Stranded in Branson/Springfield Airport
Dec 10 - Its been a great couple days at the Ranger plant for the annual
Product Knowledge Tour and Conference.  Each year, I always think there is no
way Ranger can improve, but they always seem to.  When I left home, North
Carolina was in the mist of a big ice storm, leaving millions of people
without electricity, my home being one of them.  Fortunately, my plane for
Arkansas was on schedule and everything went well considering the storm.
Its 7:00 am, I am at the Branson-Springfield airport beginning my journey
home.  I had never flown into Springfield Regional Airport, but figured since
it is the hub for a major tourist attraction, being Branson Missouri, it
would be a modern, major hub.........Wrong !

My plane out to a connecting flight in Kansas City is due to depart at 8 am. 
I check the monitor in the main lobby, it states the flight is running on
time.  I go turn in my rental car, even though it is not actually due in
until afternoon.  Everything is going smoothly as I approach the heavy
security that now is enforced at all airports, a welcome sight.  Its not
business as usual, no more walking freely in terminals, walking straight to
your boarding gate or check in.  Now, you have to have a current airline
ticket to even get past the main lobby into the terminals, again, no problem
with the extra security under these trying times each and every connection on
the trip out.
As I enter the security area, I am asked to remove jacket, place carry on
luggage on belt for x-ray, and remove all keys, cell phone, and coins from
person.  No problem, but I am ask to step aside as two security people begin
to go over me with a fine tooth comb, or more realistic, a fine tooth metal
detector wand.  I am ask to remove my hat for inspection, my belt and even my
pack of gum.  Again, I have no problem with this, but just wondered why I was
centered out.  I jokingly ask one of the security if it was my N.C. State
sweatshirt that made me suspicious?

As I continue on to my gate, I notice that the monitor now says " Flight
delayed".  No problem, its still early.  By take off time, its apparent
something is array.  Springfield airport is small, with one main lobby, one
small main terminal gate, and maybe three gates.  You can see anything coming
or going, and there is no plane at my assigned gate! The attendant announces
that flight scheduled for Kansas City departure is now canceled, all
(3) effected passengers must check back with main ticket counter.  In other
words, we must go back thru security central to lobby.

At the ticket counter, we are told another flight is due in at 12 pm and will
depart for Kansas City at 12:20.  Good news is there is another flight, bad
news is I have missed my  connecting flight in Kansas City to Pittsburgh. 
She assures me that I will have another connection once I get to Kansas City.
Until then, I have 4 hours to kill in Springfield Branson airport. 
Lets see, there is this little ole lady working an information booth,  a
small coffee shop, the car rental guy, and a small waiting area with two
couches and a play area.  It does have a TV,  dial removed, set to CNN.   I
visit the coffee shop, get a $4 cup of coffee.  At least I get free refills.

Its been 3 hours, I've had my fill of coffee, CNN, and little Timmy screaming
"When's Nanna getting here."  I decide to go back thru security, to my new
gate and wait my plane.  There is  12 security personal stationed now at the
entrance, about 2 for every passenger in terminal.  As before, I go thru the
process, and make general conversation.  I got an hour before I am scheduled
to leave, notice a small table off in the corner of the gate lobby. It's a
free Internet board.  It will become my connection to the outside world from
this holding cell.   I have limited surfing ability, but  I can check my
email and some of my favorite sites like Bass Fishing Home Page. 
It doesn't take long to discover without a POP Killer, BFHP is pop-up city
and I quickly tire of closing windows.  I make my 4th two minute walk around
the terminal,  and there is still no sign of my plane or even a plane.  I
wonder up to the departure monitor and it reads "Kansas City Flight 12:20
Canceled"   Here we go again, back thru security, back to the main lobby and
ticket counter.  There I am told that the fog has not lifted in Kansas City
and they will not release a plane to come into Springfield.  In the meantime,
I am stuck here till the next flight in at 5 pm.  More coffee please ! 

Hurry up and wait!  I have now been thru security 5 times, little Timmy is
still screaming for Nanna, and I've reached the end of the Internet.  
Security alert, I think I have found Jimmy Hoffa seeking shelter from the
cold inside the lobby. 
   I check with the car rental guy to see if I can get back the car that I
had rented for the day, and make the two hour drive to Kansas City.  Sure
can, for an extra $40.
   I'm lost in the Heartland,  Broadway is surely amiss with its golden boy
stuck in MizzLou!  Lunch time, the only choice is the corner cafe and they
surely know it.  Ouch, $7.95 for a hamburger.  Outside I notice a taxi 
waiting a passenger.  I ask if he can take me to an eating place in the
outside world.  Sure, for ten bucks each way.  Heck, that airport hamburger
is looking pretty good right now.
I check on the local bus service., but it had too many transfers and too many
chances to be lost in Springfield while my plane is heading to the heavens
without me.  If the airport security didn't like my NC State sweatshirt, the local muggers surely will.

Back to the lobby couch, CNN and little Timmy.  Why do airlines have liquor
carts on the planes and not in the lobby where they are really needed?
Update:  I now have made one step forward, two backward.  My flight at 5:00
to Kansas City has now been re-routed to  Pittsburgh with a  scheduled
departure of 6:00.  If I get on it, I will not leave Pittsburgh till 10 pm. 
You think they will have an free internet booth?


