Traveling for the holidays has been a way of life for me for all of my adult life. While it’s wonderful to see friends and families at this time of year, some years it has required a special kind of perseverance.
There was the year that I was flying back from Dallas to Salt Lake City, where I lived at the time, on Christmas night. That night, Salt Lake was experiencing one if it’s “temperature inversions” — a thick, dense fog that can linger for days. My flight was not going to be able to land there. So, instead of flying us to Denver, where they had lights, people, hotel rooms and hot food, the decision was made to land in Idaho Falls.
I had never been to Idaho Falls, so I was quite surprised to arrive there late on Christmas night to find a deserted, tiny terminal with, well, nothing. The airline had arranged for a Greyhound bus to meet us and we were all boarded for the 200 mile + ride back to Salt Lake City. It was miserable and it took all night. I didn’t sleep at all – it was cold, dark and bumpy. When I finally arrived in Salt Lake City around 7 a.m., I called my boss to ask if I could come into work late. I was working in retail then and it was December 26, so he said no. Not my most productive day!
Years later, I was flying from Kansas City to Chicago on Christmas Eve. My flight was supposed to leave around 3 p.m., which would give me plenty of time to meet up with friends for dinner at a cozy suburban restaurant and celebrate the evening. Instead, we ended up leaving Kansas City about 5 hours late (it’s a two-hour flight). But that wasn’t the worst part. Not by a long shot.
When we finally got to Chicago around 9 p.m., I was disappointed that I’d missed dinner but there was still time left to meet up with my friends. That is, until we landed on the runway at O’Hare and saw all the flashing lights. A plane ahead of us had skidded off the icy runway and there was a lot of emergency equipment all around. We were stuck away from the gate.
Because the only restroom on the plane wasn’t working, the airline hadn’t served us beverages. They also didn’t have any food. And we ended up sitting there on the runway for another three hours. I was getting a headache from the combo of no food and no water. Also no fun.
Now it’s midnight and I’ve finally made it into the terminal! The temperature is at zero with a wicked wind chill when I board the bus to the rental car place. And get there to find out they are out of cars! Because of the blizzard the day before, a lot of people had unexpectedly rented cars and they didn’t have enough. I finally got the keys to a car and walked out to the frozen tundra parking lot to the wrong space, dragging my luggage and feeling my face sting from the cold. I did finally get to my car and get to my friend’s house at 2 a.m. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Another year, we took a Thanksgiving car trip to southern Indiana to visit relatives. That trip left me with a lasting reminder that you should never, ever, eat cream soup at a roadside buffet the night before Thanksgiving!
I hope that wherever you travel for the holidays this year, you will someday be able to look back and laugh. ‘Tis the season.