Recounting a recent tale of leaving a remote job site and attempting to get home.

I recently got to come home for a few days off, and let me tell you, it was an adventure. I was on a job up near the Canadian border in fairly cool conditions (about 0 degrees F) when my relief arrived. We talked about the job, and made the transition. The roads were fairly clear, and I was able to start the 90-mile trip to Williston, N.D., at a good 40 mph, in four-wheel drive (studded tires). When I got to the main road, the speed picked up, but it still was four-wheel drive.

By the time I got to Williston, the roads were good. While I was stopped for fuel, one of my co-workers called to ask where I was. I told him, and he asked me to stop by the shop. I didn’t really have too much time, but it was an important meeting, so I went for a short while. I finally got to my quarters around midnight for a couple hours sleep and packing for the trip home. I had wanted a little more time to clean out my truck and do laundry, but it didn’t happen.

When I got up at 3:30 a.m. to go to the airport, the weather had cooled off significantly. It was -12 degrees F when we left for the airport – 120 miles away. Since I knew I’d be flying, and going to a warm destination, I didn’t wear any of my arctic gear, just a coat and one layer of long johns.

I got to the Minot airport a couple hours before my flight, checked in and gave them my luggage. I went outside to smoke. That’s when I realized I wasn’t dressed for -15 degrees F.

As it got closer to takeoff time, the airline called my name. I went to the desk to learn that they had overbooked the flight, and I was being bumped. Since I was a little short on sleep and had been in the field for 44 days, this didn’t sit too well with me – plus, my ride had long since left. Needless to say, I went off on them. I won’t name the airline – it begins with “D” – but I questioned its business practices, its owners and employees’ ancestry and everything else I could think of at a pretty high volume – entertained the whole airport.

I realized that cursing wouldn’t do any good, as there was a cop standing right beside me, fingering his handcuffs, but I used every other derogatory English word I could muster. It didn’t do a lick of good. They had overbooked the flight by six people, as if somebody – maybe ice fishermen or something – might just decide to stay in America’s own Siberia for the fun of it. I pitched a futile fit until they wrote me a check for $1,300 on the spot to shut me up. It worked for about five minutes, and then I began to question whether or not the check was any good. They said that of course it was. I told them that I hoped it was better than their reservation methods.

Eventually, a beat-up minivan showed up to take us to the next airport down the road – Devil’s Lake, 120 miles away. All of us happy campers crammed in for another ice drive. When we got to Devil’s Lake, the plane was frozen to the ground. Took ‘em four hours to thaw it loose. They packed us in a small prop plane that shook like a dog passing peach pits. By the time we limped into Minneapolis, it was well after dark and snowing hard – looked like they might close the airport. I also missed my connection to Atlanta. Finally, I got on a red-eye to Atlanta and arrived after midnight, sans luggage. My blood pressure meds were in there, and I sure was needing them about then.

Since the airline was bending over backwards to take care of me and keep a customer, they gave me a voucher for $6 to buy dinner. Have you ever tried to buy a meal for $6 in an airport? They wouldn’t even let me apply it to the bar tab.

Next, in the name of customer relations, they put me up in a Motel 6. Wow. I’m pretty sure I was the only normal one in the building; now that’s a scary thought.

I called the airline to find out when my final connecting flight home to Lottie’s tender embrace was, and found out it was at 3:30 p.m. Great, now another ridiculous wait. I had left the rig Friday night, and now it was Sunday. I had intended to go to church with my family Sunday morning, so I looked outside the motel to see if there was a nearby church I could attend. The only altar I saw where I might worship was wearing fishnet hose, and that’s not the kind of service I had in mind.

I finally got home about dark, Sunday, 36 hours after I left the rig. I can go to Poland in half that time. I’m gonna write to the airline and tell them what I think. Won’t do a bit of good, but my blood pressure will come down if I vent a little. In a couple days, it’ll be time to go back to work. What will you bet they get me there in record time? That’s always the way it works.

Stay safe, stay warm, and keep ’em turning to the right.