The small blessings of 'unsung heroes'

Altorfer_bioJust this past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting friends Amanda and Gabe in Denver and Boulder, respectively. I was excited about the short three-day vacation because I was able to use frequent flier miles to nab a free plane ticket and I had not previously visited these friends on their “home turf.” Highlights of the weekend included hitting restaurants and night spots Tambien in Denver, Jax Fish House and The Corner Bar in Boulder and seeing the Flat Irons and foothills… even if one of my companions refused to drive all the way up the side of the mountain (you know who you are). I shouldn’t have been, but was, surprised that everyone – EVERYONE – is fit and in shape in both cities. It must be the mountain air.

My journey back to Iowa began around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday. Everything was running smoothly until I hit the airline equivalent of the Bermuda triangle: Chicago’s O’Hare airport. My flight landed on time in Chicago and I was in high spirits to arrive home around 3:30 p.m. Four scrubbed flights later, I was still in O’Hare due to mega-fog covering the Cedar Rapids area. Add to that a suspected case of food poisoning and some mild exhaustion, and you’ll understand that I wasn’t in the best of moods. And when the airline folks informed me that the first available flight to Cedar Rapids was not until 2:57 p.m. on Monday, I knew that finding a rental car and driving from O’Hare to Cedar Rapids was now on my itinerary for Monday morning. *Groan*

Despite all the hassle, complaining, and feeling sorry for myself, I was able to discern something positive in the wayward journeys home. Although they will likely never read this, I would like to thank some “unsung heroes” who made my “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” fiasco both survive-able and memorable.

  • The United Airlines ticket woman. Your colleague inadvertently printed off two free ticket vouchers when I volunteered to give up my seat on the Sunday 3:00 p.m. flight to Cedar Rapids because of fuel and weight restrictions. Instead of throwing away one of the free voucher tickets, you gave me both. Probably against the guidelines, but your generosity was remarkable. (Also note: my actions were not completely unselfish in giving up my seat in that they were going to remove the lowest fare passengers and not give them any flight credit and I was pretty sure my name was on that list…flying on frequent flier miles and all). Score: 2 free tickets.
  • The United Airlines ticket man. After I agreed (again, not unselfishly) to give up my seat on the 7:00 p.m. flight, you gave me yet another free ticket. I’m sure that somewhere in the United Airlines handbook, it is illegal to give someone multiple free tickets in one day. But thank you regardless. Re the selfish nature of giving up my seat: I knew that previous flights had flown to Cedar Rapids, only to be directed back to Chicago O’Hare because it was too foggy to land. I did not want to be on such a flight, thus popped out of my seat when given the chance to deplane for free miles.
  • Fast-forward to Monday morning following a fairly sleepless night at the airport Hilton, with food poisoning in full effect (Hilton is not the suspected culprit). By 9:00 a.m. on Monday morning, I had tried to rent a car from three different national carriers, only to be told that they do not rent one-way trips and/or service Iowa. Enter Hertz. I will never, ever rent a car from another company again. The Hertz employees’ service was impeccable. I think they could tell that I was on my last leg. Special thanks to Roosevelt the Shuttle Driver and Mary Anne the Counter Woman, both at Chicago O’Hare. Your directions, patience, and caring made my day. Everyone I meet will know about you and your company.

My journey back to Cedar Rapids finally ended around 2:00 p.m. on Monday – a full 30 hours since I left Denver. I was overjoyed to be home, and in hindsight,  eternally grateful to these “unsung heroes” I encountered along the way.

I want to know: who are your “unsung heroes.” Of course, bonus points if they have a Mount Mercy connection. Shoot me your ideas at

Safe travels meantime…