Monday, February 8, 2010

Day Almost One: Travel Day AKA Flights From Hell

I should have known what to expect when I boarded the plane at Syracuse. For starters, it was snowing, not a lot, but snow is never a good sign no matter what the situation is unless it has to do with skiing or snowboarding. I was doing neither and sat by the window feeling nervous. Everyone knows I’m an anxious flier, and this was no exception, especially when the pilot came on and said we needed some de-icing.

At about this time I wished I hadn’t gotten so into that show Mayday (on Discovery, not sure if it’s only aired in Canada or available in the States too) and thought about one plane crash that was caused from being de-iced twice and sitting on the runway too long. Not exactly pleasant thoughts to be having just before takeoff while being de-iced, so I switched tactics and noticed the time and started thinking about the fact that I could very well miss my connection in Detroit, since it was taking so fricken long to get going.

I wasn’t very far off from that either. Once we took off, there was minor turbulence but then the rest of the flight was smooth. Only, now I really was freaking out because it was taking so long to get to Detroit. Every time I look at my watch I just knew how close I was cutting it, but what can you do in a situation like that? Nothing but sit back and hope for the best.

By the time we landed I knew it was crunch time in a big way. My luggage was going all the way to Hawaii so thankfully I didn’t need to deal with that. Instead I found a map of the airport and realized I needed to be two terminals away from where I was – and they were already boarding my plane. Crap.

There was only one option and that was to run, so I ran as fast as I could through that bloody airport. I did feel kind of foolish, but hey, I wasn’t the only one running and it’s not like no one has ever seen someone doing a mad dash like that to make a flight. People were cool about it, got right out of my way as I ran up those moving pathway thingys, ran up the escalators, out of breath and panting. I’m not sure how I managed to stand still in the tram, which is of course faster than a human can run but I was ready to give running a shot since my nerves were so jacked up.

Once off the tram I took off again and I’m so not a runner, even if I am in shape and work out regularly, my lungs were burning. I was also wearing my hoody sweatshirt, a fleece and my backpack, so I was sweating like you read about. To top it off, I had to pee really badly, but didn’t want to take the time to do even that, and good thing I didn’t or else I really would have missed my flight. After running through this trippy tunnel under the runway (very trippy, including the weird music and lights) I finally came to where my gate number was and rounded the corner, still running. Some cleaning woman looked up at me and asked. “Twenty-eight Thirty-three?” meaning my flight number of course. I only nodded since I was too out of breath and panicked since I knew time was seriously running out. She only said one word: “Run.” So I did.

I was the last person on the plane, they closed the door behind me when I boarded. Talk about the all time close shaves of missing a flight. I didn’t care, I was just glad to be on board and the other passengers were kind of laughing when they saw me. It was pretty obvious from how out of breath I was that I had to book it to the gate. Not too shabby since my other flight had landed less than ten minutes ago. Once in my seat I promptly took off my fleece and sweatshirt, since I was sweating bullets. I had the aisle seat, which was annoying but whatever I guess. My original intentions were to slap on my ipod and ignore everyone else around me, but it turned out my seating companions were pretty cool guys.

It was two of them, Tommy, a twenty one year old on his way back home from a bad year spent in Rhode Island, and Kenny, a guy around my age on his way to LA on business. The three of us got along great, chatting about music and movies among other things, and that’s always a good thing on a long flight across country. Tommy did open up to us about some things that you would think freshly met strangers wouldn’t…such as how he met this girl on a WoW chat board so moved across country to be with her, only it turned out she was bi-polar, cheated on him, and got jealous when he called a friend honey-bunny, so burned all his clothes. Let’s just say Kenny and I were giving each other many sideways WTF looks during all this.

Regardless of that, he’s still a good kid, just young, and considering his mother died unexpectedly a year before, I get it. Besides, on a flight where you’re stuck in your seat for the most part, you make the best of the situation, and it wasn’t all bad, we had some good talks. One thing that sticks out especially to me is the three of us looking out the window at the Grand Canyon. Very cool.

The flight had been pretty good, all things considered, until the captain put on the fasten seat belt sign and came over the intercom to alert us that we were approaching some ‘mild to moderate turbulence’. I didn’t know this was pilot code for ‘get ready for a half hour of sheer terror while we may or may not crash in a nosedive-death spiral into the ocean’.

Mild to moderate my ass! At first it was just the regular shaking that comes with turbulence, but that didn’t last long. If only it would have been only that. Outside it was dark and raining, not that I was spending too much time looking since what I saw didn’t exactly make me feel better. Especially when Tommy was going on about how the rain was going sideways, granted, that’s probably how rain always looks from inside an airplane, but still. It looked ugly out there.

Anyway, the ‘mild’ turbulence quickly went to the ‘oh shit we’re going to die horribly’ levels. Not only was the plane shaking, but it was swaying from side to side, the wings tipping up and down, and I lost count of how many microbursts we hit where we’d just drop a few hundred free straight down so your stomach flies out your mouth. I’ll fully admit I’m a wimp when it comes to any amusement park rides, but at least with those you’re not 30,000 feet up, and those only last a few minutes. Our flight still had a half hour until landing.

Basically I clutched onto the armrests with both hands and really, I was pretty terrified. I wasn’t the only one though, by now the plane was dead silent, no one was talking (which is what dead silent usually means lol) and when I glanced around, I could see that I wasn’t the only one who was scared. One woman had her eyes tightly closed and she was grabbing onto her arm rests too, some other dude that had previously been sleeping looked just as freaked out. We were seated near the front, one row back from where the flight attendants sit to land, by the bathrooms. They were calm at first, but I’m sure in flight attendant training school or whatever is they take they’re told that no matter what, to look at ease.

