William Breathes's DIA hell night: How not to travel home in a thunderstorm

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More photos below.
Traveling is always a learning experience. Sometimes you learn things when you get where you're going, and other times the journey itself was the lesson. And sometimes that lesson is a real fucking pain in the ass.

Take last night, for example, when I learned more about DIA than I have since 1995, when it opened.

Let's start with this factoid:

Did you know that if there is lightning around DIA, the powers-that-be will not let you off the plane? Well, they won't. Not even if you've already been sitting in that tube for two-plus hours before taking off in Washington because the pilots got turned around right before takeoff for "re-routing" -- after which you sat through a 45-minute diversion and then a half-hour more of circling Colorado Springs before enough of a window opened up in the sky to get the plane on the runway at DIA.

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Apparently, pulling out the sky bridges to the planes is too dangerous for the person who gets to drive it up to the side of the plane. And even when you do get off the plane, your bags aren't going anywhere. The same lightning rule applies to baggage handlers, who are all ordered inside until the lightning passes. It's kind of like being at the pool during a summer thunderstorm, minus the coconut-oil smell and the pool.

Another lesson: You can't count on the kindness of anyone at DIA, even when things are falling apart around them.

After finally getting off the plane and making our way to the baggage claim (checked bags and car seats are just a fact of life with children), I left my wife in order to get the car and bring it around to short-term parking on the east side while she collected the bags. I didn't know about the lightning rule with luggage at this point -- so after getting pelted with marble-sized drops of rain and watching a most-epic lightning storm unfold on the horizon to the west and east of me, I paid the usually obscene parking bill and made my way back around to the terminal to park.

But short-term parking was closed -- and not because it was full. No, it was closed because a power surge had knocked the ticket-dispensing arm out of order. The guy standing there blocking traffic told me he couldn't let me in because there was no way I could get a ticket. When I suggested he be a nice guy and manually open the gates to allow for people to make their way inside to wait on the delayed flights and baggage, he looked at me like I had two heads, then told me to go to the west side.

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Over there, an even more surly guard was standing duty at the gate not letting anyone in because the lot was apparently full. It wasn't: There were at least three spots I could see. But when I pointed it out to the guy, the jackass wouldn't hear it, waving my middle finger and me along.

I ended up flipping back through a third time and parking in the garage, where I learned yet another helpful DIA tip: Short-term parking isn't the only place that charges you by the hour. You can park anywhere in the garages and pay the $3-per-hour rate if you need to run in and pick people up.

Which for us meant a $6 parking charge, as it took at least an hour for the bags to make it off the plane. But even then, the fuckups weren't over. Despite being told by multiple people (and video screens) that pick-up was at carousel 5, an entire planeload of people stood around like assholes while their bags circled carousel 7 for at least ten minutes.

In total, I wasted a little over two hours of my life that I'll never get back before making it home and putting a still-crying child to bed. But at least I learned something.

More from our News archive: "Inside Initiative 75: Right to local self-government -- and to say no to fracking" and "Gordon Moench's apparent suicide-by-cop bid: Update on ambush, injured officers."

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32 comments
Buck Bartolik
Buck Bartolik

I know, right William Breathless?!?! It's insane that they won't let those puny little people who don't really matter go out on their metal tractors attached to the metal bag carts, and drive up to the freaking enormous metal airplanes IN A GODDAMNED ELECTRICAL STORM THAT'S LIGHTING UP THE ENTIRE FRICKING SKY and get your faulty condom result's car seat! Don't they know who you ARE?!?! (For future reference, going up to the first airline employee you see and asking them that will get you the kind of service you truly deserve. Trust me.)

Tina Degroot
Tina Degroot

Cool pic of storm and of course the scary horse lol

roberta.hilligoss
roberta.hilligoss

You sound like a pain in the ass.  Would you rather DIA let the lightning hit you, your wife and child killing both?  Be thankful that the airports have measures in place to take care of their customers.  Grow up! 

Carol Jones Companioni
Carol Jones Companioni

Btw did up get home safely? Nuff said..shut ur pie hole Walk a eight hour shift my shoes at DIA during one of these storms. Get a grip

Erin Mcc
Erin Mcc

Whine, whine, whine. Dumb article.

Courtney Washburn
Courtney Washburn

Delayed over night and without his precious marijuana, Tamara! Next thing you know he will be writing puff pieces for the Westword kissing the ass of every shitty chef in Denver for free food. Shut the fuck up and remember there is some nice person out there not complaining that they had to put up with your screaming ankle biter while they suffered through the same delays. Psssh.

