Life

Grounded

Now, now, don’t let the title fool you. This isn’t yet another story about my ongoing struggle with my 15-year old son. That story is getting old (telling it and I’m sure ya’ll are getting tired of hearing about it).

No, this story is prompted by Absolutely Bananas’ Monday writing prompt: Travel Horror Stories. You know me, ANY excuse to write and I’m on it. 😀

I’ve never been an easy person to travel with. I don’t know, I used to get SO FREAKED OUT when we travelled. I mean, anal-freaked out. Did we have enough toothpaste? What about sunscreen? Did you pack the bug spray? For some odd reason, I thought it would be the end of the world if we had to shop at a foreign Wal-Mart. Pfft. What an idiot.

Anyway, my first horrific travel experience was my honeymoon. We flew to Cozumel, Mexico. We flew, to a different country. Okay, one, I had never been out of Missouri at that point, so just leaving my home state made me hyperventilate. But the country?! And of course, I had never flown before, so leaving the ground?! Someone hand me a tranquilizer! Needless to say, I cried when we first landed in Cozumel. I was in a different country and all I heard was Spanish. I was totally out of my element, a new bride starting a new life and I pretty much lost my head. Luckily, my husband, being the calm and rational man he is, patiently helped me adapt and we ended up having a good time (though I packed all the wrong clothes – it was stinking HOT there and I left the area with second degree burns – but hey, it’s all good. *grin*)

But that experience broke my travel cherry (wow, that sounds crude, doesn’t it – my apologizes) and from that point on, even though I’ve been nervous about traveling, I haven’t been as freaked out by the experience. For example, the husband and I went on a cruise for our tenth anniversary and I didn’t freak out once (though I did get sea-sick – but that’s another story).

And then, we started taking the boys with us when we travelled. I purposefully waited until they were older before we attempted such a feat. I knew me, I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle two small children and keep myself under control in the process.

We’ve been to the Florida beaches four times (Pensacola Beach, Madeira Beach, St. Petersburg and Sanibel Island), the Rockies and Washington DC and the boys have done great all the times we’ve travelled.

But the first time we took them on a plane, was a nightmare. Not because of anything they did, but because … well, let me start at the beginning.

I’m from Springfield Missouri. And contrary to what others may think of the area, this is a GREAT place to raise a family. We’re about 250,000 strong and we have plenty of space – our city isn’t stuffed into a small area, our crime rate is low, our schools are pretty good and our cost of living is CHEAP when compared to the rest of the country.

But we’re small. And our airport is no exception. (In fact, when we returned from our Washington DC trip a few weeks ago, we had to exit the plane on stairs as opposed to those cool exit, uh, thingies that they wheel out to the plane. Why? Because we were the last flight into town for that evening and everyone had gone home. I felt like I had walked into a 1940’s movie.)

So, the airplanes that leave our airport? Are small. And unreliable. There are a lot of “mechanical issues” (like not being able to find the oil cap and having to “borrow” an oil cap from another plane – yes, that really happened).

Me and my family are in the Springfield airport. And we’re eagerly waiting to board our plane to Dallas, because we have a connecting flight to catch to Tampa. (I think we were heading to St. Petersburg, Florida that year – but all of the Florida vacations are sort of blurry, so I can’t swear to that).

We board the plane.

And we wait. And we check the clock. And we continue to wait. And now we’re beginning to sweat (literally because they haven’t turned the engines on and there’s no air circulation and we’re all starting to get cranky and just a bit sick) because now the time we should have taken off has come and gone. Still, we wait some more. And finally, they tell us there’s a “mechanical issue.” And though the hubs and I aren’t terribly concerned about this, (it happens), this is the first time the boys have flown and start to freak out.

Now I’m stressed out. Why? One: we’re not going to make our connecting flight if we don’t leave immediately, and Two: I’m trying to act all “oh, it’s no big deal” to the boys so they will calm down but I’m thinking in the back of my head, “uh oh, just what IS this mechanical issue – are we talking something serious, or did a flight attendant over sleep?”

Thirty minutes go by and they finally have us disembark – they are going to bring us another plane.

Okay, by this time, our nerves are frayed. And we’re not exactly thrilled about them bringing us another plane – I mean, how RELIABLE is this airline’s planes now anyway? But we’d rather fly on a new plane than take a chance on the old plane, you know? After another thirty minutes, we finally board our new plane and head off to Dallas, Texas.

We land in Dallas and we have to RUN to catch our connecting flight. We’re terribly late and I know we’re probably not going to make it, but I’m praying there’s been a delay and we’ll be able to board anyway.

No dice. Our flight has taken off without us.

Now we’re stuck in Dallas and aren’t sure what to do. The boys are scared and we’re getting the run around. “Check in with such-and-such. You’ll be put on stand-by,” etc. Any seasoned travelers out there KNOW about the airport runaround.

So now, we’re on standby and incredibly frustrated. After all, this wasn’t our fault. It’s the airlines’ fault and they aren’t really bending over backwards to help us. In fact, we’re ignored most of the time. And this just makes my blood boil. Every time a flight takes off for Tampa, we’re in the terminal crossing our fingers that our names will be called.

The day wears on and the number of flights begins to dwindle. Our chances of getting to Tampa that day are looking grim.

It’s time for the LAST flight to Tampa to leave for that day and we’re on pins and needles. We’re tired from running from terminal to terminal and nervous about being trapped in the Dallas airport our entire vacation. The boys are getting tired (they are only 11 and 9 when this happened), and still, no one will help us.

They call our name.

But they only have two seats available.

We’d have to split up.

GD goes berserk and starts to do the big boy cry (you know, tears in his eyes, trembling lower lip but he’s trying hard to keep it together because you know, it’s not COOL for boys to cry). We refuse and tell them there is no way we’re splitting up.

They give the two seats to some other people on stand by.

That’s it. No more flights to Tampa that day. We’re shell-shocked and numb. What do we do now? We have two small boys who are bone-tired and they are telling us that it will be mid-morning before the next flight leaves tomorrow and then there’s STILL no guarantee we’ll get on that plane.

The husband snaps. He DEMANDS that someone help us, after all, it’s their fault we’re in this situation to begin with. The airline directs us to their ticket counter and the airline finds us a hotel to stay the night in (they pay for it, of course). In addition, our not being assured a seat on the next day’s flight is not good enough, we’re on vacation after all and we’ve already wasted one day of our vacation, so the hubs puts up such a fuss that the airline books us four seats on ANOTHER airline’s flight.

Good enough. We now had secure passage to Tampa.

We arrived at the hotel. Since we didn’t have any change of clothes (no toothbrushes or any health and beauty aids), we bought the bare essentials at the hotel and slept in our underwear. We arrived at the airport the next day in rumpled clothes and looking pretty rough, but we didn’t care. We were on our way to Tampa.

Our flight, on another airline, took off without a hitch and we arrived in Florida. We had a GREAT vacation and we laugh about that trip to this day. So though at the time, it was irritating and a bit scary to be stranded, we definitely walked away with a family story that will likely be passed onto our grandchildren. 🙂

I have purposefully kept the airline’s name out of this story. Can you guess which one it was?

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Here’s another writing prompt idea:
Fiction Friday
Don’t let the name fool you – it’s a writing exercise you can use any way you wish – everyone is welcome to participate.