Well, they weren’t at ease for long because after ten minutes they both put down the magazines they were ‘reading’ and one of them wasn’t looking very happy, in fact she was looking pretty pale to me. The plane was still all over the place and by now I was clutching onto Kenny, but that’s okay since we were already old friends considering our tastes in music and how we were both wearing DMB shirts. Hell, he was nervous too, even though he kept on laughing, his palms were just as sweaty as mine were. Poor Tommy sat with his head between his knees and covering his head with both hands, eyes closed. He really freaked out when the flight attendant asked the guy in front of us if he could see the shore. Apparently we had flown around LAX over the ocean to land, due to the wind direction I assume. Tommy thought she was asking if we could see the wing, like that would fall off or something, I dunno what he was thinking, he was pretty freaked out.

Landing was very rocky as you can imagine, but we finally did land. When we did everyone started to clap, you could just feel the tension leaving the air once we were safe on the ground. I must say, I’ve never heard of people clapping after a landing before, but after that hell ride, I’m not surprised. Tommy just looked at us and goes “Dude, that was really fucking scary. I mean, I was really scared!” Just glad I wasn’t the only one!

I’ll note now that later I heard from Paul that there were tornado warnings in the area. No kidding! I’m surprised we didn’t see Dorothy’s house winging by as we landed. On my flight home from Hawaii, I happened to sit next to a woman who’s daughter happened to be on my flight (very weird coincidence). Her daughter is pretty well traveled, and told her mom it was the worst experience of her life and that she threw up when we landed. So wimp as I am, I guess I had good reason to be petrified that last half hour. Why we weren’t re-routed, I don’t know. The woman who’s daughter was on my flight told me that her own flight was re-routed away from LAX, same day/time as mine. Maybe we were one of the last flights in during that storm, I dunno.

After getting off the hell-flight, my first stop was for food. Well, I texted some people as I checked out what was to be had for food, such as my husband and friend Michelle. My next flight out was in that same area so no mad dashes through the airport thankfully, and I had over an hour to relax anyway. I picked a restaurant I wished I hadn’t, but it was empty (wonder why) and the others were full, so I figured I’d have faster service. My sandwich was just god-awful, even by airport standards. The beer was good old fashioned Sam Adams though and I had two of those, but figured I deserved it after that last half hour of my flight.

The last leg of my trip was about to go underway. I boarded a very full flight to Honolulu, which included some high school volleyball team. I think they won, if not first place than something because I saw some sort of trophy, and they were all in very high spirits. At first I was supposed to sit smack dab in the middle of them in the tail, but one of them asked me to switch so I did. When I went to that seat, they asked me to switch again, and I said as long as I have a window I didn’t care.

The flight was pretty unremarkable with the exception of someone seated near me wearing patchouli. Really, who the hell wears patchouli on a plane?? Or wears it period? It’s one of the heaviest smelling scents there is and also one of the most offensive for those with a nose and any normal sense of smell, that stuff reeks. To top off that loveliness, someone around me was passing gas endlessly, the silent but deadly kind that stink of eggs. Hmmm…it’s a tossup over dealing with that for six hours over a half hour of severe turbulence. Still undecided which was worse. I just hope no one thought it was me stinking up the plane.

We followed the sun setting and that was nice to watch from a plane, though it set fully before we reached the islands. Finally we were coming into our landing and I was so excited to finally be there, both to actually be in Hawaii since it’s a place I’ve always wanted to go, and also because my butt hurt so much from sitting in an airplane seat for so long. By this time, I had been traveling for over nineteen hours, including layovers, but still. Long ass day.

The airport there is incredible, all open to the outside and let me just say that the outside in Hawaii is very nice indeed. I went from winter to summer in an instant (well, barring the nineteen plus hour travel time from the north east that is), and feeling the humidity of Hawaii felt great for my skin and sinuses. Anyone who knows anything about winter knows how dry it is, it just felt so good to feel that moisture in the air. I had to shed my layers of course, and I was pretty tired, but it just felt great to finally be there. I remember walking down a catwalk and looking out at the palm trees, smelling the warm air…just awesome. When I left Ottawa, it was very cold and gray, seeing lush greenery was pretty sweet.

All in all, I was pretty psyched to have arrived.


  1. steph! That trip sounds terrifying. As soon as I read about the turbulence I was like HOLY CRAP SHE'S GOING TO LAX!!!!!!!!!

    What a well written story though. It was very moving and I can't wait to read about the rest of the trip.

    beatrice828. :)

  2. Thanks! I'm glad you all are enjoying it so much and I've been appreciating all the positive feedback. :)

  3. Steph, this is really well written. Seriously, I can't wait to read that booke. Quite the voice you have there. :)

    And secondly, that must've been terrifying. The whole time I would've been thinking "I'm going to the island!!!!!" I can't wait to read more f this. :)

  4. Thanks so much Dom! I'm glad you read it. :)

    I really was thinking OMG I'm going to THE ISLAND. Another weird Lost-like thing happened on my flight back, but I'll write about that later. ;)

  5. It's fun reading this. Maybe I won't have to bother writing out my own experiences, I'll just send friends and family to yours :p

    You know I fly a decent bit, typically a couple times a year, sometimes a lot more, though, and my own trip through LAX was pretty horrible too. Not as bad as yours, but I went through LAX earlier in the day than you. I was a bit shocked when I was talking to some guy in Hawaii watiing for you and he asked about the Tornado warnings in LA that day...

  6. Am I the only one who sees LAX and think it now needs a space between the A and X?

  7. Rushing around the aiport? Mid-flight turbulence? Freaked-out co-passengers? So far it sounds exactly like flight 815.

    Btw, 'Patchouli on a Plane' would make a great movie.