I’ve said it before: when I travel I pretend I’m on holiday, even if on business. So while on an actual holiday, I don’t worry about the weather, scheduling snafus, random changes in scheduling, etc. I happily walk through airports looking for the most interesting situation I can find, and then enjoy the encounter. I’ve dined with a group of NFL refs, had dinner with old men, maneuvered security with the non-practiced, and wheeled an old lady about the terminal until she realized I didn’t work for the airlines (if you walk quickly, smile, and “act like you belong” *thanks Mom* people confuse you for all sorts of things). I’ve been upgraded because I did something nice. I’ve found people I know in foreign countries. Recognized former college athletes by their championship rings. You get the picture.
I began traveling last Monday, prior to Christmas. Each year I head home to the family, and each year I encounter some traveling “difficulties” on the way there. I counted my blessings as I got on my 6:00 am flight and had the extra leg-room row all to myself. I was safe and warm in my parent’s Cape Cod house by 12:00 noon as the winds and snow picked up. Phew, a lucky bird am I!
Traveling back to Tampa was not to be as easy, as I was due to fly in the North East’s blizzard. By all weather forecasts I was “supposed” to be able to fly. Things would be clear in time for my 8:30 pm flight last night. As flights for the next few days were taken by disgruntled bumped passengers I decided to just gamble with my prearranged flight. If lucky, all would be well. If I lost…I could be stranded for days.
Off Cape without difficulties. Feeling like a lucky bird as we pulled into the airport. Into the terminal to stand in line with 250 of my (overly complaining) friends. Two men cut in front of me (wickedly!!) and then looked at me as if they hadn’t seen my petite frame there at all. I smiled. Luggage was left and taken away by the bomb squad, which went unnoticed by most in the terminal. My flight was cancelled. An internet search showed I could not book until Friday at 6:00 pm. I debated getting out of line; I really had to go to the loo and was still 50th in line. Nah, good “training”. When I got to the front of the line another disgruntled man cut in front of me saying he was in a hurry. I pretended he was headed off to war, to save the country (he was headed to Cancun), and let him go. I had decided I was just going to stay at the airport for the four days. It would be an adventure, I thought. Surely I could not afford the time at the airport hotel. Surely it would be fun. Heck, Mom sent me off with a mixture of dried fruit and nuts…I could be sustained for days on that stuff. It, too, would be good training. For something.
When I got to the agent I calmly asked him if he would like me to stick him in the eye with a sharp stick, and he calmly answered that the stick would be preferable to the day he was having. He said it would be Friday before I could get out. I said I knew that, and he started booking the flight. A call came in, he was delayed. I smiled, still thinking about that sharp stick. When he got off the phone he told me that there was a plane sitting at the airport and they were going to send it to Orlando; did I want in? Instead of my late night flight I would be leaving and arriving in Florida three hours earlier. I could have a seat with extra leg room. In the front. I took it, and happily skipped off to the ladies room (well, not so much skipped as I would have wet my pants, but believe you me, I was skipping in my mind!).
I jauntily walked (skipping doesn’t go over well on slick aiport floors, not that I would know that…) into Legal Seafood, scanned the bar crowd, changed seats a few times when the people around me didn’t look interesting, and settled down at the end.
Gary was home from Iraq; he too had an easy flight home (it took less than three days). He had visited with his family in Quincy (his Mom was real glad to see him!). His fiance had dumped him a couple of years ago while he was deployed on his first tour (he asked me never to do that while my love was away doing something important). Although he had gone through the ritual of placing her photograph on a wall with the other’s lovers who had done much the same, shooting it, “putting it to rest” and moving on he still had a tough time going back to the neighborhood. He had, however, been thankful for his time with his family and was truly a “lucky bird”. Those perched on barstools in our little corner ate clam chowder while discussing politics, religion, and lost loves; all the stuff that makes for conversations that could go on for days (and well, they might just have that long). Gary would get particularly irritated when some loud mouthed traveller would go on and on about the unfairness of not being able to get to their vacation destination. Gary was indeed looking at a long trip back to Iraq. He had slept in the airport the prior night, thankful for the cot they had provided in the well heated airport. It really wasn’t so bad…good training, he said. And a few of these travelers could use some of that, we noted. We were, he noted, all quite lucky not be sleeping on the ground, surrounded by people who weren’t trying to kill us, connected to the outside world with our phones and computers, and eating and drinking up a storm. (He also noted that I was indeed the luckiest and should go off and buy a lottery ticked before the day ended.)
My plane was a popsicle, the pilot said. It had been sitting out in the weather for a couple of days and the wings of the bird were covered with ice. The de-icing and anti-icing would delay us an hour because he did not fly popsicles. I slept in my extra leg room seat while the plane was hosed down. The flight took off without fanfare. I arrived in Orlando to a friend’s smiling face and was home in bed by 12:00 midnight.
I am indeed a lucky bird. Blessed. What a great way to end a holiday, a year. And what a great way to contemplate the new year ahead.