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Hello QS Fools,

It's been a while since I've checked in, though I've been lurking to absorb support. Seems folks were phoning each other during the holidays. That seems nice. Is there a member phone directory? Are there QS Fools out there that would especially welcome calls in the event of emotional crisis and relentless urges?

My monkey has had a number of occassions to ride my back these past few days. Sometimes the nicotine monkey was extra heavy - probably a consequence of stuffing himself at holiday meals. My stress and emotions have been at such high levels that sometimes I've felt my monkey Super-Sized himself into a gorilla. This begins my holiday adventures...

December 23rd...

Flight from Austin to Atlanta went just fine, though I note in the ATL airport that many flights are cancelled. I feel empathy for all the families whose travel plans have been interrupted. Now begins a series of "airline lies". We were supposed to depart ATL for Dayton Ohio at 8:30pm EST. When we arrived at the listed gate, the gate agent said that the plane "was broken". No details, but an army of already boarded passengers was returning to the concourse. 10 minutes later, everyone was advised of a gate change from D32 to B32. Now there's a group of 200+ passengers marching down corridors in unison. This was fine until all 200+ wanted to be on the escalator at the same time. Now try squeezing this crowd into the underground train. If we were lemons, there'd have been a lot of lemonade.

At gate B32, we board a replacement plane (one that wasn't broken I assumed) at 9pm for a 9:30pm departure. After everyone was boarded with their luggage stowed, around 9:29pm the gate keeper uses the plane's PA to advise all of the passengers that the pilots for the flight to Dayton are still on the runway in Cincinatti Ohio awaiting FAA clearance for departure to Atlanta. You would think that these clowns would have known this at 9pm when they began boarding, wouldn't you? So now everyone is ordered to exit the plane and return to the gate area where there aren't any seats. And we wait. And wait. Ah. The smogging lounge is just down the corridor about 3 gates. GO AWAY MONKEY.

And we wait some more. We watch as the scheduled departure time keeps getting pushed back later and later and later. I've been here before. This is how the airlines lie to people just before cancelling a flight. They invariably wait until all of the hotels offering free shuttle service are full. GO AWAY MONKEY. Around midnight we get word that the Cincinatti plane has finally departed. A moment of empathy for fellow travelers is due - the people on this plane have been waiting for departure (on the runway!) since 5pm!! And now these fatigued pilots are going to turn-around and fly my wife and I to Dayton Ohio where they've just had the worst snow storm in 60 years? GO AWAY MONKEY!

We arrive in Dayton Ohio around 2:30AM. We were supposed to be there at 9PM. The debacle is just beginning. As our plane was approaching its target gate, it suddenly stopped. The Captain came on the PA and announced that we'd all have to wait on the plane while the airport used its snow blower to clear some snow. Gee, would you have thought these morons could have had a little forsight and maybe used the snow blower before we landed? I mean, if I have relatives coming to my home I don't wait until I see them in the street to shovel the driveway!! Good Grief! GO AWAY MONKEY. With visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads at 3:15AM, we exit the plane and head towards baggage claim. People are sleeping on the floors and on cots all over the place. The bag claim area looks like a luggage wasteland. There are bags everywhere. And it's true, ALL BAGS DO LOOK ALIKE, especially at 3:15AM. Bag Claim #1 sounded its alarm and more bags began to appear. Odd, these bags are from the flight that was scheduled to leave 2 hours after ours! The carousel is full, yet no one is removing any bags. Where are these passengers? Are they helping to shovel snow?

The airline people, bless their hearts, had the wisdom to start unloading luggage onto Bag Claim #2. My wife and I split up. Janie goes to #2. I'm not sure we'll ever find each other again in this luggage wasteland. Now the airline people are brimming over with exceptional intelligence as they decide to start dumping bags onto the belt at Bag Claim #3. #$%@! There's only two of us! So I climb over mountains of luggage and passengers going back and forth between #1 and #3. Around 4AM, some one and a half HOURS after landing, I spot our bags on Claim #1 and trample 17 passengers to get to them. Upon pulling them from the belt, with a great sense of holiday glee and achievement, I yell out, at the top of my lungs (which may have a little extra capacity these days) "JANIE!!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!! I HAVE OUR BAGS!!!" This announcement was immediately followed by cheers and laughter from the weary crowd as I gave them renewed hope.

If there is a bright spot in all this, I'd like to gratefully thank the very nice people at Hertz Rental Car ( )who waited for us until 3:30AM (ordinarily they end their day at 12:30am). After hiking the required half mile to the rental lot in bone chilling wind, we arrive at our car with our bags. The passenger door is frozen shut. GO AWAY MONKEY. So after body slamming it a couple of times, it finally opens and my wife and I can get underway. The fuel tank is only 3/4 full, but at this point it is a blessing that the motor even starts.