You would think that Springfield, being the hub for Branson MO,  would have
been larger.  I have read the local Branson tour guide booklet twice now.  It's a
small version of  Myrtle Beach or Pigeon Forge.  The much touted shows were
headlined by such oldies as  Bobby Vinton, Frankie Avalon, John Davidson, Oak
Ridge Boys, Mikey Gilley, Mel Tellis, Jim Stafford, and the Osmonds.  Heck,
no wonder their careers peaked in the 70's and were never heard from again.
They've been stranded in Springfield!
" where you can check out, but you can never leave."

  It's now 5:15, and still no plane.  A flight finally arrives. They page me
over the intercom.  "We know you have been here all day, SIR"  Finally I'm
going to get the royal treatment.  WRONG!  What I get is led to a segregated
area by 4 armed guards, where they proceed to strip search me.
Their reasoning, I have been in terminal all day, exposed to numerous
"opportunities".  I sure have, but not at my own doings or wishes thank you. 
"Did you not see me go thru the security check every time I had to reschedule
a flight outside the boarding gate?'  My carry-on now glows from all that
radiation! No matter, they proceed to throw everything I have in my bag onto
a table for the world to see.  There's my favorite "Superman" boxers, my very
personal belongings, camera, even down to my tooth brush.  "Better watch that
toothbrush, its got extra hard bristles. I might use it with deadly force. 
And that toothpaste is fluoride fortified."

The whole time, I'm standing in the middle of the terminal like some criminal, with everyone staring, my sock only feet spread, and my arms up, as they bark  "hands straight out to
your side, palms open and down," while they poke me with this magical cold
wand, up and down and in places that didn't even have an orifice!  The wand
gets to my groin and starts beeping.  "Sir, are you wearing a belt"? "No,
that's must be my steel implant," I jokingly comment.   Guess humor isn't a
part of their training, because all it got me was swabbed down with some dang
huge cotton q-tip, as they explained in technical terms they are checking for
"explosive or combustible residue".  "Hey, I wouldn't get too close to those
Superman boxers.  I've worn them for a couple days."  

I've got a useless log of flight tickets that will fill a shoebox.  Everyone on the plane looks
at me like I got an Iraq passport, and the nightmare didn't end once I left Springfield, MO.  When  I left Springfield, I left my only sanity to the outside world, an Internet connection.

Destination from the Black Hole called Springfield to K City.  I finally got on a plane in Springfield at 5:30 pm, bound for Kansas City, with connection from there to Pittsburgh then into
Greensboro.  The catch was, I had to be on the ground in KC by 6:30 to make
my connection.  This is where the blackhole got deeper and deeper.  I landed
at KCI at 6:25, I run to my connecting flight for Pittsburgh, only to see it
pulling from terminal. The attendant say "You're 5 minutes too late . . . too
bad HONEY".  I've had 23 cups of coffee and 7 packs of M&M's in less than 12
hours and I'm ready to hit the rector scale to 10, so don't be "HONEY" me
Lady.  I figure no problem. I'm finally at a major airport, can get a red eye
that will connect.  WRONG !!!! I go to the ticket counter. Remember each time
I have to go back to reschedule, I have to go thru security check. At the
counter, she says all US Air flights east are gone until 5:30 am. WHAT !!! So
here I am, stranded again, and  its not getting funnier.  But there is a ray
of hope. She says "You are now officially labeled a "distressed passenger".
Heck, what took so long to get that title?  But I think this is good.....WRONG!

All it got me was a toll free number to their distressed passenger hospitality desk.  With it, they tell me that I would get shuttled to a comfortable hotel, at a very low cost, and then shuttled back in the
morning.  Sounding OK, especially since I had been laid up in a fixed steel
park bench inside Springfield for 12 hours with Jimmy Hoffa and Little Timmy.
I still hear "When's Nanna getting here" over and over.  Well, I arrive and
the lady at the service desk says "You must be worn out and ready for nice
room.  We are sorry for your inconvience and nada, nada......."  Yea, they
were real sorry, to the tune of $80 bucks a nite !  I flat out say "I'm not
paying it.  I'll sleep on your baggage check in counter before I do, and that
moving luggage belt looks pretty good right now.  Another lady from US Air
says she can help, calls a local Ramada, will let me stay for $40 and they
will bring me back to airport in the morning.  So here I am, sitting in a
hotel room in Kansas City.  You can now label me a "Distraught passenger"!

Dec 11 - I am back at KCity International at 5:30 am to try rebook a flight. 
I see a flight out bound for Charlotte at 6:15. Give it too me now.   Only
stipulation is that I will have to connect with a flight coming from Dallas
to Charlotte in Charlotte, then on to Greensboro.  Heck, just get me to
Tarheel soil, I can manage the rest.  Even if I have to dial down the center,
1-800-Call-H.E.L.P. !  But figure that will be no problem, Dallas flights are
leaving on time.  WRONG !!

I land in Charlotte at 9 am, Dallas flight is due in at 9:30 with 10 a.m. departure.  I look at the flight tote board, where all arrivals and departures are listed on TV screens, which by this point has
become my only way to vent my frustration, you know, yelling at the screen
like some madman from Mayberry L.S.D.!  I look and guess what, Dallas flight
234 is delayed.  What!  Here we go again, delayed, then
what.....canceled! There is a flight due to depart for RDU in 15 minutes, do I
get on it, hire some Iranian cab driver to take me to Greensboro to get my
suburban or heck, maybe even hi-jack it at this point to Greensboro, I did
get to keep my extra hard bristle toothbrush.  But I take my chances on the
Dallas connection, it lands at 11am, I take off at 12 pm, and B-I-N-G-O, I'm
H-O-M-E !!

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