Lost in San Fran: a Karen Hickey story

I was in San Francisco, literally a dime in my pocket and no way to get home.

Karen and I decided to go on a trip together, sometime during or just after she graduated from Duke with a degree in math. It might have been a trip for her to celebrate getting her degree since a math degree at Duke is like hiking Mount Everest (from what I hear). You might complete it but you’re changed forever.

It was a great trip. We stayed in a decent hotel. We got lost walking to Candlestick Park in the scorching heat to watch the Giants play  and then sat in the bleachers. We had a great time watching the game but I got the second worst sunburn I’ve ever had in my life.

I have a great picture of Karen, in our hotel room, smearing shaving cream on her arms because she heard that it takes the sting out and soothes your skin. The look on her face is priceless.

We did typical touristy things, went to Fisherman’s Wharf, took a cruise around the bay, saw Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was the perfect vacation.

The way that we afforded the trip was to buy Karen’s plane ticket and then had me ride standby using one of my Dad’s passes for the airline for which he worked. Since this was Karen’s first time flying, I was able to be there for support on the way to San Francisco, I even sat next to her. Providence to San Francisco was a breeze.

As the vacation came to close, I realized I was going to cut it close with cash. We didn’t have anything planned on the day we were leaving and since we didn’t have a ton of money, we decided to head to the airport and hang out until our flight left.

When we got to the airport, I checked the status board to see if our flight was still on time. It was. I also noticed that one of the morning flights had cancelled but that happens, so it was nothing to worry about.

We went and had lunch, then played some video games in the arcade (I realize I am dating myself a bit here). Our flight left about 6pm. We had spent a few leisurely hours having fun.

I glanced up at the status board again to check on flights a few hours later. My stomach dropped. EVERY SINGLE flight had cancelled all day long. I don’t even remember why. Whether it was weather or something else, I knew I was in trouble.

When flights cancel, they generally roll the passengers to the next flight/s for the day. Since we were on the last flight leaving San Francisco, every passenger would be trying to get on our flight to leave…and since I was riding standby, I was not going to get on that flight.

This all happened in the matter of a min or so.

I looked down and right in front of where we were standing was a flight to Boston, which was boarding. It all clicked in my head, I had to get on that plane!

I looked at Karen and said,

“I’m sorry but I have to leave right now.”

She freaked out.

“Wha….what?! Going where? What do I do?”

I explained that if I didn’t fly to Boston and leave right now, I would never make it home, or at least not today. I told her to call my Dad, since he would have to drive to Boston to pick me. I told her it would be OK.

I raced to the ticket counter, panicked and said, “I really need to get on this flight.” The agent took one look at me and one look at my ticket then flipped my ticket back at me and said, “Mr. Rupert, when you are properly attired, I will be glad to help you.”

The rule was that anyone riding on an employee pass had to be dressed professionally.   That meant jacket and tie. I was wearing my jacket but didn’t have my tie on yet because I had just made the decision to leave.

I walked a few feet away so I could put on my tie, shaking because I knew I had to get on the flight. Five minutes later, I walked back up to the counter. A different agent was there and she apologized for her colleague. “He’s having a bad day. Here is your boarding pass, Mr. Rupert.”

It said 2D, which meant I was in first class. I quickly hugged Karen goodbye, told her it would be all right and rushed to board the plane.

They served shrimp and steak for dinner.

My Dad picked me up in Boston and told me I would have spent the night in San Francisco if I had stayed any longer.

Still made it home in time to drive to the Providence airport and pick up Karen.


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