First, there was the 12+ hour drive to and from New York, during which my thoughts can be summarized as follows:
"Is it really THAT much more expensive to fly than to drive? At least then we wouldn't be cooped up in this car together from now until the Apocalypse. And we wouldn't smell the dog farts either!"
Then, there was the flight to and from Cincinnati, passing through what may be America's ugliest airport, LaGuardia (though I do have to say I love how the runway literally ends in water!). My thoughts during this went something like:
"Please, please, please don't let any strangers talk to me. AARRRGGGHHH! Why is that woman STILL talking?! This would not be happening if I had taken the car!"
At this point, you probably think that I hate to travel and should probably just should stay home. Wrong! I love to travel. A lot. I just don't always love what it takes to get to where I'm going. Still, this trip featured nothing more than the usual inconveniences, for which I consoled myself by thinking it can always be worse. In fact, thinking about how it can be worse inspired me to share my two worst travel stories. Maybe they'll console you too. Or maybe you can top me. If so, please share in the comments section. I'm always a sucker for a good story!
He went left, I went straight
Once upon a time, I was married, and my husband got a job in Houston. I had a fellowship requiring me to stay put in Indiana, so we loaded half our stuff into a U-Haul and his Ford Escort. We had a route, maps, a plan. Or so we thought. But somewhere in Illinois, he went left and I went straight (no, this is not a metaphor for our marriage...). This was before cell phones were ubiquitous, so there we were. I did the only thing I could think of. I went to the first rest area and waited. And waited, and waited, and waited. I put the cat's harness on, got her out of her crate, gave her water, and we waited. We met a group of really nice people on motorcycles, so nice I'm pretty sure you can't call them a gang. I used a pay phone -remember those?- to call my parents, then his parents, and told them where I was in case he called them too. Then I reached someone with the state police. Then the cat and I waited some more. Somehow, finally, the phone calls produced results. I found out he was waiting at a different rest stop this whole time. I loaded up the cat, climbed back in the car, and hightailed it over there. We were both tired to the bone but agreed to drive on to make up time. By the time we stopped, there were no rooms available, so you know where we slept? You guessed it:
We were on our way to India to meet our third child. We both carried cell phones by then, but phones are precious little help against wind storms and massive delays at JFK. We saw our beautiful Air India 747 cued for take-off as we taxied to the gate on our flight from Cincinnati. After a night in an overpriced airport hotel, we returned to JFK, where we learned that the Air India 747 was still in Delhi. Our travel agent asked if we knew New York well enough to get to Newark. We did. So she told us to fly from Newark to Mumbai and then go from there. Any number of local carriers would be able to get us to our final destination, Bangalore (a planned stopover in Delhi had been thrown out the window long ago). We landed in Mumbai in full monsoon season. Phone service was out, so we could not use our credit card to secure our reserved seats on the Bangalore flight. We changed money in time to get seats on the next one, but in the meantime, this happened:
That is a 747 stuck just off the runway. For hours, Aquafina, Cadbury chocolate, and new-to-us flavors of Pringles sustained us between nerve-wracking visits to the ticket counter and restrooms. The ticket counter agents were pleasant, yet somehow not reassuring in their insistence that our flight was most certainly leaving on time, even with the airport closed. The restroom attendant? She scared me, as did the restroom itself. Before you judge, when is the last time you used the public restroom in the old domestic terminal of the Mumbai airport? With the shiny new airport, you'll never get the chance. Anyway. We did... eventually... get to Bangalore. Our luggage, however, did not, and it was obvious that no one had any real idea as to where it might be. We filed reports, paid "tips," all to no avail.
All I can say is thank God for travel insurance!
All I can say is thank God for travel insurance!
Both stories have a happy ending.
We got to Houston safely, though the cat never did willingly get in a car again, at least not without a hint of Benadryl. We moved back to Indiana a year later, but I refuse to believe that awful car trip had anything to do with it!
We also got to and from India safely. We got the most important part done right when we were supposed to- we brought our son home. To learn more about the place where he lived when we met him, visit Vathsalya Charitable Trust
PS The luggage came home too, five weeks after we did!