As we stare down the busiest travel day of the year and a major storm in the Northeast, I am brought back to Christmas 2004.
This was the first holiday season that Country Boy and I were engaged, and we decided to split Christmas between our families. We drove from our apartment in Boston to Connecticut to spend December 23rd and the first half of Christmas Eve with my family before heading back to Boston to catch a flight to Indiana to make it to Christmas Eve dinner with Country Boy’s family.
As our gift for Country Boy’s family, we were bringing them a traditional New England Christmas Eve dinner to go with their new New England family member. So, after we cleared security at Logan International Airport, we headed to an in-airport seafood outpost to pick up our pre-ordered and pre-packed 8 live lobsters.
The lobsters, Country Boy and I arrived at the gate and patiently waited. We watched our plane pull up to the gate and we got ready to board. We thought that we would be in the air and on our way in a matter of moments.
That did not happen.
Instead, over an hour later, US Airways cancelled our flight on account of “weather” and re-booked all of us on a 6 am flight the next morning. While in the re-booking line, we met a band of 10 kids in their mid-20s who were also trying to make it home for the holidays. They, strangers until that afternoon, had started out in New York City with tickets on a direct flight to Indianapolis, but, after having that flight cancelled, they flew to Boston in the hopes of catching our later flight to Indianapolis.
With our rebooked tickets in hand, Country Boy and I bid adieu to our new friends and hopped the subway back to our apartment.
We all reconvened at 5 am at Logan. Country Boy and I had eaten absolutely horrific take out and stayed up all night keeping our lobsters alive. Our NYC-based friends had stumbled upon a disco-themed Jewish singles mixer and were still covered in glitter. We were all in kind of a weird place, but it was Christmas morning and we were going home. Everything was going to be all right.
The gate for our flight was crawling with exhausted people. The time for boarding passed, yet there was no US Airways agent at the gate. We could see our plane. Were we just supposed to seat ourselves? The tension in the air was palpable.
Finally, a lone agent approached the gate. She grabbed the microphone and said “Your flight has been cancelled. There are no more available flights today. No one will be rerouted. Please go home.” And then she dropped the mic, literally, and ran away, again literally.
The gate erupted into pandemonium.
Through the chaos Country Boy, the lobsters, and I pushed our way to our NYC-based compadres. The 12 of us huddled together and instantly unionized. The Indy Bound Crew was born.
WE WERE GETTING OUT.
One dude, who had no luggage, sprinted for the empty desk at a nearby gate and picked up the magical red telephone. The rest of us spread around the periphery and kept watch while he worked the phone. He quickly convinced someone at US Airways that he was a gate agent who needed to rebook passengers, and we then passed the phone around and rebooked ourselves on an American Airlines flight that was leaving for Chicago. From there, we would hop on another American Airlines flight to Indianapolis. As this was going down, an actual US Airways gate agent approached our stronghold. We locked eyes. I stared. He turned and ran.
We had 30 minutes to make our new flight.
All 12 of us ran across the airport towards the American Airlines terminal, with the lobsters and luggage in tow. We set pick and rolls. We hurdled luggage and small children. No one was left behind.
We had 25 minutes.
We came sliding up to the American Airlines ticket counter to retrieve our new boarding passes. It was mobbed with angry and exhausted travelers. The line was easily 350 people deep.
But, WE WERE GETTING OUT.
We stood at the side of the ticket counter, scouting for an open representative. As soon as someone came available, the luggage-less dude sprinted to the counter. Before she could point out the line, we swarmed her. We told her what happened. She told us that, before she could process us, we had to get a vouchers for boarding passes from US Airways.
But, we would not be stopped because WE WERE GETTING OUT.
We had 22 minutes.
We took off sprinting back across the entire airport, with the lobsters and luggage in tow.
We had 17 minutes.
We came skidding up to the US Airways ticket counter. The line there was at least 475 angry and exhausted people deep. We cut them all without looking back. We swarmed, scared the hell out of the ticket agent, and managed to procure 12 vouchers for flights to Indianapolis on American Airlines.
We raced back across the airport for a third time in less than 15 minutes, with the lobsters and luggage in tow.
We had 13 minutes.
We yet again cut the entire line at the American Airlines ticket counter and procured our boarding passes. We were on our way!
We had 11 minutes.
We hit the security line. It was wall of people.
But, WE WERE GETTING OUT.
We made like the Mighty Ducks, got into a V, and pushed our way up the side lane for flight crews to the front of the security line.
After sending the luggage-less dude first to hold the plane, we all scrambled through security before the mob behind us could find their pitchforks and torches.
We had 6 minutes.
We took off in a full sprint towards the gate. I yelled at the slower members of our team as if I was Bobby Knight pre-anger management treatment. There was no option but to hustle.We had 2 minutes.
We raced up to the gate to find luggage-less dude in a full-scale filibuster. He was standing in the plane door, singing Christmas carols, and refusing to move until every last one of us was present and accounted for.
We took roll call, we high fived, and we boarded our plane.
WE WERE GETTING OUT.
We taxied out from the gate. And then we sat. And we sat. AND WE SAT.
We watched the clock tick away our 40-minute layover in Chicago. This couldn’t be. THIS COULD NOT BE.
All of this to just end up stranded in Chicago on Christmas morning?
Finally, we took off. As we approached Chicago, we realized that we would have less than 10 minutes to make our flight to Indianapolis.
We came up with a plan. Luggage-less dude would hold the next plane. To make sure he was the first person off of our current plane, the rest of us would use our luggage to block anyone else from getting into the aisle. Once he cleared the gauntlet, then we would take off running behind him.
We landed and put the plan into action.
After the luggage-less dude cleared the jetway, we had 6 minutes to make our connecting flight.
We sprinted across Chicago O’Hare airport, with the lobsters and luggage in tow.
We had 2 minutes.
We raced up to the plane and, yet again, luggage-less dude was staging a filibuster for the ages.
We had 1 minute.
We took roll call, we high fived, and we boarded our plane to Indianapolis. Upon take off, we erupted into cheers and tears while the flight attendant passed us free mimosas.
After 18 hours, the Indy Bound Crew was finally on its way home, 12 people and 8 live lobsters strong.
WE GOT OUT.