Dawn Lopez
Dawn Lopez

I drove past it 5 times circling the airport because, sitting at the passenger pick up at the gate is a violation of homeland security. Land of the FREE!

Joseph Christopher
Joseph Christopher

He sounds angry. Bitter. Inpatient. And like a pussy. Poor you. Life is so hard.

Tamara Munroe
Tamara Munroe

That's a lot of whining for two hours! I'd hate to see what the article would look like if you'd gotten delayed over night haha

Robert Sette
Robert Sette

No airport will allow workers on the ramp when lightning is in the area. Your car seat isn't worth someone's life, you moron.

Vanessa Roberts
Vanessa Roberts

Boo hoo... I've heard way worse stories, get over yourself. Lol

Rodney Valdez
Rodney Valdez

And I wasted two minutes of my life reading about an entitled a-hole crying about weather issues at the airport.

meanstreetsofsouthdenver
meanstreetsofsouthdenver

hey do you have twins? I believe my wife and I sat in front of you. I noticed your wife handling the kids by herself in the baggage area--I joked w/ my wife that you were a dog for abandoning her...now I understand why...they were actually asleep most of the time you were gone.


If that was you.


I hope you guys fired up a bowl or three when you got the kids to bed; you earned it...

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

Sounds like Bongsucker Billy was suffering from SWS -- Stoner Withdrawal Syndrome.


Next time, call for a Whaaaaaaambulance, you puerile self-centered whiner.



GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

...but funny comments...thanks for posting Eric!

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

Your criticism may not be unwarranted, but the article exemplifies what the incompetence of the Airport's administration means for travelers.  Department of Aviation Manager Kim Day operates what is supposed to be a division of Denver municipal government like a private fief, flying her minions around the world in business class for triple what economy costs; she is ultimately responsible for the ineptitude and misfeasance Breathes describes.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

So in this case, the incompetence extends upwards to the FAA.  Lightning at an airport poses no more risk to someone in a Faraday cage than it does on the highway -- when was the last time you read of someone being struck by lightning while in a car?

GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

@RobertChase  Why do you continue to expect perfection in an unperfect world ran by unperfect people?  Sure they could improve but they are doing an adequate job and are successful at running an international airport whether or not you want to admit it.

mstnly
mstnly

@RobertChase I know of at least 2 planes that have been struck by lightning this year, one in San Francisco and one in Kansas City. It is a very real risk for anyone who is outside of those planes to come into contact with enough electricity to fry their little hearts. So, no, I would wager that is *caution*, not incompetence.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@DonkeyHotay  I understand that they are allowing black people on planes now.  Do you suppose that a black man would not speak up to complain about his mistreatment?

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@mstnly  Planes are struck by lightning frequently in the air, but because the body of the plane is a closed, conductive surface, the electricity stays outside.  The same applies to jet bridges, which are designed for the express purpose of providing all-weather access to planes.  Halting boarding and disembarkation just because there is lightning around makes no sense.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

@RobertChase ... you hear many black people complaining about a few hours of weather delaying their cross-country travel in a jet aircraft that flies 590 mph -- enabling travel from coast to coast in a few HOURS instead of many DAYS riding in the back of the bus, or weeks in a covered wagon pulled by mules?


GuestWho
GuestWho topcommenter

@RobertChase   Jet fuel is explosive and can be ignited by lightning...doesn't matter if the plane is on the ground or in the air.  Do some research and you'll see that lightning strikes have caused airplanes to crash or explode which is why they have these policies.  Modern airplanes have been designed to resist and withstand lightning strikes but the technology should not be relied upon as the only failsafe...like air bags in cars.  Better safe than sorry and avoid lightning/planes/people combinations.

RobertChase
RobertChase topcommenter

@GuestWho  Gauss' law implies that there is no electric field inside a closed, conductive surface (which is known as a "Faraday cage"); this is why being inside an automobile during a thunderstorm is relatively safe.  You cannot point to any data indicating that disembarking passengers during a thunderstorm is any more dangerous than leaving them aboard the plane, because there isn't any.  You also seem to have lost track of the context of my remarks -- the article -- in which Breathes indicates that passengers were held aboard their plane until the storm subsided; the choice in this circumstance was between leaving the passengers on the plane, or conducting them through a jet -bridge, designed to provide all-weather access to planes.  You aren't making much sense.

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