PART I - Fear, Acceptance, and BelievingI'm a pretty fearful, cautious, and careful person. I still read the instructions on my Mac n' Cheese box. I do things by the book. I don't like to make mistakes, and I don't like to be alone.
When I booked this trip I had my reasons. I was going to be there for my uncle's wife's funeral. I was going to stay with my younger sister, see her new apartment, and catch up on lost time. We were going to go to the G-Eazy concert together. I was going to spend time with my mom, my cousin, and some close friends. I was going to meet my mom's boyfriend and do a little sight-seeing and picture taking. Then I was going to come back and everything would be fine. Right?
Let me bring you back to Wednesday night while I was packing my suitcase.
I was expressing my fears over flying alone to my husband, but I was definitely excited, mostly to be doing something spontaneous for a change. That's when I got a call from my mom telling me how she just heard there was going to be a historic blizzard hitting the Northeast during my trip.
"You've got to be f---ing kidding me," I shouted, but I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. After all, I was scheduled to be in Hartford by 5:00 PM on Thursday, a whole 18 hours before any snow would start to fall.
So I woke up at 3:30 AM the next morning planning to be exactly 90 minutes early for my 6:00 AM flight, the time the airlines suggest and the time I triple checked. Perfect.
After hugs, kisses, and goodbyes with my hubby, I walked in to join a long check-in line. Twenty minutes later a lady comes by to tell us that our flight has been delayed until 2:00 PM due to plane malfunction. My heart drops because this was NOT part of the plan! I promptly called the re-booking desk who told me the earliest I could get out would be leaving at 11:30 AM, connecting in Chicago, and arriving in Hartford by 11:00 PM... I was upset. I would miss the wake, but I accepted it as part of what happens when you travel.
So I came back to the airport later, I connected safely in Chicago, and during my layover after enjoying a nice conversation with my sister, I realized the flight board noted my departure to Hartford had been CANCELLED! Cancelled, people.
I called the re-booking desk once again. A man tells me there's nothing going out that night, the next day, or even Saturday. I burst into tears, explaining the funeral, yet he offered no other options. It felt like a living nightmare. I had to accept that my trip wasn't going to happen, surrendered, and asked for it to be cancelled. I was routed back to SLC in the morning and a full refund had been processed. I cried hysterically over the phone with him while he awkwardly fixed my itinerary and confirmed the details. I would have to stay the night, my hotel room only comped 50%, and would have wasted two days of travel time for nothing.
Can you say, depressing?
The worst part was calling my mom and sister to drop the bomb. Now, these two personalities can get a little... hmmm, shall I say, dramatic?
On one hand I have my mom telling me she's sorry and feels terrible, but presses that it was going to be awful weather anyway, it's better to just turn back now, our concert will be cancelled, I can come back another time, and I'm doing the right thing.
Then I have my younger sister who really dislikes not getting her way, especially when her hopes are high. She proceeded to give me the pep talk of my life. She told me it's not going to be that bad, Mom was exaggerating, it will all be plowed by Saturday, we will still get to go to the concert, and I needed to get back on that phone and demand they get me to a different airport close to Hartford! She looked up other flights coming in, looked up train schedules, saw the possibilities, and assured me that I could still get out there.
The pressure was on to bring my inner bitch out make it happen... and despite being terrified as always, I did.
I waited on hold for a good half hour and demanded I get out on the next available flight to any airport in the surrounding area. After holding in anticipation, it just so happened while refreshing her page a seat became available on a 6:00 AM flight to LaGuardia airport the next morning - I would arrive in New York City by 9:00 AM and would need to take a train to New Haven, CT where my sister would pick me up.
I started shaking over the unfortunate series of events I had just endured and shuttered to think how much worse it could get. I could no longer depend on or believe that anything was going to happen the way I planned. The itinerary at this point was just a useless piece of paper I was scribbling notes on - not a dependable guideline, but a reminder of human error and the myth of expectation. It was so stressful to be making decisions on my own like this, but I figured if I had already gone through this much, I would hate to turn back now... and decided I would hack it for the sake of my sister :)
Well, I hate to say it, but it definitely got worse.
