July 18, 2003 by
Anyone who knows me know there’s always a story in my life. Some things do not go right. I’m like that Peanuts character with the cloud swirling overhead. Everything about this relocation was going too smoothly. I was suspicious. Was Karma finally on my side, or was the unexpected just around the corner?
I left my friends at AIG with tears in my eyes. By the time the elevator hit the first floor, SuperShuttle was calling me to tell me that they had to bump my pickup time and they’d be at my apartment in 20 minutes. I found a Rastafarian-Mario-Andretti cab driver who was able to get me from Wall to 52nd street in 15 minutes. I grabbed my bags and made it to LGA at 3 p.m. My flight was at 5:40. That was plenty of time to re-apply makeup and read.
I chose ATA airlines because they were the cheapest 1-way flight with a 2 week reservation. I was suspicious because I only knew them as a charter airline. My flight had a stop in Indianapolis then we were going direct to LA. What could go wrong? They made me check my carry on bag. This had all my writing back up materials and tax files. Important documents I didn’t want to ship with the movers. I said a prayer and checked my 3 bags. As soon as I sat down at the gate, my flight was delayed an hour. More time to read.
When we boarded, I was happy to find out the flight wasn’t booked. I got a row to myself. Minutes after sitting, I discovered that the elderly couple in the row adjacent to me was going to be stereotypical grumpy old folks (“too hot”, “too cold”, “when are we due in”). This was like sitting next twin four year olds that made rude denture smacking noises. But this wasn’t going to bring me down… I was escaping New York and they were getting off in Indie.
An hour after boarding, we were still sitting at the gate. Apparently, our plane was so large, we needed one of those golf cart tugboats to pull us out. It was rush hour and the tugs were busy. Or maybe they were on a union break. So, 1.5 hours later, we were moving out into the infamous LGA line up. “We’re 21st in line for take off,” the captain said. Any seasoned traveler with a grasp of math knows that’s another 20-30 minutes of ground time. But this wasn’t going to bring me down… I was escaping New York.
A liter of water, a bag of peanuts, a cookie, and 4.5 hours later, I was beat down like a whore at The Point. We were doing donuts on the field because of bad weather. Flights west were grounded. Of course, you couldn’t explain that to Grumpy Old Man who screamed every time he heard a plane take off. “Sir, flights do go south and overseas from this airport,” I told him.
We finally began to pick up speed. It seemed like we were going somewhere. Nope, we were going back to the gate. A passenger asked to be let off the plane. I bet she was a smoker. She was booed off the plane and then 10 minutes later, the captain made THE announcement, “everyone going to LA get OFF the plane.”
We shuffled to the ticket counter at 10:30 pm to get another flight. This now begins my story of seven strangers coming together with a common goal of getting to LA as fast as possible.
Michael 1: 40something movie editor
Michael 2: 20something DVD and game author-er
Michael 3: 30something gym/personal training software manager
Inbar: Isreali UCLA bio/chem. major with scary fingernails and a 3’ stuffed koala bear
Alex: 20something, unemployed slacker with a terminal stoner grin
Brad: 20something communications sales engineer
Marna: 30something, get-me-to-LA-to-meet-my mover relocator
We made friends in the ticket line and took turns going to baggage claim. Strong sympathy prevailed when I announced that my VERY IMPORTANT BAG was MIA and probably on its way to Indianapolis. We waited for an hour, laughter calming our air rage. We made a pact to take ANY flight, if it could get us there first thing in the morning. No airlines had flights going west that late at night. We got a United flight out of JFK at 6:30 a.m. ATA wouldn’t comp us a room (but did give us $100 off our next flight, as if). We voted to got to a hotel bar near JFK and just stay up all night.
An I-love-this-country Jamaican man suggested we take his “limo” to JFK. We piled into his Lincoln Navigator, letting the bear block his rear view. On the drivers suggestion, we were deposited at the JFK Raddison where we abused their bar, lounge chairs, and pool tables. Numerous beers later, we shuffled to the free hotel shuttle and made it to the United terminal where we were tagged as suspicious and forced to go through a special security line because we’d switched flights and had a one way ticket. (I thought it was my red hair and beer breath that tipped them off). We made it to the gate, our flight left on time, and I didn’t sit near a single screaming baby or grumpy old man. I slept 2/3 of the flight.
As soon as we landed, I was on the phone with LA ATA baggage claim leaving a voice mail. The gentleman beside me finally spoke up and said, “wow, you sound like you’ve been through an ordeal. You look remarkably fresh for someone who has probably been in the same clothes for 30 hours.”
Yes I was. Thank god for beer and hotel bathroom birdbaths.
I caught a cab to my apartment. The mover arrived an hour later. Cable guy came 2 hours after that. My missing bag was delivered 24 hours later. Right now, the only thing missing in my move is my table. “It is somewhere around here,” the Russian dispatcher keeps telling me. At this point, I don’t care. I have my bed, my computer, my files, and beer in the refrigerator.
I have arrived.