By Kevin Wittner
TUCSON, Ariz. – Any tennis player knows that double booking courts poses a minor hassle. For the USTA Southern Section 6.0 Mixed Doubles team from Knoxville, Tenn., an airline double booking its pilot caused quite the inconvenience.
The team – which consists of the minimum of six players – split into two travel groups en route to Tucson for this weekend’s USTA League 6.0 Adult Mixed Doubles National Championships. The first trio left Knoxville on Thursday morning for a connection in Atlanta. Those plans worked out just fine until they boarded the plane and were told a mechanical failure of radio communications would put the aircraft out of commission for a couple hours. After deboarding, team members Isabelle Snyder, Michael Cole and Brian Sunshine passed the time at the terminal’s watering hole and ended up reaching Tucson just slightly behind schedule.
Snyder, Cole and Sunshine’s teammates were not so lucky.
Misty Cotton says she and teammates Kim Lewis and Hans Kline got to the Knoxville airport bright and early to catch a flight that would put them in Tucson by mid-day in order to practice for the team’s first USTA League National Championship.
Upon arriving at the airport, the group discovered their flight had been delayed – because the flight’s pilot was scheduled to fly two planes at the same time.
Without a crew to man their flight, Cotton, Lewis and Kline waited for a new flight.
Kline, who describes the Knoxville airport as "cute, but all there is to look at is (Tennessee) Vols gear" proudly stated that he flirted his way into getting $8 food vouchers for himself and his stranded teammates.
By 1 p.m. the group arrived in Houston but had already missed their connection to Tucson. With nearly six hours to burn until their next flight, the ladies found an express spa.
"We went to the spa and got massages – I got a manicure," Cotton said.
In fact, Cotton and Lewis even convinced Kline to get a pedicure, complete with a fresh coat of shiny, jet black nail polish for his bruised and discolored "tennis toes."
As if that were not enough, Lewis – the team-described comedian – put in a job application to work at the spa.
Eventually the flight did take off, and 13 hours after having arrived at the Knoxville Airport, the trio joined their three teammates in Tucson. Their reward? An 8 a.m. match earlier today to kick off play at nationals.
Fortunately, the team won the early match, and more importantly, are still friends after the travel debacle.
"It was the perfect group to be stuck in the airport with," Cotton says of her teammates who met just this past summer.
The group hopes to return – on time – to Knoxville on Sunday with a national championship in hand. In the meantime, if you ever find yourself in a Houston airport terminal, keep an eye out for Smith. She is still waiting to hear back about that job interview.