Twenty four hours after receiving the 'Come NOW' message I was on my way. We happened to have a group of student headed out on the same flight so I was able to catch a ride. One of the chaperones for that group is one of my dear friends. This was a blessing as I knew it would continue to put off my total break down.
Upon check in I was given my boarding pass for the first flight, but told, though I was booked all the way through to Billings they were unable to print boarding passes for me as Delta had yet to open the subsequent flights. No problem, I would get them in Paris.
After a 6+ hour flight we landed in Paris, but due to cold weather and a storm there was quite a bit of ice on the ground leaving some taxi ways closed and on the ground speeds quite slow. It took us quite a while to reach our gate. Once we did we were further delayed due to ice on the jetway. After nearly an hour of delays we were able to get off the plane. My layover had been comfortable, but now I was starting to be concerned.
The counter for connecting flights was just inside the concourse from our gate. I waited my turn, glad to not have to go far to get my boarding passes. When it was my turn I handed the agent my passport. She clicked away at the keyboard and then asked me for further paperwork. I let her know I was headed for a funeral - I had called Delta that day and they had told me to get on the plane, no paperwork. She clicked away some more and then told me that I was not listed anywhere and did not have a reservation. I would have to go to the Delta counter. I inquired about why they could see all my flights in Jeddah, but now they had disappeared. Once again, she told me I would have to go to the Delta counter. I inquired as to where I would find said counter. She told me to take the bus to Terminal E.
I waited in the stretching security line, following the signs to Terminal E. At CDG they scan your boarding pass to link it to your belongings as they scan them. I didn't have one. After explaining my situation there were several conversations in French before they agreed to let me go.
I sat on the bus, wishing I had a coat, motoring to Terminal E. Once I arrived trying to find a counter was difficult and I was trying to not get distressed. I finally found an Air France / KLM counter. I snuck to the front, letting the person who was next that I was not cutting, but just needed to know if I was in the right place. The agent told me they would be able to help, so I got in line. This was the first I was really becoming aware that a large storm had come through the area with people who had been stranded overnight.
It was finally my turn. He asked me to explain my situation, which I did. In a few seconds he had located my entire reservation and asked again who it was that told me I didn't have one. His only explanation was that perhaps they were tired. He printed my next two boarding passes and I walked away, finally allowing the tears to stream down my face. I felt so sad.
The one good thing about the storm was that, in the area of reservation counters, they had allowed free, unlimited wifi. It was a good customer service move, allowing people to both rebook online and be connected to those that needed to know their change of plans. I was simply thankful for a lounge chair and a chance to catch up on life and the Iditarod. (Ailey's day is coming, but not this year.)
After a real BLT sandwich and an extra hour at the gate because the crew had been delayed by the icy roads, we were on our way. After boarding the plane I was ready to buy a lottery ticket, what are the chances of getting two long flights (6+ hours and 12 hours) without individual entertainment available. Ugh. There was good news, the flight wasn't full and I ended up with the entire three middle seats to myself. I hadn't slept in a couple of days and was very thankful to be able to get several hours of sleep on my way to Salt Lake City.
Clearing customs and getting back through security were uneventful. I sat to have a beverage and some dinner (Alaska salmon) while I utilized the free wifi available throughout the airport. I headed to the gate, that I had checked out before my meal. I arrived a couple of minutes before the time I had been told to arrive only to have the gate agent tell me that when I was the only passenger not there they decided to make up some time and even though the plane was still on the ground they had closed the aircraft door. He could put me on standby for the next flight.
I will fast forward the story through all the details. I ended up in a hotel last night and on a flight to Billings this morning. It may have all been His plan as we still hadn't figured out how to get me to Worland last night, but now I am sitting in the airport in Billings awaiting the arrival of Nin's family. They have one seat left in the mini-van, which now has my name on it. Also last night another dear friend arrived and they got time with him. Come Monday everyone else will have left and I'll still be there, for a while.
The journey continues.