I know I have been writing a great deal about air travel, but there’s a reason for that. After all, there always seems to have been some sort of misadventure involved every time I’ve traveled recently. In fact, one of my friends had a travel mishap the other day and told me that she and her husband said they had a “Nancy” story now. So I’ve now become an adjective for any time something goes wrong with any form of travel.
So let me fill you in on my Thanksgiving adventure. I had opted to travel on the two supposedly not-horrible days of Thanksgiving week – the Tuesday before and the Friday after. And since the originating flight left in the wee hours of the morning, I was hopeful that we might actually get to New York before nightfall – that was my first mistake.
It was only me and my daughter traveling this time, and we woke up Tuesday morning (or late Monday night, depending on your perspective), to a cold, icy rain. I wasn’t too worried, however, since our connecting flight was through Reagan Airport which I knew pretty much had flights every hour on the hour to New York. Even though bad weather was predicted up and down the East Coast, I guess I was still in a fog from the 3 hours of sleep I had managed to sneak in and I had this not-so-logical sense of confidence that all would go well.
We made our way through security without issue, sat at our gate and waited. And waited. Several announcements advised us that they were de-icing the plane, which I agreed was a good thing, so I had no issue with waiting for a plane to have de-iced wings before taking off. We were also told that this wasn’t considered a delay, and we shouldn’t worry about making our connecting flights. I have no idea what the logic is behind that statement, since we certainly were delayed if we weren’t leaving on time, but I am not fluent in airline-speak. But after approximately a half hour, we were told we were now allowed to board the plane. We were also told that since we were in a flying tin can, that all carry-ons were to be left on the jetway since there would barely be enough room for the humans on the plane, let alone anything inanimate.
Since I refuse to pay for a seat in advance, assuming they will not make me stand during the flight, we ended up being seated in the first row of the plane. That was kind of cool and we had a lovely view of our luggage waiting to be stowed under the plane. We sat on the plane for about another half hour and were advised that they were still de-icing. OK, still no problem there. But I was puzzled as to why no one had picked up our luggage yet. I finally asked the flight attendant if she knew what was going on. She told me that since 3 planes were supposed to leave about the same time, they didn’t have enough people to load the luggage. I indicated my surprise at this and asked why in the world they wouldn’t have scheduled a sufficient number of people to do so, considering it was the day before the WORST TRAVEL DAY OF THE YEAR. She looked around and conspiratorially whispered that she was pretty sure that when some of these workers had taken a look at the weather, they might have suddenly come down with some sort of airline illness that would preclude them from working that day.
Finally, after about another half hour, we saw luggage movement, then disappearance, and we finally took off. At about the time we were originally due to arrive in DC. An announcement was made that since we were now officially leaving late, no worries, the airline had already re-booked all of us on later connecting flights. So I agreed I shouldn’t worry. (Please control your laughter.)
We arrived in DC, went to customer service, and we were told that the next flight after the one we had just missed was full, so we’d be on the noon flight. That didn’t sound too bad – that would still get us to New York by early afternoon, with plenty of time to relax – or pass out from exhaustion – and still have an enjoyable day visiting with family. Reagan is a lovely airport, and we grabbed some sustenance so neither of us would pass out, having not eaten anything up to that point, and parked ourselves by the gate to wait.
At 11:30, an unwelcome, nagging thought popped into my brain – Shouldn’t we be getting ready to board already? But the screen behind the gate agent still said our flight was scheduled to leave on time, so I attempted to kick that pesky thought out of my head. Until I looked at the screen again and it said our flight was cancelled. Instinct propelled me to fly out of my seat and race up to the gate – the same thing happened to several other people and we swarmed the agent, asking what happened. At first, the agent denied that our flight had been cancelled, because of course, why notify her? And the display had magically changed to another flight leaving from that gate which was on time. Then she got the call and subsequently made the announcement that I had been dreading – yes, the flight was cancelled (due to a broken plane) and we should all go to customer service and get rescheduled. Which we all did like a bunch of lemmings. Or more accurately, a herd of cattle in a stampede. While on line, all of our cell phones began ringing and buzzing simultaneously to advise us that our flight had been cancelled. The poor souls who hadn’t seen the display and had to discover the news by phone ended up at the tail end of what appeared to be an endless sea of humanity. And only one person was working the desk, in spite of the fact that there was a second seat awaiting an eager co-worker – I guess no one volunteered.
I was 4th in line and the customer service rep was obviously in no mood for chitchat. I was brusquely informed that all flights were sold out until 4 o’clock and that was the earliest flight she could get us on – this was in spite of my desperate begging and pleading to get us out of there earlier.
Looking out the window, the possibility loomed that we might not be leaving at all that day, as the air had pretty much turned to pea soup. I knew we’d be lucky to get out of there by Thanksgiving since the next day was the WORST TRAVEL DAY OF THE YEAR, awful weather was being predicted, and most likely every seat on every plane was full. I had a vision of myself as Tom Hanks in “The Terminal,” begging for help, but never being able to leave. As I mentioned earlier, I was trying to remain lucid after 3 hours of sleep, but I was quickly losing that battle.
Anyway, after 6 hours in the airport, it was finally announced that they were boarding our flight. And I discovered from a fellow passenger that he and his family had been scheduled for the 3 o’clock flight but that flight had also been cancelled due to a broken plane. What was with the broken planes, anyway – don’t they ever check these things? But, I ended up realizing that I should be grateful we hadn’t been booked on that earlier flight, since at that point, one more incident might have caused me to crack. I had put up a good facade, but seriously, one more glitch might have caused the whole thing to crumble.
So I did find something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Even in the bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic we had to deal with once we landed in New York. Bringing our door-to-door travel time to 13 hours. And yet, still grateful.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved