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OLO Octennialist + The Trip There

OLO stands for Ohio Light Opera in my case. I first came here 16 years ago. Since then I've managed to find my way back every eight years.

This year I'm back in my preferred pit seat, concertmaster.

Playing pit is like a private combination of musical groups. I say private because the audience doesn't see you.

It's like an orchestra in that there's a conductor.

It's like a chamber group in that it's small and close together.

It's like a solo/accompanied experience as there's often only one to a part.

I like playing in all of the above, but what sets pit apart for me is the more intense adrenaline. When you add live theater, things happen.

People forget cues or lines.

Props malfunction or don't move on/off stage fast enough.

People miss entrances to the stage altogether.

Being able to adjust at a seconds notice at any given moment during a 2-3 hour production is intense. But I thrive on that. Working together, unseen, to make a show stay together and seem as natural as possible when things go awry (and when the don't) is truly exciting and rewarding.

Yes, I love performing in big orchestras under the hot stage lights to sold out crowds.

Yes, I love performing on cruise ships in chamber groups to people I know by name.

Yes, I love performing in grand stadiums and casinos as backup to big name tours.

But none of those are the same as concertmaster in a pit.

I'm so glad I was able to make it up from Guadalajara to Wooster Ohio! It was a long trip.

And here's the story:

I had taken my car to a final mechanic to get rid of a couple scary noises before heading north. The mechanic called me and said my car was ready. I went to pick it up. Started it. No noises. Terrific. Paid and left.

I'm not sure what trick mechanics in Mexico use to succeed at this time and time again, but I'm catching on to the fact that they are doing it. Because half way home the noises came back at twice the force. The noise is so loud now it's scary to drive the car.

After numerous mechanics, each time "fixing" my car, hundreds of dollars wasted, countless hours going to and from and researching for mechanics, and having their shops break and steal things from my car, I'm hopeless, meaning I have no hope left.

Unfortunately, with the noises even worse than before, there was no way I could drive to Ohio in my car. I had to book a last minute flight.

Denny Crane has been so well trained to not go to the bathroom inside that he won't even use a relief station in an airport. Which means, connecting flight trips can be difficult because of the length of time spent traveling.

But I found a connecting flight through Houston that would put me at around 9 or 10 hours for the whole travel day. I knew Denny Crane would be okay from all the car trips we've taken together so I booked it.

The departure day came. Guadalajara has a very tiny airport. There is one security line that (after numerous hours watching it) never has more than 6 people waiting in line to enter. The scanner lanes are always open and I've never waited behind anyone to go through. There are only 29 gates, half of which are all through the same jetway, so you exit security and there's less than a 5 minute walk to the furthest gate. There's not even a restaurant to sit down in past security as the airport is so small.

I purchased business class tickets so I knew there would be no line to check in and no line to board and hopefully no issues with bringing the violin on board.

Showed up at the airport 45 minutes early.

There was no one at the check in counter.

Remember, I might need 15 minutes for everything. Even walking from one end of the airport to the other is less than 5 minutes.

I finally found the United offices and they informed me that they close check in 90 minutes prior to flights. I pulled up all my emails they'd sent and asked if they could show me that info. Nope. Wasn't there. It was just a local "law" they decided to dream up. It's also not on their website.

No matter, I was there with my business class tickets and still plenty of time to get on the flight so I asked if I could check in from the office.

They said that was impossible. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I still had oodles of time to check in, go to the bathroom, and sit around waiting for my flight. Why wouldn't they let me have my ticket?

They refused and told me they could transfer my ticket to the next day, same time. I needed to double check that it would be possible, so I said I'd be right back and stepped out to call my parents at the final destination and let them know to turn around and start the journey back home (they live hours from the airport and had already left). While I was on the phone, the office staff trapsed past me. I figured they were going to go finish closing the flight and return.

That was not the case. At 3:00pm, they closed the office for the day.

Now I had no flight and no tickets. Bad day.

So, I went to the sit down in the restaurant outside security to call the United help line. I waited on hold off and on for 2 and a half hours before the girl told me I'd be charged another $400 to change my tickets. I said no. She said I'd been marked as a no show in the system. I explained (again) and said I was still at the airport but the office staff had locked the door in my face basically. She said there was nothing else she could do so I requested to speak with someone higher up.

I waited another half hour for someone higher up the chain to connect. I explained the whole thing over again. This guy was great and started right in on transferring my tickets to the following day, free of charge.

Then the call dropped.

Brother Murphy was certainly have a hay day with me that day.

So I called the 800 number back and started the whole process over again.

The third person I talked to listened to the tale and changed my tickets over without any hassle whatsoever. I finally had the exact same tickets for the following day, no extra charge.

Now it was time to finally go back home.

Poor Denny Crane. The suitcases had all come out, been packed, loaded in the car, and him in his bookbag. Now he was stressed and confused as we went back home with everything but I unpacked nothing.

The next morning I was pleasantly surprised when he did his no.2 business because when's he's stressed he prefers to wait it out. But that eased my stress and right before we left for the airport (this time with 2 hours to spare), he did his no.1. I was feeling good!

We got to the airport and I was at the check in counter before the 90 minutes was up. Denny Crane hadn't been added to the "new" tickets, but the staff (different from the office staff the day before), were very helpful and added him with no issues. I was checked in in 5 minutes. I now had 75 minutes to sit and wait so I returned to the same restaurant outside security for an hour.

When my app told me the flight was boarding, I paid my bill, walked to security entrance (which had 4 people in front of me), walked through the scanners (in Mexico you don't have to take out your electronics or take off your shoes so it's extremely efficient), and was at my gate in 5 minutes. I stood in line to board for another 5 and then walked onto the plane where I sat and waited for another 10 before they closed boarding.

The lines moved so fast I was scrambling to get through. Barely had time to snap one photo. And no, I didn't wait for the line to advance. There was no one there when I got there.

Why couldn't the staff have let me have that easy of an experience the day before without the added restaurant bill for the privilege to sit for three hours?

At least I was in business class for this flight so the seats for bigger and comfy and Denny Crane laid down on my lap and off we went.

... for about an hour.

After an hour into the 2 and a half hour flight, Denny Crane started squirming. That is not a good sign. He typically doesn't squirm unless there's something wrong. And he'd gone no.1 and no.2 this morning so I was confused.

As he squirmed around, my nose told me something was off. I picked him up and noticed a liquid brown stain on my jeans. Uh oh.

I also started noticing he kept trying to lift his tail. Ok, I'll hold him with his tail closed. That worked for about 3 minutes before he started to whine.

I was starting to panic.

The idea finally came to me and I excused myself across the person in the aisle to go to the bathroom with Denny Crane. The poor puppy was sick from stress and couldn't hold it in anymore. He exploded on the airplane bathroom floor. It wasn't very much since he's a small dog, but I can now say I've cleaned an airplane bathroom. (And I don't recommend doing it).

Denny Crane had walked and drug his tail through it all so I had to give him the best underside "bath" I could and dry him off with paper towels.

Luckily there was no one waiting in line for the business class bathroom.

I returned to my seat, nervously.

Denny Crane settled down and I didn't move for the next hour and a half so as not to disturb him and possibly cause another incident.

This was also knowing that I had another connecting flight to catch.

The first flight landed and I apologetically got Denny Crane back up and into his bookbag and off we went to customs. They didn't have my special line open so I had to wait with everybody else which took longer and was annoying and more concerning with Denny Crane. It wasn't too bad though, and after about 20 minutes we went off to agriculture. I was told to sit and wait for a person to come get me. After about 5 minutes, an officer said the woman was busy and to follow him to get my luggage and return to agriculture, so I got Denny Crane on my back and went off to get my suitcases. They were both fast off the belt and I was back in agriculture in less than 10 minutes.

After another 5 minute wait I was told to just go ahead and leave through a different door and follow the signs.

We went through to another security scanning area, special for agriculture.

I put the two suitcases up on the conveyor belt along with my violin, and asked if they wanted me to take Denny Crane out of the bookbag.

Nope, they didn't need him out. Ok, did they want to scan the bookbag somehow? Nope, that neither.

Fine. I didn't ask anymore and I just went to pick up my suitcases and violin.

When I got to the other side of the machines, the guy met me there with the box of snacks from the previous plane trip. With all the problems on the flight, I hadn't even had the chance to open it so had just walked off the plane with it. It was even still shrink wrapped and had United printed all over it.

The guy was really suspicious of it though. He read through all the things listed on the box and asked me where I'd got the box. He called someone else over to look at it. I was in disbelief. It was literally the only thing in my possession that hadn't come from Mexico and the only thing they cared about. Unbelievable.

After some deliberation, they finally (albeit reluctantly) handed me back my snack box and let me go. They never once looked at Denny Crane (the reason I was in agriculture in the first place) nor the backpack he was in.

Now I had to walk to regular security outside of agriculture. I could feel Denny Crane getting fidgety again so I was trying to hurry so I could get to the pet relief station on the other side of security. There aren't any before it.

I got to the weaving lines which didn't last very long, but now Denny Crane was trying to stand up and sit back down in the bookbag so I was feeling stressed.

Since I was now in the US, I had to take out all my electronics and take off my shoes for the scanners. Because of Denny Crane they wanted me to go through the flight crew line with the different xray machine. Boy, the flight crew behind me were not happy as I took so much extra time getting my hiking boots off, and Denny Crane out of the bag, and my electronics, etc.

I finally got through the machine with a quivering Denny Crane in my arms. His tail was pushing hard to lift again and I knew I need to move it. Unfortunately, even though I told the security guard my dog needed to go to the bathroom, he didn't care and physically blocked me from moving an inch past the edge of the machine while he waited for someone to bring a paper to test my hands and then wait for the results.

It was too long.

By the time I reached the bookbag at the very end of the conveyor belt, Denny Crane exploded all over the inside of the bookbag and its contents. I stepped into my hiking shoes without bothering to tie them and literally jogged off to the nearest relief station.

I spent about an hour washing Denny Crane, me, the bag, and its contents. Denny Crane was shaking with cold and I didn't have a towel for him and couldn't get him dry enough with just paper towels. I felt horrible.

My next flight wasn't boarding until 7:20, so I had time to get through the Houston airport. It was only 6:30. I rechecked the gate on the flight monitor and noticed it had a second time displayed under the 7:20 time that said crew repositioning.

I didn't think much about it as I hopped on the train to ride the two terminals over to my destination.

My gate destination was at the very end of the terminal. When I arrived, I checked the giant monitor at the multi-gate waiting area and the 7:20 had been removed.

The new boarding time now stated 9:55!!

What was I going to do?

I had a sick dog, who was cold. I was cold. I was hungry. And I still had another flight to get through.

An important fact not previously mentioned is that when I landed, I had no cell phone service. I had data service, but couldn't call anyone, including my mom who had driven hours to come get me.

I finally got smart and remembered I could use a VOIP app to call out so I was able to get in contact with my mom to let her know what was going on. It had been so emotionally stressful getting to that point and then thinking of what was to come, that I just sat on the floor in the corner of the airport and cried.

When I got back up to go look for some food, the cheapest cold sandwich in a refrigerated display case in the furthest corner of the terminal was $15. I turned it down.

I returned to check the status of the flight and ask one of the gate agents if there was another flight option.

Really bad news:

  1. The flight was delayed yet another hour until 10:55

  2. There were no more flights leaving to my destination that day.

I called my mom back to let her know and tried to figure out if I should get a hotel (knowing I had no dog food, it was Memorial Day so everything was already closed within walking distance, I had no transport).

While my mom was booking her own place for the night I was researching if there were other direct flights the next day, just in case. Turns out the next direct flight wasn't until 4:20 the following afternoon!!

So I stayed at the airport. I cuddled Denny Crane as he shivered and we tried to help warm each other. He finally drank a little water so I knew he was on the mend. I still felt beyond horrible knowing he was going to hold no.1 until we got to our destination hours later.

About an hour before boarding I checked again with the gate agent to see if anything was updated and she seemed confident that the flight would leave as (newly) scheduled.

The one silver (maybe more like tarnished silver) lining is that when I asked her for a seat upgrade (I was supposed to be in the very back of the plane), she upgraded me to the bulkhead right behind business class. Thanks to Denny Crane of course :)

The flight was so delayed the airport had closed by the time we got to board. There was only one person there trying shout announcements as she had no loud speaker. There was no one to set up official lines so everyone was in a big jostling group. Denny Crane was exhausted. I was exhausted. But we were getting on the flight.

It was a very tiny puddle jumper plane that the lady was asking everyone to gate check their roller bags. I was really worried about my violin. When I got to the plane I asked for a closet and was told the plane was too small. It didn't have a closet. Luckily, because I was seated so close to first class, there was space in the overhead for my violin and I was able to put Denny Crane's book bag under the seat. There was so much leg room where I sat I couldn't even touch the dividing wall in front of me.

The flight took longer than planned, but Denny Crane slept through it. We landed around 12:30 the following morning to collect our bags (yes, the bags made it!) and go to the hotel.

It was a short night and a very long next day. But Denny Crane was fine and happy to have reached our destination as was I.

A couple of days later, after loads of laundry and repacking, I headed off to Wooster, OH where I'm playing my days away :)

(The drive to Wooster started out beautifully, but ended in torrential downpour for over half the day. I was so relieved to see blue clear skies ahead after the hours of darkness and rain.)


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