I never thought I would have to spend a night in an airport by myself. I didn't want to spend the limited cash I had on a hotel just to take a 3-hour nap and be back to the airport by 4:30 AM, so I got my voucher and kept it as an option, but the easiest decision I made all night was to walk right up to a bar and start ordering beers... I needed to relieve some stress, dammit!
I ordered a Blue Moon and started having conversations with all sorts of travelers, some in the same boat, and it actually cheered me up despite the circumstances and my sloppy face. After four tall brews I decided to call it quits... I paid my tab, plopped down on an airport chair, then immediately got emotional.
I called my mom from a bathroom stall and cried to her for an hour. I started to regret my decision of changing my flight - I didn't want to face another day of uncertainty and hope only to be let down again. I was convinced my flight to NYC would end up being delayed or cancelled in the morning, and even if I did get there what if the train stations were shut down? What if no one could come get me? What if I was STUCK somewhere for days with nowhere to turn?
|(an actual Instagram of me breaking down in the Chicago bathroom!)|
The worry overwhelmed me, and I broke down in a drunken fit of blubbering emotion to anyone that would listen (and I'm usually a happy drunk!). I think I mostly just didn't want to sleep in the airport! After a couple "woe is me" Facebook posts, I was getting ready to sleep in a bathroom stall to protect my valuables...
Then I remembered I had an old friend from childhood that lives in Chicago - she had been passing through Utah on a road trip last summer and I let her stay a night, so I dialed her number, left her a slurring sob story on her voicemail, and wondered if she might be around to save me, too.
By some random strike of luck, she was! She came to pick me up within a half hour, let me chain smoke in her car, brought me to her place, gave me beers, shots, and pizza. We talked for hours, she fed me tea, woke me up after a 1-hour power nap, called me a cab, and got me to the airport by 4:45AM. I can't really explain how grateful I am for this act of kindness... even though it's all a little blurry, I know it's one of those nights I'll never forget.
I was a little grumpy the next morning - tired, hungover, and ready for bad news. I was waiting in suspense over what I might hear from the gate announcer, but the universe ended up proving me wrong - our flight was actually leaving ON TIME! It was a freaking miracle since Blizzard Nemo was already starting and no one else was flying to the Northeast that day.
I got to NYC safe and sound and ready to rock, but as I'm waiting around the baggage carousel I realize... yes. This is happening. My baggage is lost. Baggage claim? Oh, it's still in Chicago and I have to call an 800 number to figure it out, and I can't even make a claim there because NYC wasn't my final destination - Hartford was.
Surprise freakin' surprise! I couldn't even invest in breaking down at this point. Part of me expected it to happen, and maybe it's my own fault for not thinking positively, but accepting the fact that nothing was going to go my way made it easier to calm down, move on, and figure out how to get to CT despite being sans-luggage.
As I endured a bumpy shuttle ride to Grand Central Station in Manhattan, snacking on pretzels and water to soak up the burning nausea in my stomach, it felt so surreal. I did not expect to be in New York City at this moment. It was exciting, even on one hour of sleep. We got closer and I spotted a "Park Ave" street sign from the corner of my eye, watched as the gorgeous rows of townhouse steps passed by, and followed people off the bus when my stop was called.
"Where's Grand Central Station?" I asked a nice man in front of me as I followed him out the door.
He smiled, turned, and pointed behind me, and that's when I looked up and saw the magnificent and legendary building looking like an image straight out of my history book. I smiled, a little embarrassed at my obvious tourist question, and followed the pacemakers. I waited to cross the street, spotted the yellow taxis flying by in the cold rain, averted my eyes in their direction and noticed a magical view - tall grand buildings, businesses all around, surrounding one busy street that narrowed towards the horizon line of my perspective.
A jolt of life seemed to pass through me at that moment. A little smirk formed at the corner of my mouth, I forgot I was tired, and I walked along with the shuffle of surrounding shoes, finally believing that this trip was going to work out after all.