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The day had come for Gary and Mandy to begin their trip to Greece. All of the preparations had been made and the rush to complete the last minute tasks was mostly successful. Gary, Mandy and Keryn started toward the airport at 4:19 p.m., just four minutes past the planed departure time.
The drive to the airport was uneventful and Keryn said her goodbyes outside of the departure terminal at the Columbia Airport. Gary and Mandy walked up to the ticket counter and joined a line behind just four other people. As they were waiting, they overheard a discussion regarding cancelled flights. They exchanged concerned glances but hoped that this was in reference to some other flight. On the wall opposite the ticket counter, Gary noticed a weather map of the US with an associated list of arrival and departure times. The flight to Newark, which was the one on which the Senns were supposed to travel, had a big, red “Cancelled” displayed next to it. Gary did not have the courage to inform Mandy of the situation but decided to allow the ticket agent to enjoy that privilege. When it was their turn, Gary & Mandy learned that their flight was cancelled. They learned that relatively high winds near Newark Airport had grounded smaller aircraft and that their aircraft was in this same, small category.
The ticket agent for Continental Airlines stated that our flights had already been changed for departure the next day. The departure time was earlier in the afternoon and the itinerary was changed from Columbia -> Newark -> Paris -> Athens to Columbia -> Houston -> Paris -> Athens. Within the original plan was a short excursion into Paris, for which Mandy had already purchased tickets. There was also supposed to be a one-night stay in Athens in preparation for a morning flight to the final destination of Santorini. The changed itinerary resulted in missing the trip in Paris, the stay in Athens and the flight to Santorini. Mandy worked with the ticket agent in an attempt to find an alternative way to get to Newark. After 21 minutes, she said that she was going to walk to the other end of the ticketing area and assigned Gary to continue with the process.
Gary was eventually convinced that there was no way to leave Columbia that night so he wanted to verify that the flights on the next day were confirmed. The ticket agent confirmed everything to Athens but had no record of a flight to Santorini. He suggested that the arrangements to the island were handled through a different carrier but he made a call to find out. Gary thought about calling Mandy on the cell phone to ask about the final leg of the itinerary. However, Gary had made the decision to leave his cell phone in Aiken. He figured that he and Mandy would always be together during the trip so that there was no sense in carrying two phones around Europe when they could not be used there anyway. Ultimately, the ticket agent concluded that there was nothing he could do so Gary exited after thanking the agent for his assistance. As Gary began walking toward the Delta counter at the other end of the ticketing area, he overheard the person behind him asking how he and his wife could get to Newark that night. Gary also heard a deep sigh from the ticket agent preceding his explanation of the events that dominated the evening.
Meanwhile, after leaving the Continental ticket counter, Mandy walked to the Delta counter to speak with someone there because Delta was where the ticket actually was arranged. After she waited in line and had the opportunity to speak to the agent, Mandy learned that she needed the printed information, which was in Gary’s position at the other end of the ticketing area. She walked back toward Gary and the two met half way between the ticketing counters that had attracted so much of their recent attention. At this point, Mandy was quite beside herself.
They walked together toward the Delta counter and waited for the agent to finish a conversation with a gentleman there. Mandy jumped in line and quickly handed the agent the papers she requested, much to the chagrin of the 15 people waiting in line. There were a few comments and Gary was a bit concerned about upsetting the people. Mandy, however was not dissuaded and began to plead her case to the ticket agent. After about thirty minutes of trying with a few statements of giving up and a few tears of frustration, a new itinerary was developed. The new version had an earlier departure the next morning and still made it to Athens in time for the scheduled flight to Santorini. The trip was Columbia -> Atlanta -> New York -> Athens.
After Keryn dropped Mandy and Gary at the airport, she had dinner with a high school student involved the Young Life program at USC. By the time Keryn finished her dinner and visit, just over two hours had passed and her parents were ready to return home.
In the midst of the ordeal, Mandy took some pain pills to ease her neck and sciatic nerve pain. The pills and exhaustion from the ordeal took effect on Mandy, which resulted in her inability to stay awake. She lost control of her neck muscles, which caused her head to thrash around. Gary did his best to hold her head up while ensuring a safe driving experience. Keryn helped support Mandy’s neck from behind.
After a few follow-up phone calls and some work on a few more last-minute details that had not been completed before the initial departure, Mandy and Gary went to bed to rest before the 7:35 a.m. flight out of Columbia.
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