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Too White of a White Christmas Adventure



Right when the wheels touched the landing strip, I knew white Christmas came too soon. Large snowflakes fell from the sky and slid across the metal wing like an angry avalanche.  Big yellow plow trucks scraped up the snow as if in denial of the inevitable although a white blanket was quickly covering them too.  A mother and her young toddler stared out the window and the little boy mumbled out loud what sounded like “snow.”  As the mother encouraged her child’s growing vocabulary, the father anxiously checked their flight status, neither liking a later flight nor a canceled flight.  I thought to myself that I wouldn’t mind a later flight as long as I could get the hell out of here and be with my family.

Time zones can be misleading.  I was so sleep-deprived from final exams I had forgotten about the two-hour difference from East Coast to here and thought I still had two hours before my flight. It didn’t matter that my weather app said the storm was getting to get worse or that the flight attendant said small planes would be canceled because somewhere in my brain I kept telling myself that there was still a chance for the storm to subside.

I headed straight for my gate, even resisted two Starbucks along the way. Delicious drinks often won me over but I have a phobia for needing to use the restroom right before boarding or on the plane since I always sit by the window and hate to point my butt at the people sitting next to me. So I drank plain old water from my bottle, changing leg positions every few seconds while I waited by my gate.  The airports should really consider opening a gym for those who can’t stand to sit for 5 hours straight in the economy seating area.

When my destination appeared on the screen, everything felt like it was going to be okay.  Time became an obsession and with every second closer to boarding, I felt my blood pressure rise utill I found myself holding my breath. A grandmother dressed in a red sweater cardigan stood behind me exclaiming to another passenger that her flight to my same destination had been canceled over and over again.  I wanted to quickly dismiss her fears and hold on to positivity, but deep inside a cyclone was forming.  An endless spinning of “what ifs” and worst scenarios snuck inside my brain and infected its thoughts. To little surprise, a woman soon announced that my flight had canceled.

Without a second thought, I swung my overstuffed backpack over my shoulders and followed the crowd. Up the escalators and past all the Starbucks I went thinking this was the first time I’ve ever been in this situation completely alone.  In a momentary lapse of judgment, I strayed from the woman I had been following and went to the other side of the moving walks and by the time I turned around, Customer Service looked like a bigger attraction than Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  Groans, complaints, and tired phone calls to relatives were the norm. I tried reading another short story from my 2009 Best Traveling Stories, but I was not in the mood to read about disappearing penises in Nigeria. So I copied the teenager in front of me and resorted to my half-used up iPod and staring blankly at the well-lit ceiling. Several times I caught myself starting at this one particular young man with short spiky hair and since he often turned around, he’s probably thinking…well I don’t know.  How does a religious youth leader at a Colorado college think when he sees the same girl staring at him? I had overheard him talking to a woman about his career.

After almost two hours of standing, moving, standing, moving, I was finally attended to by a United representative: an old fellow with a nearly bald head and glasses.  He reminded me of my High school speech teacher.  I handed him my boarding pass eagerly, tapping my feet impatienty.  Then he delivered the blow that turned my cyclone into The Day After Tomorrow…literally.  All the planes to my destination the next day were already full, as well as all the other planes that went to my State. He said there was a plane the day after tomorrow, but at that moment, I didn’t care.  The thought that I had to wait two more days alone was…well it took all the self-control I had left in my sleep-deprived hungry body to not throw a tantrum or break down and cry like a big baby.  He put me on stand by and I asked him if there was any chance I could get on a plane tomorrow. His eyes met mine and my heart sank.  “You have a very slim chance. It’s not looking good.” At that point, I felt tears fighting to be released and so I quickly grabbed the standby ticket and left.  That wasn’t the end. With my last drop of energy, I had to reserve a hotel room.

Half-dead yet full of adrenaline, I plopped down all my belongings in my very spacious and lonely suite and desperately tried to get at least an hour of sleep before returning to the airport before sunrise. I thought if I went early enough, I would be the first one on the standby list, despite what the man said about a long waiting list.  So I climbed into the queen bed and dug my head into the pillow and prayed oh please oh please let me go home.

At 3am with about an hour and a half of sleep, I woke to my alarm clock and grumbling stomach and chugged down a cup of coffee. The front desk lady seemed a little startled by my early appearance. What can I say? I’m determined to get home. I waited on a lobby couch that was situated in front of a giant Christmas tree for the airport shuttle. Two other women joined me around the tree and we each shared our horrible experiences from last night’s cancellations.  The front desk lady added to our anxiety by telling whoever was on the phone with her about how last night’s shuttle driver spun on the road and how the morning road wasn’t too good either.  The shuttle came slightly late and its driver, a short middle-aged woman with thin hair talked on and on about how she shouldn’t even be driving in this condition.  She tried to make conversation, but we were all conserving what’s left of our energy for our flights.

It should have hit me then, that the weather still looked grim with little visibility.  As I was laying in bed listening to my alarm clock, it did strike me that maybe I should just stay put and wait for a flight I can get on for sure.  But I was still too stubborn at that time and it wasn’t until I reached the airport when I wondered what the heck I was doing.  There was nobody here except for a few who slept over on the bluish airport carpet.  I joined them, first spreading my coat on the ground and then curling up with my bags.  Then my father my attempt at napping and confirmed what I had thought initially: I should have just stayed at the hotel.  Still determined, I told him I will at least wait for this first flight to see if I can get out.

In one corner a young man said into his phone that all the flights to my state were fully booked till Saturday.  Then across from him, a father said to his son and everyone around him, “We’re fucked.”  We were all going to the same location and all stuck as standbys. If I couldn’t get out today…well I might as well say goodbye to Christmas or have my father drive hours to pick me up.  I couldn’t stand the unpredictability anymore so I left to find a representative.  I wanted someone to look right into my blood shot eyes and tell me that I am surely fucked so I could finally leave the airport with no hope holding me back.

I don’t know what drove me to type in my ticket number into a kiosk for one last time. Maybe I needed to be sure that I no longer existed in their system or because I was bored while waiting in line. Well whatever it was, it was a Christmas miracle.  I had to look twice at the screen to be sure that it indeed said that I was definitely booked for tomorrow’s flight. By now, I didn’t care if I had to wait another day to get home. At least it was just one more day and I could spend my time catching up on much needed sleep at the DoubleTree hotel. It turned out that this morning’s flight was canceled again. Although that man from last night scared the crap out of me, he also saved me by reserving me a seat without my actual consent and also putting my on standby just in case.  I guess one lesson is that if I wasn’t so darn near the edge last night, I would have recognized this blessing the moment he said it. Live and learn right?



The BEST holidays

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