On Wednesday, I arrived at the Ottawa airport, ready for 5 days of hot sun and gorgeous ocean in Florida. It took a lot of effort (and convincing) for me to organize my life in order to carve out a few short days to be able to fly south for a wee break and visit my dad and his girlfriend who have been there for a chunk of winter.
In the days leading up to my fight, people would ask me: “Are you excited?” I would always answer, “Not yet. I’ll be excited when I leave the office and head to the airport.”
Then that delicious moment came. I said my goodbyes to my colleagues at 3:00 Wednesday afternoon and walked away from work for 5 solid days. I was starting to get excited.
I parked my car in the Park ‘N Fly parking lot near the airport, stowed my winter coat and boots safely in the trunk and shivered while I waited for the shuttle to pick me up. It wasn’t long until one arrived and I climbed on. Leaving my car, coat and boots behind makes Florida feel even more real.
The moment I sat down, my phone rang. I didn’t recognize the long distance number on the screen but answered it anyway. It was united Airlines. My flight to Newark I was supposed to be boarding in an hour and a half had just been cancelled.
The eternal optimist in me figured there was no need to worry. Surely they would get me there in time to catch my connecting flight to Fort Lauderdale and I’d still be there by midnight.
I stood in line for well over 2 hours only to be told that my flight had been cancelled due to weather. What weather? Apparently storms were expected to roll in around midnight but I’d be long gone by then. But the ticket lady didn’t appreciate hearing my logic that I thought was rather brilliant.
She spent more than a half an hour searching different options for me and settled on getting me to the Washington Dulles Airport, where I’d have to find a hotel and then fly out of Reagan Airport to Charlotte, NC and then Fort Lauderdale in the morning. I could live with that.
I arrived at Dulles and promptly caught a shuttle to a Hampton Inn closer to the Reagan so that I wouldn’t have far to go in the morning. Well! That evening, snow had begun to fall on the city of Washington D.C. and the entire city was in a panic. Seriously. I’m trying not to be judgmental and to remind myself that it’s not Canada but wow! There wasn’t even enough snow to be able to plow anything and yet the people at the airport were all freaking out as was the shuttle driver. He was freaking out yet very impatient when we got caught behind a couple of salt trucks. I wasn’t sure I’d make it to the hotel alive at one point, once he started blaring his horn at a guy in front of us and then making a 3-lane highway out of 2 lanes. But clearly, he got me there in one piece.
It was after 11pm Wednesday night when I arrived in my room. I was shown by staff that just a couple of blocks down the street there were a few restaurants. But it was snowing and my coat was sitting in my trunk in Ottawa. I decided to order in from a local eatery. Turns out, though, that the 2 that were still open had pulled their drivers off the road because of the snow.
I settled for a $3 bag of Doritos from the front desk barely the size of what you’d find in a Halloween bag of treats. It did the trick and got me to morning.
Next day, I will sum up for you very briefly: I spent the entire day in an airport that had no flights coming in or going out. It sucked. It was a miserable day, especially when I started to realize I might have to cancel my trip altogether, as it was looking less and less likely I was going anywhere until Saturday. And I needed to go home Monday.
BUT as my dad’s girlfriend often tells me, I have a horseshoe up my ass. I managed to beg and plead to be put on standby for the one and only flight directly to Fort Lauderdale that day, which was sold out. This was a much better option. If I could get on.
I was #33 on the standby list.
And at 8:00 pm, just a couple of hours after they reopened the airport and after the snow began falling again, a large group of Florida hungry, snow-exhausted passengers gathered at Gate 43, all of us hoping that this flight – one of the very few slated to make it out that evening – would not be cancelled.
As people started boarding and the staff guy was calling names off the list, I stood there, my stomach churning, hoping harder than I’ve hoped for anything in a long time, that I would hear my name.
ERIN KUHNS…My name never sounded so sweet. I got on that plane and sat there patiently, watching them de-ice and waiting…hoping fiercely that it wasn’t a cruel joke and that they weren’t going to force us all off the plane. I watched the snow fall outside my little window and each minute we waited felt like an hour. But then we rolled away from the airport. The flight attendant did her schpeel about seatbelt and air bags. It seemed like it was actually going to happen. Soon after, we started down the runway, faster and faster until we lifted gracefully into the night. The entire airplane erupted in cheers and applause.
We made it. We were actually going to leave the snow and head for the sun.
I really do have a horseshoe up my a$$!