I just spent the last weekend in July in New York with my daughters. It was truly an awesome experience. But, it did not start out that way. Everyone has a travel story. Allow me to share our rough start. I was rushing to get out of my office that Friday afternoon. I saw a morning full of patients and then interviewed a candidate from out of town. Of course, everything took longer than expected, so I was frantically running by the house, picking up the girls, and trying to be at the airport at 2:00 for a 4 o’clock flight.
The long-term lots were full, so I decided to just pay the money and park in the hourly deck to be close to the terminal. We found a parking space and headed into the terminal. I had checked in online, but we decided to check in at the kiosk again to check our luggage. Unfortunately, the boarding pass did not have my TSA number. Since I had gone through the painful process to get TSA pre-check, I wanted to use it. We were shuttled over to the customer service office to get the number added. The line was moving slowly, but we wanted to wait because the line for security was fairly long. I stepped to the counter when my turn arose and without raising her eyes, the woman said disdainfully: “I did not call for the next customer. I’m still busy. Return to the yellow line.” Wow, great customer service. Eventually, she called me up, and we got the boarding pass reprinted with the TSA number. We then went to the TSA line only to learn that families cannot go through unless all members are TSA pre-checked. All that trouble for nothing! We eventually got to the gate and learned that the flight was about 40 minutes delayed. No big deal. I sat there and caught up on all of the emails that I had failed to return before leaving the office. We boarded uneventfully, and the plane pulled away from the gate. About one minute into taxiing, the plane stopped, and the pilot announced that we had been “grounded for an hour” due to bad weather in New York. He said we would just be sitting on the taxiway but he was shutting down the engines to save fuel. Yuck. A hot plane and the smell of diesel fuel. When almost an hour had past, and the interior of the plane was nice and sticky, the pilot announced that the flight had been canceled, and we would be returning to the gate. Groans arose from throughout the plane. To add insult to injury, there was now no gate available for us. We would have to wait for a gate to open before returning to the terminal. Another 45 minutes passed. Passengers frantically pulled out their phones and started to search for other flights. When we finally did get to a gate, we were instructed to proceed to the customer service desk on that terminal where customer service agents would be eagerly waiting to help us. Did I mention we were in the back of the plane and, therefore, at the end of the line? As we stood there in line, I saw group after group of passengers leave the front of the line shaking their heads. It became quite evident that we were not getting to New York from Charlotte that night. All flights after us had been canceled as well. The weather on the eastern seaboard had canceled all flights to NYC from Atlanta, Columbia, Greensboro, and Raleigh. And, there were no seats on any flights leaving Saturday morning. Did I mention that I was desperate to get to NYC by Saturday afternoon because I had bought the girls tickets to see a Broadway musical, Hamilton? This was the precipitating reason for our trip. We were not going to miss that show!
As our chances of a Saturday morning seat dwindled, I called my husband in desperation. He jumped online and found tickets on another carrier flying out of Richmond, Virginia, Saturday morning. The only flight with any seats left at 9:40 and arrived into Newark, New Jersey, a little after 11. We knew it would be a close call to take a taxi or Uber to get to the theater by 2:00pm. But, we thought it was worth the risk. Richmond is five hours away from Charlotte. We needed to get on the road. We pulled out of the customer service line and headed to baggage claim. Since we were not going to be flying into the same airport, we needed our bags. Of course, there was another line at baggage claim. Twenty minutes into that line we were told it would be a 1-2 hour wait to get the bags. Really? How hard is it to go pull all the bags from the plane that is going nowhere? I left the girls waiting on the luggage while I went to rent a car. Again, since we were not going to fly back into Richmond, I did not want to drive my car to the Richmond airport. Almost 2 hours into the wait for our bags, an agent came out and informed us that the bags “were lost.” There was a 50-50 chance that they had been placed on a cargo plane and were headed to LaGuardia (not the airport to which we were headed from Richmond). But, there was also a 50-50 chance that they would eventually come back to baggage claim in Charlotte. Approximately 50 passengers had been sitting there waiting on bags with us. Again, groans arose all around! We were given a 1-800 number to call to get our bags sent to us and our final destination. And, we were told to have a nice day! At this point, it was almost 9 PM. We had been in the airport since 2 PM!!! We shuffled out to the rental car area and were told to pick any car in section B. We got in the first car and immediately one of my girls started complaining because there were no USB ports in the backseat. And, of course, her phone was almost dead as we had been in the airport for so long. Oh my word! Her sister offered her the front seat, but that didn’t work either. Instead, we got out of that car got into another one. We started following the signs for the exit and, literally, the tire pressure light came on. Yep, the car may have had USB ports in the back seat, but it had a flat tire! Ugh. In case you don’t know this, rental car garages have one way traffic. I put the car in reverse and backed all the way back to the original spot! We got into a third car, with USB ports and fully inflated tires. We finally left the airport. We decided we would grab a toothbrush and a change of clothes on the road and head to Richmond. About 15 minutes into the drive, we stopped at a Target that also had a drive-through Chick-fil-A on the same exit. Of course, one of my girls ordered the one thing that Chick-fil-A did not have readily available and that was a 15 minute wait! I was livid. We finally pulled on the interstate at about 9:45 pm and made it a mile. Then, I-85 came to a dead stop. Road construction. Down to one lane. Are you kidding me? I’m honestly not sure how long we were in that traffic jam. I was in tears, and the girls and I were about to kill each other. We had been looking forward to this trip for weeks. We had talked about it daily. This was going to be a great mommy-daughter bonding time. Instead, we are all angry and yelling at each other out of frustration. And, to top it off, it began to storm violently. When the traffic cleared, and we could move forward, I could not see the road. We were stuck. The storm outside matched the storm in the car. I drove as far as I could drive and keep my eyes open. We pulled off around 1:30 at a dumpy hotel in rural Virginia, still 80 miles from the airport. We were given, literally, the last room available in the hotel and we stumbled to the beds. I set the clock for 5:30, hopefully giving us enough time to get to the airport. As I closed my eyes, I realized that one of the girls had left the bathroom light on. I jumped up, yelling some expletive about how irresponsible they were, and as I made my way back to the bed in the dark, I stumped my toe and broke it!!! Could this trip get any worse? This was not the experience I had planned. I was not handling the situation well, and I certainly was not being a great role model.
Through my sobbing tears of pain from the toe and driving rain against the hotel window, I asked God to help me redeem this time. I asked my girls if we could just pray together. It took a while, but eventually, each of them prayed and asked God to forgive our harsh words and give us a second chance. I thought about the words in Ephesians 4:26-32: Be angry (yes, we were all mad at the situation) but do not sin (too late, words were flying). Do not let the sun go down on your anger (it was the wee hours of the morning at this point), and do not give a foothold to the devil (he had highjacked the trip). Get thee behind me, Satan! And just like that, the trip changed. We drove the last 90 miles to the airport Saturday morning and learned that the 6 o’clock flight had been delayed. We were able to get seats on that flight and arrived into New York by 9:30, 10 minutes before we were supposed to even leave Richmond! We had time to explore the Museum of Natural History before making it to Hamilton! From then on, the trip was fabulous. Even our luggage arrived in New York by late Saturday night. Yes, we had worn the same clothes for 2 days, but we did not care! Moral of the story: Don’t let a rough start ruin an amazing blessing! God can redeem any situation, if you let Him.