Alternate Times, Alternate Cities and Alternators

This is a story from one of my past adventures that I thought you would enjoy. 

Well, I really don’t know where to start. Let’s see, I go to South Plainfield, New Jersey to hold a training class for our Service Delivery Managers, all goes well on the flight there. Delta was ready when I was and got me there on time. Three days of pretty intensive training, some meetings and a few meals and its time to head home. I head back to the Newark, New Jersey Airport.

At this point a little background information is necessary. On my way to Atlanta’s Hartsfield Airport the alternator light on my truck comes on. I don’t have a lot of choices, so I press on and get to the Parking Spot with no other problems. Rick, one of the Service Delivery Managers in the class lives in Atlanta and is a friend of mine. I knew I could count on him if I had a problem when I got home. I had scheduled a Delta flight that left at 8:30 PM figuring that I would have some clean-up to do in the classroom and I also needed to meet with one of our execs for an hour or so. I probably didn’t need the “Physic Friends Network” to see what was coming, but being a positive person I figured that everything would be fine. If not I had Rick to help.

As I said, class is over. Ends right on time, 3:00 PM. I was able to meet with Joe during a working lunch so that is done. Everyone kind of pitched in and help clean up the classroom before they left so here it is 3:30 and I’m ready to head back to the Newark Airport. No problems so far. I get the rental car returned and take the tram to the terminal. Now, the next thing that happens should have made me take notice. I go to the counter to check my luggage and the ticket agent advise me that she might be able to get me on an earlier flight. Great. That would be wonderful, but as she checks a frown crosses her face and she says “the next flight just closed full, so the flight you have is the only other one available”. Thinking positive, I thank her and tell her that is OK. I’ll just get something to eat and do a little work on my laptop.

I am off to the gate area. No problem going through security. Go back to the Delta area and get a bite to eat then go find a nice place to sit, work and wait. I look at the board behind the gate check-in area and it shows the flight is going to leave on-time, 8:30 PM. I had talked with Rick and ask him to wait at the Atlanta airport for me to get in, just in case. He agreed to do that so I felt like everything was going to be OK.

I’m working away, it’s about 7:30 and I happen to glance at the board. I notice that the time still says 8:30, and then as I am watching it changes to 9:30, no announcement, just changes. I close the laptop and go to the counter to see what is wrong. Well, I’m told that weather is bad in Atlanta and the flight has been delayed for an hour. I call Rick and leave him a message; we are going to be delayed and to give me a call when he gets this message.

I go back to working on some documents. About 30 minutes pass and then the gate agent ask for everyone’s attention. According to Delta: 1) The flight crew that is going to fly this plane to Atlanta is on the flight inbound from Atlanta. 2) The Newark Airport is closed to all inbound flights because of weather. 3) We are now scheduled to leave at 11:15 PM. Now, as for item 2, I can see that it is not raining and every other airline has planes landing and taking off. So it’s off to the counter to see what is really going on, well, according to the agent, that is Delta’s story and they are sticking to it.

Rick calls, we discuss what is going on and I tell him to go ahead and go home. If I have a problem I’ll give him a call. Looks like it is going to be around 2:15 when we get to Atlanta. I wait and wait and wait. Finally the airplane from Atlanta arrives with our flight crew. After some checking of the plane we get the call to board. At this point about 40 very bored, very tired, “just want to just get home” passengers board the direct flight to Atlanta (at least that is what we think). It is about 12:00 AM.

We leave the gate, taxi out to the runway and with little lost motion take to the friendly sky’s. The pilot comes on the PA system and tells us we will have about hour and forty-five minute flight to Atlanta and should be there at about 2:15 AM. Well, at least we are on our way. About an hour into the flight the PA system crackles to life again, it is the pilot. It seems that Delta has called and asks that we divert to Dulles in DC to pick up 125 or so stranded Delta passengers. Now remember that we are about 45 minutes from Atlanta in an airplane, never had this happen, run by Dulles. Hey, it’s an airplane; you don’t just run by places, do you?

