Rocky Mountain Low / by Deborah Clague

"UNITED SUCKS!" The scream cut the tension filled air at Denver International Airport the evening of Friday, June 11. Two-thirds of the SIAST Creative Department were stranded there after a tornado formed over the control tower. At first, we were in awe of nature...observing as windstreams combined to form a cumulous ballet. Then things got ugly. Flights were delayed for hours, then cancelled outright. We had moved from one gate to the next in what seemed like a grand game of musical chairs. Soon they ran out. This is when things got real ugly. People just kept piling in until every square inch of space was covered in flesh (most of which sorely needed deodorant at this point). Wandering over to read the departure board, I was surprised to read that my own flight back to Saskatoon had been cancelled (ne'er an announcement had been made). Sighing (and cursing), I made my way to the United Customer Service desk, now a mile long. 

Two hours later, I was speaking to a CSR and discussing my options (of which there were none). There were no direct flights back until the following Sunday evening. I wouldn't be given any accommodation or food vouchers, much less a toothbrush or even a half-chewed piece of gum. My luggage? There would be no access to it. I could, however, get a stand-by ticket to Calgary where I had a much better chance of eventually getting home. I took the ticket and bid the United Rep adieu (while cursing). 

Not satisfied, I made my way to a different United Customer Service desk where I inquired how long I would have to wait until knowing for certain that I was heading to Calgary. This CSR told me I would know once everyone had boarded (at 1:00am; it was now 11:00pm). She then inquired about my luggage. I could only get on if my bags were checked for this particular flight. The earlier CSR had not mentioned this, nor initiated the transfer. There is a certain level of trust when checking one's bags that the airline you are dealing with will take care of them. I merely expected my own bags to be re-routed to Timbuktu; I had no idea they would result in me being denied entry onto any other international flight! ARGH!!! I now understood why that lone hero let out the "United sucks" rallying cry. They do suck. Big time. I couldn't get on any other flights. I couldn't get my luggage. I was trapped in an airport, blood boiling, armpits sweating. I didn't know what to do...I was then offered a flight to Chicago(!) where I could probably get to Saskatoon sooner. I accepted and left for a quiet hotel as sleeping with the masses is something best left to Paris Hilton. 

Awaking at 4:00am, I again made my way to the airport, past the creepy mural of dead children, through security, back on the tram to my terminal and headed to the United Customer Service desk. If there's one thing I learned from all those years watching The Amazing Race, it's to talk to different airline staff. Under the veil of corporate nametags, these people are just as unorganized as anyone else but eventually someone - SOMEONE - will come through. And thus, I met my new favorite person in the world, who will remain nameless not for privacy reasons but because I was so happy after our encounter I forgot to ask his name. For he got me the LAST seat on a direct flight back home (leaving only a few hours away). My good day did not end there though...after arriving at Saskatoon, I expected my luggage to be A.W.O.L., but lo-and-behold, there it was...spinning around the conveyor. If an inanimate object could express emotion, it would. For my suitcase was just as happy to see me, as I was to see it. We shared a moment. 

Tornado forming above control tower, Denver Int.l Airport:

Standing room only; the start of a late night:

Creepy mural inside Denver Int.l Airport. Because seeing dead people before flying is reassuring: