My mom brought me to the Duluth International Airport, which, I would like to mention, is no longer an international airport. My dad and stepsister met me there and we went out for coffee. I can't believe how small that airport is. I've been through many airports in my wanderings, but that one is the smallest. I walked through security and straight onto the plane. An uneventful flight.
I really like the Chicago airport, it's good for people watching, which is one of my favorite pastimes. I found my gate with relative and settled in for my three hour layover. I listened to two podcast episodes of Wait Wait Don't Tell Me! before my iPod died. A woman, I assume she was Indian though I never asked, and her mother and two kids were sitting near me. She asked to use my phone, which was low on battery at the time, and I let her. Sitting there, staring out the window, I saw a very dark line of clouds that was moving towards the airport. Hoping beyond hope that it wouldn't delay my flight, I decided to check. 10 minute delay. Dang.
As the time passed, the departure time kept getting pushed back. Finally we got an announcement that said we would be switching gates. I had settled in at my new gate for maybe 5 minutes when I heard another announcement that our flight was canceled. So, we all wandered over to the counter where we were promised hotel discount vouchers and rebooking. The woman at the desk helped 3 people and then said she was needed at another gate and we were to go to the customer service desk in a completely different terminal. We later found out from the customer service reps that "needed at another desk" meant she was probably in the break room. Wow, thanks, lady.
After getting lost because I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing, I found the customer service counter and got in line behind a Kenyan (? this is based off her accent, which I didn't hear too much of) woman and her two children. She spoke to a security person and stepped out of line. After a while of the line moving, I realized she was standing by the line. So, I assumed she had stepped out of line because of some miscommunication. I mean, I was confused and I'm used to airports, didn't have kids with me, and spoke English as my native language. I can't even imagine what she was going through. Behind me in line was the Indian woman, Naureen as I later found out. She asked to use my phone again, asked me what was going on, and pretty much stuck with me for any clarification necessary. I found out that she had been traveling for the last 30 hours with two small children and hadn't gotten the opportunity to sleep, and they hadn't had much of one either. When it was my turn at the counter, I saw the Kenyan woman walk up to the open customer service rep. I watched as the rep gesticulated that the woman needed to go through the line, so I stepped in and said that she had been in line before me and stepped out because of a miscommunication. The rep thanked me and helped the woman. When it was my turn in line, the rep, I could tell, was totally frazzled. She booked me on the 1 o'clock flight the next afternoon and I got a discount voucher and stepped to the side, waiting for Naureen in case she needed some help with something. Turns out she did. She didn't know how the hotel situation was going to work out, she was exhausted, she didn't know where to go, and her children were crying. I stepped in and offered to make a hotel reservation for her family when I made my reservation. The rep was extremely grateful because one of the reps had just left and the line had grown to an unmanageable length. As I stood there, waiting for Naureen, one of the reps asked to see my boarding pass. It really didn't cross my mind to question why she needed it, so I just handed it to her. She verified my email address and then said, "I'm sending you a $100 flight voucher that expires in a year. You can use it on any United flight." I asked why and she said it was because I was honest when the Kenyan woman stepped in and because I was helping a complete stranger find a place. Naureen got a flight with her mother and two children, I made reservations for us at a Days Inn, and we went in search of the hotel shuttle. As we walked away, the rep who had helped me walked up and asked if Naureen and I had traveled together. I said no, that we had never met before. The rep thanked me, walked back to the desk and, smiling, told the other reps that had just arrived what had occurred.
Finding the shuttle was an adventure, and waiting for it was another. We waited for 20 minutes, when it finally showed up. The driver steps out as the 12 people waiting crowd around. "I'm sorry, I can only take 2!" What?!?! Ridiculous. So I asked when the next shuttle would be. 25 minutes. I asked how much a cab would be. He said $25 but that he suggested we wait... he's only trying to save us money. I said we can't wait, they've been traveling for over 30 hours, and the two small kids are exhausted and so are they. I asked if he could guarantee us a spot on the next shuttle. He said they could. I went back into the building to tell Naureen what had occurred. My phone, which died shortly after I made hotel reservations, needed to be charged. I found an outlet, plugged my phone in, was able to make half a phone call when the driver of the shuttle walked in and asked where the family was. I pointed them out and he said he had arranged that we ride on the Ramada Inn shuttle. Not only had this driver taken time out of his schedule to find us a shuttle, but he arranged it with a different hotel. The shuttle driver of the Ramada agreed to it, so we got a ride to the hotel, and Naureen and her family were able to rest before they continued their journey. I ended up tipping the shuttle driver $20 because I didn't have any smaller bills, but it was cheaper than a taxi.
I checked in, went upstairs and tried to sleep. For hours I tossed and turned, eventually finding sleep. I woke too early and was at the airport with more than enough time to catch my flight. The flight to Austin was wonderfully uneventful, and we were 20 minutes early.
What made this experience so amazing:
The mouthed "Thank you" from the Kenyan (?) woman as she walked past with her kids in tow and her question answered.
The $100 flight voucher because I was honest and helpful.
Knowing that Naureen and her family finally got some rest before they continued their journey.
So, I'm here... kinda. I'm not actually in Austin, I'm in a suburb type area of Austin. I have no address and job, but am looking forward to finding them.