The drive to our hotel in Troy Ohio is ordinarily about 20 minutes. With blowing snow and poor visibility, we arrive sometime around 5AM.
We were most pleased to find our reservation in order and the heat cranked up in our room to tropical temperatures. The Fairfield Inn in Troy Ohio may be one of the nicest in the chain ( ). As I attempted to park the car in a non-existent snow bank filled parking spot, I wrestled one last monkey off my back for the night. Or, um, morning.

December 24th, 25th, and 26th were absolutely lovely with very few monkey sightings. I was in an unfamiliar home, driving an unfamiliar car, eating meals in an unfamiliar place on a holiday schedule, in a home without smoggers, having very little alcohol except a glass of wine with dinner. I think the monkey was hiding in the trunk of the car. My wife and I, her mom, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend really had a very nice Christmas - nicer than I can remember in years. I see on the news that ComAir ( has created quite a travel nightmare for its customers and spoiled the holidays for hundreds of passengers. First it was lies about ice, then lies about staff, then the truth came out - their computers crashed. We are gifted and blessed to be enjoying Christmas together, and I hope everyone on this QS board was equally blessed.

Sure enough, the monkey was in the trunk of the car. Our travels home to Austin on December 27th were not uneventful. Delta again managed to blunder our schedule with delays. I'll spare you the details, but we checked into Dayton one and a half hours before our flight. We checked TWO bags. In Atlanta, we had 50 minutes to make our connection from Gate B10 to Gate B20. We should have had two hours, but 50 minutes was plenty of time to transport ourselves about 50 yards - so we waited on the plane to let people with tighter connections deplane first.

Upon arrival to Austin, I was prepared to break into joyous holiday song if our two checked bags arrived. (I'm a ham, can you tell?) Unfortunately, I never got the chance to sing. GO AWAY MONKEY. I instead had the joy of waiting in a long line at the baggage office. The man there was so cheerful that I'm sure he'd been enjoying spiced egg nog. He recognized me from the last time Delta "accidentally" sent my bags to Paris instead of Austin. He asked about my family, my holiday, and if I'd completed that home remodeling project. It was as if he and I were long time mates (that's the Aussie version of friends) and very humorous. Frankly though, in principle I don't want to be good friends with the LOST LUGGAGE guy for any airline.

Here comes the Gorilla. Tuesday, December 28. My wife asks me to drive her to the airport at 6am to make her 8am flight. She's a flight attendant (stop rolling your eyes) on her way to work (imagine flying to work instead of driving) in (gasp!) Atlanta. This will be the first time we've been apart since my quit date. I'm panicking. I've been trying really hard to alter old behavior patterns and replace them with new behaviors to keep the monkey away. OLD PATTERN ALERT. Quick, I think, and I tell her that I'd like to drive HER car to the airport instead of the truck. A substantial disagreement ensued. She likes our 2003 Ford F250 super crew cab diesel truck because she feels safer (male eye roll) and thinks it is more reliable than HER 1982 Mazda 626. And besides, as newlyweds, somehow she hasn't gotten around to the task of adding me to her auto insurance yet as a driver. Fine, I relent. So I grabbed an new CD (George Straight, 50 #1's) to have different music in the truck instead of driving a different vehicle. Nonetheless, we ended up arguing most of the way to airport. By the time we arrived, I think I could have smoked an entire pack ALL AT ONCE. GO AWAY GORILLA. So I turned the new CD up really really loud and avoided 17 gas stations were I could have, and wanted to, buy a pack to feed the gorilla.

My day got better (intense tone of sarcasm) when Delta's baggage courier service delivered ONE of two of our bags. As of this writing, our bag filled with Christmas presents received is STILL NOT DELIVERED. Ahem, GO AWAY MONKEY. According to Delta's web site (, both of our "delayed" bags have been given to the US Courier company. How remarkable that only ONE was delivered. There's a steady busy signal at the Delta lost baggage phone number. GO AWAY MONKEY. My emails to baggage service are not being answered. GO AWAY MONKEY. No worries, the courier service says, they'll deliver the missing bag to me when they get to it, if they have it. No one in this industry seems to be accountable. Thank goodness for Webex ( and the ability to have meetings over the internet - I'm starting to disdain flying more and more even though I've got nearly 1,000,000 miles with Delta.

Now it's December 29th and I've kept the monkey away by busying myself at my keyboard. The monkey is lurking somewhere in the house and it is as if I don't want this composition to end. My wife's in Amsterdam. That's someplace over in Europe that I've always wanted to go to. Perhaps it is time to go take a cold shower because cold is different from hot. And, well, you know what they say about cold showers...

Congratulations to you if you actually had the patience and interest in reading about my travel woes and monkey adventures. I think there were a couple of questions at the top, but that was written so long ago I can't remember. [grin]

Happy New Year to all QS Fools,

One week, five days, 21 hours, 21 minutes and 44 seconds. 180 cigarettes not smoked, saving $31.58. Life saved: 15 hours, 0 minutes.
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