...getting home was by no means a guaranteed deal.
Everyone boarded, we pulled away from the gate and...stopped. Five minutes later, the captain comes on the intercom:
"We seem to have a bit of a mechanical issue. We're going to be pulling back to the gate to let the mechanics check things out. We'll update you when we know something."
The "mechanical issue" turned out to be the right side engine refusing to turn over; better to discover that on the ground, than have it quit in mid-air.
Southwest Airlines deserves a lot of praise for their handling of this situation. Within ten minutes of being pushed back to the gate, the mechanics made the decision to pull the plane out of service. We were to deplane, then hang out in the boarding area while they looked for another plane to carry us to Milwaukee.
Within fifteen minutes of our exit, the gate attendant announced that another plane had been located, would arrive in twenty minutes, and as soon as the passengers on that plane disembarked, we would load and go. We had to change gates - to the one next door, which actually shared seating with the gate at which we started.
The longest part of the whole process was waiting for the new plane to empty.
In the end, we got to Milwaukee only an hour and a half after our originally scheduled arrival time. Pretty darn good.
Kudos to the employees of the airline, from the gate crew down to the mechanics and everyone in between. They had protocols to follow for this scenario, made decisions quickly and most importantly, kept the passengers informed at every step.
The only sour point in the whole process came courtesy of my seat mate. As one does, I casually asked him if he was on his way home.
"Hell no - I'd never live there," was the response, delivered forcefully and in a tone that made it very, very clear the mere thought that he would live in Milwaukee was a deadly insult. Yet it's apparently perfectly fine to do business in Wisconsin.
Hmpf. Elitist, rude East Coaster. You live in Baltimore and you are insulting Milwaukee?
So - home. Good conference. Still tired, though. Lots of walking, too much sitting. Grateful it's almost the weekend.