Friday, December 17, 2010

An Unplanned Vacation, New perspective, and a Happy Hanukah

Yesterday, I talked about how I got my extra day in South Florida. Today, I will tell you the saga.

I had been sitting the in airport for just over two hours, awaiting my flight from Fort Lauderdale to Minneapolis. Delta Terminal Two consists of about 12 to 15 gates, a Dunkin Donuts, two gift / magazine shops, an ice cream cart, and a place that sells sandwiches and gyros. It’s not a place you want to spend more than about 20 minutes, forget about two hours.

I was lucky to find an outlet and a piece of floor, so I grabbed a gyro (which totally sucked because I had a gyro at this amazing Greek place two days prior and I never want to eat a fast food gyro with cucumber sauce that comes in a plastic cup ever again), and pulled up a piece of floor to catch up on the last three episodes of Glee.

I was about half way through the third episode when a coworker of mine approached. She had been sitting across the terminal and it turned out she was on my flight to Atlanta. Atlanta was home for her, it was a pit stop for me.

We chatted for a few minutes and watched the passengers from the incoming ATL flight deplane. They would clean up the cabin quickly and we would start boarding in a few minutes. We took turns running to the restroom while we had someone to watch our bags and discussed her team’s desperate need for more staff. All was going well. I find this coworker to be extremely funny and witty. We bonded on a trip a last year while watching The Biggest Loser and running on the treadmill. This trip, we enjoyed Authentic Mexican food and bonded over fresh made Guacamole. Both experiences were equally memorable.

It’s the most fun I have had in an airport in many, many months when the man at the gate announces that we will start boarding as soon as the mechanic gives the all clear. Probably about 5 minutes.

We discuss how I am certain I am not making it home. She looks at my boarding pass and says that as long as my gates aren’t 4 miles apart, I will be fine. I insist I should just go find a cab.

Ten minutes later the man announces that the mechanic is not able to reset the light but he is still trying, should be 10 minutes and will be on our way.

Twenty minutes later, after I have fully convinced my coworker that I am not going home, the gate man explains that we will not be taking that plane anywhere and everyone should come up to be reticketed.

There are about 10 gate agents there to help us. It is the first day of Hanukah and there are about 30 people flying from Fort Lauderdale to Atlanta and then on to Tel Aviv, they get first priority. Some people are made about this, I am offended that someone could be made about this.

I hang out in line with my coworker and finally insist she call Delta to get rebooked before the next flight fills up. Her phone is dead so I loan her mine and within about four minutes she is rebooked. It would have been faster but the touch screen on my phone takes some getting used to.

She apologizes for ditching me, tells me that if I make it to Atlanta she would let me stay with her but since she lives so far out it would be better to get a hotel, I thank her sincerely for the offer, and tell her to hurry up before she misses that flight.

When it is my turn in line, I explain to Oscar, the gate agent, I want to get home but I don’t want to spend the night in Atlanta. If he is going to make me stay somewhere, I want to just stay here. He books me on the direct flight home the next day at 1:22 pm, arraigns a hotel and a shuttle, and gives me two $6 food vouchers. I ask him if I can have my luggage and he says, “Not unless it is an emergency.”

I ask “Are clean underwear, deodorant, and a toothbrush considered an emergency?”

“No.” He says.

Ok, well, I guess that settles that.

I take my boarding pass and my vouchers and head out to find the shuttle. I recognize a few faces gathered around and struck up a conversation with a gentleman in his mid-60’s. He had been living in Colombia for the last four years, since his wife passed, and he was now coming home to stay with his daughter for a few years. We talked about the weather in Colombia. He told me how people typically purchase one cigarette at a time from a man selling them on the street because that is all they can afford. A person with a pack of cigarettes was considered rich.

I asked if he drank really good coffee the entire time he was there. He explained that Colombia’s other major crop is sugar cane so any time you had fresh brewed coffee it contained sugar. It was like drinking crack, he said. Men walked around with coffee tanks on their backs and belts with cup dispensers on them. You purchase your coffee from them for a few coins a cup. I imagined a coffee man walking around downtown Minneapolis and chuckled.

Before I knew it, we had been standing there for almost 45 minutes. Where the heck was this shuttle?!

Oh! An excuse to use my fancy smartphone! I jumped on the internet, googled Hyatt Place in Fort Lauderdale, and gave them a quick call. After being disconnected twice, “The driver is on the grounds,” is what I am told.

I am doing fine in my fleece jacket and pants standing out in the 55 degree evening. But its winter at home and I have a hat and mittens in my backpack if it gets to cold. The rest of the group, however, were freezing and I was afraid they would become ice cubes pretty quickly. Ten minutes later, I call again. “The driver is on the airport grounds” I am told once again. “Tell him to hurry up” was my reply!

