Kat gave us this prompt: “Write about a time you were wrong.”
Back in the wild and wooly days of air travel, before there was the TSA and all the rigamarole you had to go through to get from the ticket counter to the gate and before airlines started issuing nonrefunable tickets that only worked on that airline and cost a fortune to change (i.e. before 1995 or so), I would schedule my business trips such that I’d be taking a flight after 6:00 at night on the last day, knowing that, if I finished early, I could just get in the rental car and drive to the airport, because most of the flights were half empty and I could get on whatever the next flight was to Chicago. Most of the trips I took in those days were to small Midwestern cities like Wausau, Wisconsin (IATA code CWA), Omaha, Nebraska (OMA), Canton, Ohio (CAK), Houghton, Michigan (CMX), and my favorite, Sioux City, Iowa (SUX), and my experience was that those airports were empty most of the day.
I was scheduled to be in Des Moines, Iowa (DSM) for three days, but managed to finish by 10 AM on the second day. I checked the OAG (which in those days was a quarterly booklet that had all the domestic flights listed) and saw that there was a flight at 2:00 and another at 4:30 in addition to the 6:00 flight I would be taking the next night, so I thought great, I’ll be home by dinnertime.
The guy I was working with asked, “hey, do you want to call the airport?” I said “nah, I’ll just go out there.” I said goodbye, hopped in the car, and drove to the airport, stopping at McDonald’s on the way.
I turned in my car and walked into the ticket area, and it looked to me like everyone in the Des Moines metropolitan area over the age of 65 was there, milling around. Evidently, there was a seniors group that was flying to Las Vegas via Chicago, and they had bought all the remaining seats on the 2:00 and 4:30 flights, and the 6:00 flight was full. The earliest they could get me on a flight was 7:30, roughly 8 hours away.
I reserved a seat on the 7:30, and as I was walking away I realized that I could drive from Des Moines to Chicago in about 8 hours. I went back to the car rental company, and learned it would cost a king’s ransom to rent a car in Des Moines and drop it off in Chicago. I went back into the airport, found a bar, and spent the afternoon and early evening drinking beer, eating Beer Nuts, watching CNN, and talking with random strangers.
After that I learned, “call the airport first.”