All Alone and Struggling to Standby

When we were home we had the absolute pleasure seeing our friends get married in Canada. It was a beautiful ceremony set in the most picturesque of places, Banf. After the wedding, we joined them in Shuswap Lake for three day long houseboat after party. Despite the temptation, Nat resisted going down the water slide on the boat but did get fitted with a lovely blue waterproof cast to match her dress (made in Vietnam) for the wedding.

After an incredible amount of deliberation Natalie and Ross decided he should go on to Bolivia without her on schedule to meet with their friends Dave and Jess. Natalie would have felt guilty if no one showed after all the planning that took place, and Ross knew he would just be farting around all day playing video games. The other part of the decision arose from the desire to not waste both tickets from Chile to Bolivia that had been purchased weeks ago since United does not fly direct to Bolivia.

Thanks to the ability to have a faux ticket for the effort of checking some boxes online Natalie accompanied Ross into the airport to send him off at the gate. The plan was to take a direct flight from Orange County to Houston and from there to Santiago, Chile with twenty four hours to spare before the purchased flight to La Paz, Bolivia. The morning of the flight out of Orange County they checked the flight status of the flights to Houston. There were two flights that would get Ross there before the flight to Chile left and both had a comfortable amount of empty seats for him to get on. Erring on the side of caution they decided to go for the earlier flight because something can always go wrong and the longer the day wears on the more opportunities Murphy has to say I told you so.

Our caution was for naught as we watched seats suddenly disappear one by one within an hour of the flight. While this is somewhat common when flying standby it is still terrifying. It does not help either when you actually have to be somewhere on time. There are many reasons a flight fills up last minute but the usual story is that another flight is cancelled or extremely delayed. In this instance a flight to Oregon was delayed by several hours and several passengers had connecting flights they would miss, but for some reason flying to Houston could salvage their situation.

The second flight to Houston was too late for these poor souls but this is where trickle down economics actually works. Since all the seats filled up in the early flight none of the standby passengers ahead of Ross get on. They get rolled over onto the next flight like Ross but there are already standby passengers who wanted the second flight from the start. So now there are even more standby names ahead of Ross for the second flight which had less seats open to begin with. Natalie and Ross watched in horror as the few remaining seats began to fill a second time. In a panic they purchased a real ticket for Ross. One of the problems with this is that it is too late to check in online and Ross is already past security without enough time to go out, check in, and return before doors close. A new problem Natalie and Ross had not encountered before is the ticket they purchased does not allow for a large carry on or checking it at the door. Oh, and the attendant at the counter could not set it up from his computer so the bag would go direct to Chile. So Ross had to pay an additional fee to check the bag normally and had to pick it up at baggage claim in Houston with a much tighter connection than planned. Less than an hour. So now Ross is on the plane with a real, purchased ticket sans one backpack. So much for #standbybackpackers. Worst of all Natalie saw two ladies lower on the standby list get on so the purchased ticket was for nothing. Cest la Vis.

Ross at least arrived in Houston on time giving him confidence he could get to baggage claim and back through security before the next flight departed. A flight he did not have a ticket for. He darted through the airport towards baggage claim and waited for what felt like an eternity for the carrousel to start moving. The flashing red light and alarm never felt so good. Despite the assurances by the attendant that took his bag in Orange County it should be “last on first off” Ross waited a second, far more annoying eternity for his bag to slide down the conveyer belt. He grabbed his bag and rushed back up the escalator to security to find a long line with a single kind elderly attendant at the front going at frustratingly slow pace. Ross noticed there was a second line space for TSA Pre with no one in it because there was no way to get in it without hopping the dividing rope. So he hopped it. Luckily the attendant checking IDs either didn’t notice or didn’t care and checked Ross’s ID after letting five others go first. Still faster than waiting in the plebeian line. Ross then hurried in a poorly disguised run to the gate with a mere thirty minutes to spare. Who would have guessed eternity was so short.

The status of the seats for the Houston flight to Chile looked way better than the previous flights. They were so good in fact Ross got a business class seat which included alcohol, a three course meal, and a seat that reclined completely flat, among other wonderful perks he took full advantage of. Cest la Vis.

While the flight to Chile was a little over eight hours, Ross got less than six hours of sleep due to the food and entertainment options available. Arriving in Santiago, Chile in the wee hours of the morning Ross had twenty four hours before his next flight. He also had an insane plan to spend zero money while in Chile. Using his bachelors degree from Google University while in the states he learned the international airport he was at allowed people to sleep in the terminal areas. Absolutely stuffed from the excellent business class food and equipped with a complimentary bottled water he set off to the terminal that had gained a reputation for rows of seats with no arm rests and little foot traffic. There he found a homeless man with a set up that included enough blankets and cushions to make a bed as well as a functional TV who seemed to be friends with the airport staff like a less inspiring version of Tom Hanks from The Terminal. After watching him amiably talk to security Ross was certain his degree had paid off and he could sleep here undisturbed. He then passed the time surfing the internet on the airport wifi and reading the Bolivia section of his Lonely Planet on South America, eventually falling asleep with his arms woven through the straps of his bags.

The next morning he woke at around five and entered through security and immigration to hear the familiar sound of Despacito playing through the speakers near his gate. He was unable to complete his plan though for after a measly twenty four hours hunger got the best of him and he paid for some food at the gate before finally making it on the plane to Bolivia to start round two of travel in earnest.


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