DALLAS — On Monday, Karin Peyregne was in Mobile, Ala., kissing her husband and two young sons goodbye, on her way to a base near Chicago for basic training in the Navy.
Unfortunately, she was flying on American Airlines, and connecting through the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. She joined thousands of other travelers here, and in other cities like Chicago, who were stranded as American canceled more than 3,000 flights through Friday because of maintenance inspections ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration.
Her group has lived off U.S.O.-supplied food and drinks, available to military in the Dallas-Fort Worth airport since Tuesday. They also were given cash from another organization that helps soldiers, and have used meal vouchers from American.
They ran out of clean clothes long ago, since the Navy told them to carry nothing with them because they would be issued military attire. They showered in discount hotel rooms, paid for by the Navy, then donned their only outfits again.
The ordeal, if nothing else, will prepare Ms. Peyregne’s band of stranded recruits for boot camp.
Ms. Peyregne, the oldest of the group, quickly became the den mother. She has kept the group together, moving from hotels to the airport, and she has planned meal times. The airline’s food vouchers are valid only at airport concessions, so “if we want to eat anything, we have to go back to the airport, get a shuttle, go back through security,” she said.
The week’s best meal was at Chili’s, she said — she had chicken strips, French fries and a salad. The worst was a warmed-up frozen pizza.
Ms. Peyregne plans to make a career of the Navy, in airplane maintenance administration. After her Navy training, she said she would be fixing problems like those at American.
"I wish I could straighten them out," she added.
At least our recruits are learning survival skills from somebody. They'll need that training in case they join a competent organization that takes care of its own. Wal-Mart can't keep the hiring freeze on forever. Those greeters are dying every day and we need new meat on the front line.
Look on the bright side. Once they get to Chicago for basic training they'll be born-again hard. The drill instructor'll yell at them, and they'll say, "you can't scare me, I survived the Dallas-Fort Worth Applebee's Death March of '08."