Snow, tornados, and flying, oh my!

As we (finally) landed in Dulles last night, the pilot came on.  "Well, folks, we’re here.  If you don’t count the half hour delay at the gate, the hour in the de-icing line, and the two hours of turbulence, it was a pretty smooth flight, huh?"

The was snow to start the day.  Ice on the highway.  Tornadoes closed Dallas.  Something was wrong with the computers in Denver, sending all sorts of people into the Additional Services line. Including me. It thought I was Kyle, going to Las Vegas.  I stood there for 45 minutes while people nearly exploded in frustration, watching the clerks head off to lunch.  I kept telling myself to breathe, remember the bottom line–it was boring to stand in line, but not a crisis. In the end, I rushed to one plane, barely made the connection to the second. Never had a chance to buy a bottle of water. Then that rocky flight to DC.

Luckily I had a Luna bar, a banana and a cheese-and-branston sandwich made for me by CR.  The movie was one I would never have chosen on my own and it was terrific (Stranger than Fiction).  The flight over the east coast was filled with rivers of light. Extraordinary.  I could clearly see the curve of the earth, glittering against the vastness of space.

I read Almost French on the plane.  Funny and made me think of Gabrielle, another Aussie in Paris. I thought of a way to arrange a non-fiction project I’ve been working on for awhile, and ended up scribbling notes in the back of the book.

Although I had a very long hike from one gate to the other in Dulles and barely made the connection, my bag made it to the airport with me. Amazing. I got to the hotel with five minutes to spare for room service and the girl bent the rules on last call to bring me a glass of wine. 

Travel is often challenging and inconvenient, but it never fails to make me fall in love with life in small and large ways.

Tell me a travel story–bad flight? Great kindness from a stranger? Something hilarious? Terrifying?

7 thoughts on “Snow, tornados, and flying, oh my!

  1. Yvonne Erwin

    This is so horrible but I’ve just got to share it after reading about your last flight. It’s a Oh-My-God-We’ll-Never-Do-THAT-Again Story, except that we did.

    When I was a kid, we lived for a time in rural western Pennsylvania. We were sixty miles due south of Pittsburg, living in a tiny burg at a crossroads. But that’s not the story. In the voice class, I mention Quakertown but this is a different town called Champion. One year, my parents decided that it would be a great idea to go back to Wisconsin to visit her family over Christmas. Well, it was a great idea. We never went in the winter time, always the summertime. So. Dad packed us up in our old white station wagon with the fashionable paneling down the side and we set out on Christmas Eve, as I recall. At any rate, we drove and drove because Dad liked to try and drive straight through and he didn’t like to stop much or often. If we had to go pee, we learned that was a problem we had to manage ourselves because he didn’t stop unless he was ready to stop. There was another problem in this situation though and that was that our highly fashionable station wagon with the paneling down the side was in bad shape. Our old car limped into Elkhart, Indiana, where it immediately decided to die. Just die. In a snow storm. Niiiiccccce. We sat for a few minutes and my mother realized that she had an aunt who lived in Elkhart and why shouldn’t she just call and see if we could get some help? There were no cell phones in those days and I’m not sure just how she made the connection but she did and her uncle told her he’d be right out to get us. It was cold and snowing and blowing and my feet were freezing as I’m sure everyone else’s were. So, uncle (can’t remember his name) came and got us and somehow we got our highly fashionable junker to a garage and he took us to their house. It’s the middle of the night by now. We’re tired, we’re cold and we’re hungry and we just want a few creature comforts. None were awaiting. Let me tell you, none were awaiting at my mother’s aunt’s house and in fact, she flat out told us she was leaving for the day and that there was nothing for us to eat or drink in the house and don’t help yourselves. I don’t know what that was about except that perhaps they were on an extremely restricted income as they were retired and simply didn’t have the extra to offer. So, my mother somehow convinced her uncle to take her to the store and get some bread and cheese and that’s what we ate that night and the next day, Christmas Day. My mother’s aunt was going to visit her son in another town so my mother and father decided to go along with her and her uncle was nominated to stay and watch the children. That being my sister and me, as my toddler brother went with my parents. We were instructed not to move a muscle all day and not to make a peep. Merry Christmas.