According to the pilot and Delta there are no rooms available for the passengers and if we don’t go pick them up they are going to have to spend the night in the airport. What do they think we have been doing? I mean, come on, I have just spent the last 7 plus hours in the airport waiting on Delta. So anyway we make a hard left and it seems head for DC to pick up the stranded band of fellow travelers. The pilot comes on the intercom, now what? Prepare to land and pick up our ‘friends’. According to him we will only be on the ground for 15 or 20 minutes. They are not going to worry about assigning seats; just let them sit where they want.

We are at the gate and people are coming on board. They are really happy to see us and I must admit we feel pretty good about helping them out, although we didn’t really get to vote on the decision. Well, 20 minutes have passed and we are not moving. Seems Delta needs to do a couple of things. Get the new passengers luggage on our plane. Get more fuel and file a new flight plan to Atlanta (I hope). Finally we are off, hey, I not complaining, we are number one for takeoff. Anyway, at about 4:30 AM we finally make it to Atlanta.

Got my luggage, board the bus to the Parking Spot. Get in my truck. Wow, it starts with no problem. Things may be looking up. Alternator light is on and the battery gauge shows that the battery is discharging. Well, maybe, just maybe, I can make it home. I hit I-285 and it everything seems OK. I then notice that the battery gauge is dropping kind of fast, faster then I expected. Just as I get to the exit for I-20, the airbag light comes on, I know this indicates that there is not enough current to fire the airbags if I hit something. Not a problem, I don’t plan on hitting anything. Another mile and the Service Engine Soon light comes on, now this could be a problem, but the engine is still running and the lights are still on, haven’t even dimmed any. Another half mile and the dash lights go out, not a problem, except, except, so do all the rest of the lights. OK, it may be getting close to panic time; at least it is time to get off the Interstate. I am about a half mile from the Bankhead highway exit, make it to the ramp, to the top of the ramp, truck is starting to miss, across the highway into a Shell / Store service station parking lot. Pull up under a street light and the truck quits. Good timing at least. It is now around 5:00 AM and I am stuck.

I have one of those portable battery chargers so I get out, raise the hood and hook it up. Maybe I can charge the battery. Maybe not. A guy comes up, says he is a mechanic and asks me what the problem is, is my battery dead? Well, duh, yes it is. Do I need a battery? Well yes, he says that he just happens to have one at his shop. No need for it as I have one on the way. I called Rick when I first saw I wasn’t going to make it. Got him up and he is on his way. So, thanks, but no thanks. Probably doesn’t have a warranty on it anyway.

About the time we get done with out conversation my cell phone rings. It is Rick and he has to go to another Wal-Mart to find a battery. It’s on the way so he won’t be delayed long. So I wait, and another guy comes up offering to sell me a battery. No thanks, I have one on the way. Then three guys pull up in a car, they have a trunk full of batteries, do I need one. No, thanks, got one on the way. Phone rings, its Rick he is at the exit, needs to know exactly where I am. I tell him, the guys with a trunk full of batteries leave. Guess they are going to look for others in need of a battery. I didn’t know that there were so many battery salesmen in Atlanta. It appears that if you really need a battery at 5:00 AM in Atlanta and having a warranty in not a big issue, you can get one.

I change the battery; a NASCAR pit crew could have taken a lesson from me. I want to get home. Truck starts, I pull out and Rick follows me. Make it to the house with no other problems. Back in the garage and shut the motor off. It is now close to 7:30 AM. Hugs and kisses with Wonderful Wife.  Make some coffee, have a couple of cups. Decide to take the alternator off and go get a new one. NAPA tests it, it is bad, well, I kind of knew that. New alternator, new battery, $230 later and the truck is running again. Now, if I can get some rest. It is Thursday and my wife and I are leaving for Colorado on Sunday. Hope Delta is ready when we are. Hope that we don’t have to run by anyplace and pick up fellow travelers (although that was the right thing to do). Hope that the truck is really fixed.

The Adventure Continues . . .