Manchester Airport RunwayThere’s nothing quite like waiting 4.5 hours for a flight, nor is there any experience like flying in the belly of a giant killer whale. Last weekend, I got to do both.

Headed to Philly for a weekend of law graduation celebrating, I was scheduled on what I thought was a 7:40 PM flight out of Manchester, New Hampshire on Southwest. I did my typical prep of printing out the boarding pass ahead of time, and had added some extra time to account for holiday traffic on the hour-long drive north. I was pleasantly surprised however, when I left the office around 4:45, that 90 was virtually clear of traffic—so I waited in anticipation of hitting standstill traffic on 93. Again, surprise. Ninety-three had a few more cars, but was relatively traffic free.

But per usual, my luck wouldn’t last. As I emerged from a tunnel under Boston, my phone rang. “So you’re arriving at 8:15?” my friend Jen asked. “Mmm, I thought my flight was at 7:40?” I replied nervously, eyeing the clock that was already approaching 5:15 with still 40 miles to cover till I hit long-term parking. “Well, I’m looking at the flight schedule you sent to me and it says you depart at 6:50.”

I scrambled to grab my paper boarding pass. Sure enough, the flight was at 6:50. Shit. “Good thing I left work early!” I replied and quickly hung up to dial Southwest. As I hit send, my car came to a stop in stand-still traffic just outside of Boston.

“Manchester, New Hampshire.”

“Philadelphia.”

“6:50 PM.”

I paced my answers to the automated flight details recording, but my mind was racing. Piled behind a back-up of cars all leaving Boston, I had lost the extra hour I’d thought I had and now was stuck in traffic. No good.

The twangy automated voice on the other end of the line came back on, “Flight number 518 is estimated to depart Manchester, New Hampshire at 8:15 PM.”

Whew! Because what would I have done if my travel karma had been good? I would have missed the flight! As only my luck would have it, over the course of the next hour of my drive to Manchester, my flight was pushed back from 8:15 to 9, 9:15 to 9:45 and then to 10:35. Good thing I arrived at the airport by 6:05! There’s nothing I love more than sitting around a small, regional airport for 4.5 hours.

Usually I would have been upset, but there was nothing I could do. On a holiday weekend, there was no way I could have left Boston any later. And although the friendly Southwest counter staff offered that I could take the Saturday morning flight, it meant either another 2.5 hours in the car back to Boston and then returning to Manchester the next morning. Or simply sitting.

So I sat.

I sat at the restaurant. I sat on three different terminal benches. I perched on a bar stool at a handy computer counter charging my phone. I even sat in a massage chair. And let me tell you, I needed that massage after 4.5 hours of not being able to avoid Fox News. Anywhere you sit in Manchester is directly within earshot of either Fox, or the Disney Channel. By the end of the night I couldn’t tell you which I detested more, Hannah Montana or Hannity Bannity.

Once the plane did arrive, Southwest did their usual speedy-Gonzales turnaround and had us down in Philly before my friends could even make it to the airport to pick me up.

I have to say, all things considered, the wait (and the trip) could have been a lot worse. Southwest did a great job of expediting the boarding and travel. I sensed the pilot even had a bit of a pedal to the metal attitude on the tarmac in Philly because I’ve never landed and arrived at a gate so quickly.

I also learned that of any airport to have cancellations (one of the things I feared about waiting so many hours for the plane), Manchester is one of the least likely. The Southwest staff informed me that the way flights are routed, Southwest needs the planes that fly into Manchester elsewhere. Unless there is a major problem in Manch-vegas, no matter how late the plane arrives, 99% of the time they’ll turn it around. Good to know for future trips!

And of course, to make my trip complete, there, on the other end, was the reason for my travel. My best friend officially an esq. For that reason, the wait couldn’t have been more worth it.

(If you’re wondering about Shamu, check back soon).

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