once I got to Houston. I got to ask myself wonderful questions like “could I still make it in 15 minutes?” and “should I call the Jeopardy! people now or once I miss my flight?” or even the ever naïve “would United be kind enough to hold the plane for me?” When I asked the flight attendant if there was any way they could hold my connection for me, she told me, without missing a beat, “you’ll just have to get on another flight” in the most condescending, you-aren’t-that-important tone I’ve ever heard in my life.

So I get on the ground in Houston, sprint to the tram (running with a backpack is hard y’all), ride it to the terminal, continue to sprint to the gate whilst trying to not run through any hapless travelers, and get there to find my plane is still on the ground. Whew. I take a deep breath, walk up to the counter, and start to hand my boarding pass to the gate attendant, only to be told that I was too late, I had missed last call, and my seat had already been given away to a standby passenger. I then learned that the “I am a legitimately ticketed passenger on this flight, can’t you let me on” argument will only further anger the already unnecessarily irascible United employees. I should note here that this is my first time flying any airline other than Southwest alone, and I was thoroughly unfamiliar with how these troglodytes operated. I followed their instructions and went to the customer service desk. Except I didn’t actually go to the customer service desk. No, no, I got in line for the customer service desk, which at this point extended to, near as makes no difference, the horizon.

Cue the calls to Jeopardy! I was told that this is why we had a travel day the next day. I was booked for a flight the next afternoon. I was told to just go to a nearby hotel and wait out the rest of the day. (I really didn’t want to spend any more time in Houston than I had to. I make no secret of the fact that I hate it.) But I was stubborn and stayed in line. I discovered that nearly every other person in line with me was also going to Los Angeles, most of them for the BCS National Championship game the next day. Basically, I was screwed. After nearly an hour in line, I finally got to the desk. After handing my now useless boarding pass to the lady behind the counter, she alternated between typing away at her little antiquated computer and looked alarmingly befuddled for about 5 minutes. She put me in the stand-by line for the next flight to LA. She also kindly booked me for a flight two days later (aka day one of filming). I talk to a good friend of mine whose mother works for the airline, and she tells me to try a less busy service desk to get better assistance. I do that, and the lady at the other desk tells me that I am 15th in line for the next flight, and that I have a good chance of making it on. I call my parents and everybody else to tell them the good news. At the gate, I find my name on the standby list…..all the way down at number 45. Double damn.

Irate, I go back to less crazy service desk to ask what happened. A very kind lady, whose name I wish I had taken down, tells me that another flight’s standby list had been rolled over on top of the most recent one. I began to beg her to find me a flight to literally anywhere in California. San Diego, Santa Barbara, Orange County, San Francisco. Literally anything. She then gets this wry smirk on her face and says “You would think that with a last name like yours, you would be able to work a miracle,” to which I respond “Well, none of my attempts at working one have gone well today.” She paused and went back to typing. Her smirk changed into a full-on grin. “I might be able to change that,” she said. She told me she put me first on the priority standby list. Nobody was going to bump me down; I would be getting the first open seat on any plane to LA for the rest of the day. The only caveat was that it wasn’t for the next flight, but for two flights later. I was ecstatic. So ecstatic, in fact, that I went straight to the gate and sat there for the next two hours. I was not going to let anything come between me and the next plane. I finally left Houston at 7:00PM local time, after 6 of the most hellish, stressful, infuriating hours of my life. When I finally plopped myself in my (undersized) seat, the elderly woman next to me said “You can relax now, you’re finally on the plane,” as if she knew what I had been through. When I landed in LA, I finally met up with my parents who had already been in LA for 7 hours, been kind enough to pick up my bag for me (it somehow made it on my original flight), and had dinner with family.

~~~

There you have it!  Stay tuned for more Jeopardy!-related adventures 🙂

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