A couple of days have passed since my departure from Mexico, and it was certainly one of my less pleasant travel experiences. I have been very lucky. In spite of all the horror stories you hear about air travel, my flights have generally gone smoothly and according to schedule. My luck ended with this last trip. You may remember from last month, that my flight itinerary to Mexico was changed at the last minute due to bad weather in Houston. It was a journey of three flights (Cleveland to Washington Dulles, Dulles to Houston, and Houston to Mexico City), and I didn't arrive in Mexico City until 1:00 A.M. My bad luck continued on my return to Ohio this week.
My flight from Mexico City to Houston was supposed to leave at 11:35 A.M. on Tuesday. Alejandro and I left his house around 7:00. We had plenty of time to enjoy a leisurely breakfast at the airport. Then we said our farewells, and he went home to fix his dad's breakfast. I still had plenty of time to kill. I had purchased my tickets with frequent flyer miles, and then purchased an upgrade to first class. As a result, I was able to go into the United Club lounge to pass the time more comfortably. It was then that I noticed on the board, that my flight to Houston was delayed due to bad weather. As time passed, the delay became longer and longer. No flights were getting into or out of Houston. I had a two-hour layover before my flight to Cleveland, but with the lengthening delay, it was obvious that I would miss my connection. Eventually the 11:35 flight was delayed until 3:30 P.M.!
I went to the front desk at the United Club to inquire if I would be able to get a later flight to Cleveland. There was one later flight, but the connection time would be very tight. I would only have 40 minutes to go through immigration, collect my suitcase, pass through customs, recheck my bag, pass through security and go to the gate. So, I asked if there was another route I could take, for example, through Chicago. She said that there was a 2:00 P.M. flight to Chicago, but it was completely full. She said to come back to the desk at 1:00 to see if any seats should become available.
I went back to the desk at 1:00, and, yes, there was a seat. And after a two-hour layover in Chicago, I could take a late flight to Cleveland. I wouldn't have first class seats, but that didn't matter to me. So, she booked the flights, and I immediately left the United Club to go to the gate for my Chicago flight which would be boarding soon.
I got on the plane bound for Chicago. Although I didn't have a first-class seat, I was in one of the emergency rows, so I had more legroom than other economy seats. My suitcase was still checked to go on the Houston flight, but an attendant asked to see my luggage claim ticket. She took a photo of it and said that hopefully my suitcase would make it onto this plane before takeoff. We were delayed a little before we pulled away from the great, and I thought, "Good. That will give them more time to load my bag."
We pulled away from the gate about ten or fifteen minutes late. But then, for some reason, we were on the runway for more than an hour. I don't know if we were waiting for our turn to take off, but my two-hour layover was evaporating. By the time we landed in Chicago, I only had forty minutes before the doors would close on my Cleveland flight.
Usually on my return to the United States, be it in Houston or Chicago, going through immigration has been a snap. There hasn't a line at all. Of course, my bad luck was continuing; there was a long, long line. Nope, unless my Cleveland flight was delayed, I wasn't going to make it through in time. The one good thing was that my suitcase did make it onto the flight, and I retrieved it to pass through the formality of customs. I went to the desk where I would have normally rechecked my bag, and I was rescheduled for the first flight to Cleveland the next morning. I was also given a voucher to spend the night at a hotel near the airport. While waiting for the shuttle to take me to the hotel, I called my friend Frank, who house sits for me, about the change of plans. He would spend another night at the house and be at the airport to pick me up. I also called Alejandro to let him know that I was spending the night in Chicago.
I didn't get much sleep at the hotel. I needed to be at the airport around 5:00 A.M. There was a shuttle leaving the hotel at 4:30. So, I asked the front desk for a wake-up call at 3:30.
Next morning, I boarded the plane for my fiight to Ohio. I wasn't in first class (hopefully I will be reimbursed for the downgrade), but I did have a window seat.
We finally took off and were flying over the suburbs of Chicago and then out over Lake Michigan.
It's a quick hop from Chicago to Cleveland. After less than forty minutes in the air, we were crossing Lake Erie, and coming to the coast of Ohio near the city of Lorain, about thirty miles to the west of Cleveland.
Through the morning mist you can make out the skyline of downtown Cleveland.
At long last, after a grueling 24 hours, we landed at Cleveland Hopkins Airport, and the journey was over!