Five minutes later, after confusion over the other Hyatt Place shuttle, and me mentally trying to figure out how to get all of my new friends into a cab without leaving any of them behind, the correct shuttle arrives and whisks us away to our swanky hotel.

On the ride over, I am sitting with a gal who was in town for one day to have a job interview. Her flight down from Tallahassee was delayed and delayed and she didn’t get into Fort Lauderdale until 30 minutes before her interview. She had to hightail straight from the plane to the interview but she said she thinks she nailed it. I could tell she was bummed out that she was not getting home and worried because she was going to be over a hour late to her current job. Not to mention that she had not eaten all day and didn’t really have money to buy any food. I gave her one of my $6 vouchers. I am not clear why everyone didn’t get a voucher but I was told we could use them in the hotel. I was still full from my crappy gyro and was only planning to buy a bottle of water anyway. She was so grateful; I thought she was going to cry.

There were others on the shuttle who were also on the flight but we had not met them at the meeting place so we didn’t know them. We exchanged some stories about how we got to this shuttle and how many of us called the girl at the desk when we learned that the one man on the shuttle, who was not a displaced passenger, had the last name of Hyatt. We spent the rest of the ride asking him why his company didn’t send us a shuttle before we froze. He is not part of The Hyatt Family but he took the joking in stride.

When we arrived at the hotel, I asked for a toothbrush and toothpaste since mine was already on its way home. She was happy to accommodate me but got annoyed when she realized that all of the people behind me now wanted the same thing.

She explained that breakfast was complementary and would be served from 6 to 9:30 if anyone was interested. And there was made to order food available 24 hours a day. As I started to walk towards my room I overheard Mr. Colombia telling another gal that he was glad for breakfast because he could not afford to eat tonight and I instantly handed over my other $6 voucher. It was the least I could do. He was so kind and interesting.

He thanked me so much and promised to name his next son after me. I told him he didn’t want a son named Kara; Sue was a maybe, but not Kara. I wished them all good night and headed up to my room.

It was a very nice hotel and I had a great view of a dirt track. My only complaint was the proximity to the highway where people seemed to be drag racing in their loud cars. Luckily that stopped by about 10 pm.

After making a few phone calls to let Shawn know I wasn’t coming home, I booted up my laptop and made my way down to the lobby for a bottle of water.

I found the entire displaced flight crew all gathered around the bar ordering food. They were having a great time but I had socialized with strangers enough for one evening so I grabbed my water and got in line behind another man from the flight.

He was piling up candy bars and bottle of Dr Pepper. That was when I noticed his yarmulke. It was the first night of Hanukah and the only kosher food in the place were the packaged candy bars and soda. Man, did I feel bad. I paid for my water and left the lobby, wishing him a happy Hanukah. He was the person who should have been complaining but he wasn’t.

One man, trying to make his way to see his kids after four years in Colombia. One man, trying to make it home for Hanukah.

It really puts things in perspective.

I spent the rest of the night searching for the number to get Heidi into morning care at school and clearing my calendar for work. I slept the best I had in many, many weeks with no alarm to worry about. I spent my morning sipping coffee, working from the hotel room and at noon I packed it up and headed for the airport.

My perspective where it needed to be, I was extremely productive in the time I did get to work and I was not at all stressed out when I returned to the office on Friday.

My flight home was very nice. No one sat in the seat between me and the lady by the window so we had plenty of room to stretch out. And she didn’t smell like Patchouli like the man next to me on the flight down.

Delta and Google had teamed up to give us free WiFi during the flight so I checked in on Facebook for a few minutes.

And lastly, there was an in flight movie! Grown Ups, which I had been wanting to see. It was so funny, I am sure everyone around me thought I was nuts for cracking up constantly.

When the man behind me dropped his extremely heave, too big to be a carry-on, right on my head, I didn’t even yell at him. When he rubbed my head because he felt so bad, I didn’t even grab his hand and tell him not to touch me or I would rip his hand off. I just sat quietly, popped a few Advil, shed a silent tear, and waited for my major headache to pass. Once the shock wore off, I told the man I was fine. Really. He didn’t need to feel bad.

In the end, I truly believe I needed some perspective in my life. I needed to get stuck in Fort Lauderdale for the night, meet Mr. Colombia and the man trying to make it home for Hanukah and the girl on her job interview. I even needed to get bonked on the head with a heavy suitcase. Just to put my crazy, busy, stressed out live back in order. Just to make me confident again as I faced more hard decisions about Daisy. Just to get me ready for the holiday season. I have wished Shawn a Happy Hanukah every day since I returned home, just to keep me in check.

This was a long post but maybe my experience will be the reminder you need that it could be worse, life goes on, and what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger.

Happy Hanukah everyone.


Lindsey said...

LOVE this post Kara - very heartwarming. Perspective is amazing, isn't it? Hope you well!

Kara said...

Thanks Lindsey, happy holidays!