    That ordeal was finally over as our family car was fixed day after Christmas and we drove back to Pennsylvania.

    Fast forward – next Christmas. Well, we never got to Wisconsin the year before, why don’t we try that again? We’re game. Okay, we throw our bags in the old station wagon with the fashionable paneling down the sides and we drive away and guess what – we’re once again in a blinding snow storm. Drive on, drive on and look where we are, once again. Elkart, Indiana. And the car decides to die right there on the side of the road. Actually, it ran out of gas. Remember I told you my dad didn’t like to stop? Well, he didn’t and we ran out of gas. My mother is freaking out. She refuses to call her aunt because this happened last year and what will they think and she can’t impose again this year and what will we do? My dad’s thinking he’ll walk down the road and see if there’s a gas station or garage or something down there. They argue back and forth for a few minutes on letting the car run out of gas in the middle of a snow storm on Christmas Eve and what were you thinking anyway when there comes a knock at my dad’s window. He rolls it down and well, there are two bearded, long haired men in army camoflauge standing outside his window. “Got a problem?” One of them says. My mother’s blood pressure has hit the roof and beyond. “They’re hippies, Jerome!” she whispers. “Kids, lock your doors!” My dad explains that we ran out of gas and everything’s fine, he’s going to walk to a gas station and they offer to drive him. My mother is having a cow in the passenger’s seat. “Hippies! They could have a knife! They could kill us!” But my dad takes their offer and gets in their van, which is covered in flower and peace sign stickers, and disappears into the night. My mother fumes. “We may never see him again,” she keeps saying. However, probably a half hour later, the flowered peace-signed van reappears with my father intact and he’s holding a gas can with $5 of gas in it, which the “Hippies” donated. They refused to take any money from him at all. Although we didn’t make it to Wisconsin for Christmas again, I’m just glad we survived another Christmas in Elkhart, Indiana.

    Don’t ever go there if you’re driving an old station wagon with the fashionable paneling down the side. It doesn’t do well.

  2. why wouldn’t you have ever seen Stranger than Fiction? I really enjoyed it.

  3. Yvonne–priceless. Oh, no! HIPPIES. LOL.

    HB, I’m not crazy about Will Farrell. Or at least, I wasn’t before this. It was an excellent movie. Her expression when she sees her character…oy! Loved it.

  4. Glad you made it there safely, and with a scrummy sandwich to boot. BTW, Sarah isn’t exaggerating in Almost French–the funniest moment for me (when she wants to wear her track suit pants to the bakery) also rings the truest. My osteopath (although married to a French woman) used to date an Irish woman and says he prefers the attitude of anglo-saxon women to dress, and how they’re more comfortable in their bodies. He’s about the only one here, I think!

    Travel stories–far too many to keep track of. They run the gamut for me, but the ones that stick out at the moment are 1. the time my mum and I got fogged in at JFK and met this really nice older guy who bought me an I(heart)NY espresso cup, just coz, and 2. the time I was waiting in SF for a flight to Denver and started chatting to a nice guy about Australia. He wanted to visit, mainly to play golf, then leaned over and whispered, “But I want to go where the Japanese don’t play.”…Oh-kaaaay.

    Stranger Than Fiction was a pleasant surprise for me, as well, especially when he’s standing in line at the bus stop yelling “I’m gonna DIE? WHEN? WHY????” Very smart stuff.

  5. Man, I loved that movie…my son, too. He was very taken with the hot Maggie Gyllenhaal character. Just his speed, the little HIPPIE! 😉 He goes to school barefoot these days and gets away with it. He carries his moccasins just in case he gets stopped by someone in authority who insists he wear shoes, but he says that never happens.

  6. I went to school barefooted, too! My jeans were so long that they covered my feet so no one ever knew. Except Mrs. Bates, my English teacher, who always caught me. She tried to be exasperated, but I could tell she liked me.

  7. Tony

    Bad flight? Great kindness from a stranger? Something hilarious? Terrifying?

    All that and more at

    Your Aunt Lisa was in the audience in Ann Arbor — enjoy!

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