I left my house knowing that my flight was 25min late. Ok, no problem, I have a 3 or 4 h wait when I get to Toronto, plenty of time. When I arrived at the airport, there was a long line of people waiting to be rebooked for the Toronto flight. It had been delayed again, this time until approx 1:30pm. I was going to miss my connection for Tampa, and there weren't any other flights for the rest of the day. I ended up getting rebooked on a flight to Orlando instead. I tracked my Dad down to see if he could drive me from Orlando to Tampa.
My flight was then delayed even further. It turned out to be mechanical difficulties, combined with waiting on the tarmac in Toronto for 1h20min for fuel. If I missed my meeting, there was no point in even going to Florida at all - my options were best left to either staying home or flying straight to SoCal on vacation. Problem was, work paid for my whole ticket. It was cheaper for them to pay for my vacation leg of the flight than to fly me to Tampa and back. If I missed the work portion of the flight, I couldn't justify to my boss having him pay for my vacation flight. I had to find out if my ticket was refundable. Normally it wouldn't have been, but because the issues were mechanical, they would have refunded the whole ticket. Great for work, but no vacation for me.
A last-ditch effort by the Air Canada agent had me rebooked on a routing through Toronto then Chicago and down to Tampa on another airline. Ok, great, I'll make it to the meeting after all. I got to Toronto and had an hour and a quarter to check in at the United desk, getting boarding passes for substitute flights, and then clear customs. Waiting through the United line wasn't going so well, so I cut over into the first class line and explained that I just needed my boarding pass, here are my vouchers. I got those, and then ran for baggage claim. I waited a ridiculous amount of time for my bag (it came onto the belt about 30min after I got off my flight) and ran to the customs line. The customs agent let me through, and I ran for security. Little did I know that I was "randomly selected" for extra security search. Random my ass - all 3 of us who skipped into the first class line got dinged for extra security. I got through that as fast as I could, ran for my gate (I still have a broken toe, as you recall) and made it just as the last few people were boarding. I got on the plane, we pulled away from the gate, and I thought it was ok... until the captain came on and said that we missed our scheduled departure time and now had to wait on the tarmac until we got another gate or were allowed a new departure time. At least an hour. I wanted off that plane - if I wasn't going to make my connection in Chicago, I wanted to get back on Air Canada and fly straight to Tampa.
We ended up being stuck on the plane on the tarmac for an hour or so, and then left for Chicago. By now I knew I would be missing my connection in Chicago to Tampa, and was really upset about the prospect of having to stay overnight in Chicago where I don't know where to go. I landed in Chicago, and good luck finally struck. My Tampa flight was also delayed, due to weather. I ran for that gate and was able to board.
By this point, I was thoroughly convinced that there was no way my luggage would manage to follow my crazy flight and plane changes. I thought I'd arrive in Tampa but have nothing clean to wear. I landed in Tampa just after midnight Eastern, and seeing that pink bag on the belt made me thank God out loud that my bag had made it. We made it to Tampa.
The rest of my trip was, thankfully, uneventful. I flew from Tampa to SoCal without issue, and am now on my way back home.
This trip reconfirmed some things for me. I prefer flying through Montreal. Dash 8 planes seem to have fewer issues and can fly in bad weather better than the CRJs they use for Toronto. Also, my brother lives in Montreal, so if I get stuck due to weather, I have a place to stay.
I jinxed myself. The flight attendant just asked if there was a doctor on board. Didn't end up being anything serious. Now I'm in Chicago and my next flight is delayed due to high winds. Go winter travel.