I got to see Kecia this weekend. We manage to cross paths every couple years or so at a child passenger safety conference. This time, I was in the NYC area visiting friends and we were able to get together for dinner. Mmmm. Lamb burgers, spanakopita, cucumber salad, Retsina! It just doesn’t get any better than this!
Indeed, that was the high point of the trip. The low started the next day, as the snow started coming down heavier. My flight was already delayed from 5:25 to 5:47, many hours before departure. It had slipped to 6:12 by the time we left for Newark airport. Every few minutes it seemed the departure time at the gate monitor slipped again. 6:17….6:24… Shortly after the incoming plane finally arrived and passengers were exiting, the delay jumped from 6:45 to 7:02pm. We finally had to turn our cellphones off at 7:05pm as we left the gate. Then 15 minutes de-icing. Then another 10 minutes waiting to takeoff. Not too bad in terms of delays I guess; it could have been a lot worse. Plus, I had armed myself with a newspaper, magazines, brought a book as well as my cellphone/headphones for music. I had also aptly splurged and spent $139 to upgrade to first class earlier in the day when I printed my boarding pass, anticipating that we could be sitting on the plane for hours if the weather worsened. The extra room and food/beverage service was worth every penny, especially since it was a frequent flyer reward in the first place.
The flight was pretty uneventful. We landed only about an hour and a half past the original arrival time. I was happy to be among the first off the plane, too. Another perk. I zipped down to the great parking spot my wife uses on business trips. It’s right across from the terminal and you don’t have to spend 15 minutes in the parking garage to find your car. The batteries in my keyfob have needed replacement for months, so it wasn’t unusual when the car didn’t unlock as I approached. I planned ahead for this and locked the doors manually, so the alarm wouldn’t be set. Problem was, there wasn’t even a hint of juice when I turned the key in the ignition. No interior lights, nada. Completely dead.
I always triple check lights and power stuff when I leave the car overnight, so I was a bit surprised. There wasn’t a soul to be found in the lot, of course. Quick walk back to the terminal. The security people monitoring car pickups had no idea what to do. They said to ask someone at the information desk in the terminal. Of course, the desk was abandoned. Not a single security officer, TSA uniform or airport badge-wearing person was to be found in the baggage area at O’Hare airport. Literally. I asked at a desk for a ground transportation reservation service. They thought I should find a parking lot attendant outside.
Back outside I went. Asked a different security person working traffic. Again, no idea. No one to be found on the ground floor of the main garage. As I headed toward my car, I did spot an official O’Hare vehicle with its flashing lights on and could see a driver inside the SUV. He seemed reluctant to roll down the window to even talk to me as I approached. I asked if he could give me a jump start or summon someone who could. He suggested I go into the terminal and ask for help there. I mentioned my previous steps and he was dumbfounded. The other guy in the passenger seat finally decided to radio in and ask. He gave my lot and row number to the person on the other end of the radio and then they told me someone would be there in a few minutes and I should wait at my car. At that point, another person was walking out of the garage toward them and was yelling to ask for a jump start, too. I told him they had called for someone to come, as I walked away from the SUV.
I waited, and waited waited. About 20 minutes as I watched them sitting in their SUV, engine running, doing nothing, while no one came to help. Not one person was concerned to come to the guy wandering aimlessly around a small area of the parking lot, a few yards away and very visible from the main terminal and road. It was cold, but fortunately I had my mega parka, hat and gloves. I hadn’t seen anyone else in the lot over that time, but I decided to dig out my own jumper cables, just in case someone did come for their car. I was also going to head back to the SUV and ask them to jump me again. As I climbed out of my back seat with cables in hand, the SUV had come to my end of the lot and was passing me down my aisle. I tried to flag them, but they ignored me and kept going. I waited another 5 minutes or so and decided to head toward the attendant at the booth where you pay to leave the lot.
On the way, I found the parking lot customer service trailer. I wish I had seen it before. It wasn’t too far, but it was behind me and not in view from my car. Of course, no one was there, but there was a posted number to call for assistance. I called. It was a recording. “Sorry, no one is available…” Fortunately, they left another number at the end of the message for people to call for parking trouble or assistance. A dispatch person answered immediately. She knew of my situation and location right off. She thought they had already helped me. Apparently, they had helped the other person in the garage and not bothered to come to my location outside. She said she would send him back right away.
Indeed, he was there in a few minutes this time. Pulled out his jump start unit, whilst I signed a form. Hooked it up and I was going within another minute and off I went. It was a free service, so I tipped him, assuming it was an honest mistake and he hadn’t just decided not to bother checking my lot and row after the other guy got a jump. I got home about two hours later than expected. Still no idea why the battery was dead; we think it was replaced last year. I suspect the slightly broken rear hatch might have been slightly ajar, enough for the interior lights to come on sometime after I left.
In the day of maximum airport security at one of the most important airports in the country, I was a little surprised this sort of thing wasn’t a common enough occurence in the winter that people would know what to tell motorists. The complete lack of security in the baggage area and parking lots was interesting, too. I wasn’t too concerned for my safety, being right next to the traffic security at the main terminal, but still… Might be time to buy one of those emergency jump start gizmos!