I’m used to Americans harassing and pushing me at JFK airport, but I was hopeful for my flight to Miami this year. I was with one of my closest friends and felt like nothing could bring me down. Plus, I was traveling with my $500+ electric guitar and looked like an absolute badass that no one should be playing with.
Everything was fine when I was seated in the row my friend, an old lady, and I were sharing. My guitar was stowed, as instructed by the stewardess, in the overhead compartment above my row.
Nevertheless, my peace was disturbed when a Miamian Karen towered over me – when she sat at 5’2″ – trying to put her hard case on my guitar. When I asked her nicely what she was doing , she replied saying that her seat was 10 rows behind but there was no space in the cabin. She told me to move my guitar because it’s too big. When I refused , she started yelling at me in Spanish. The old lady next to me was surprised. The friend I was traveling with, a Colombian, started yelling behind her back.
There was a space in the overhead compartment one row ahead that was the perfect size for his suitcase. When a man sitting near us pointed it out, Miamian Karen said “see” and urged me to put my guitar in the space that was clearly too small to fit. When I refused, she started trying to move my guitar herself.
My row and I called the stewardess, and the stewardess immediately closed the cabin my guitar was in and told her to move her stuff elsewhere.
Hope she had a good flight.
I’ll do my best, I tell myself. Returning home from studying abroad in Nice, France, the cheapest flight option allowed me to fly through Europe and the continental United States. “Home” was a four-day odyssey: six hours on trains, one night at an airport hotel, a transatlantic flight, another stay at an airport hotel, another flight to Minneapolis, a night at my uncle’s and finally a shuttle to Rochester, Minnesota. There I was to spend three weeks with my grandmother, my mother, my extended family and my boyfriend, a long-awaited vacation after a hectic semester and a rewarding but exhausting foray into the French hospital system.
My dad had booked my flights fearing that I wouldn’t have time to get off the plane from Milan and clear customs for the daily 9:40 PM JetBlue flight from New York to Minneapolis. “Anabel, I know how these airports work,” he told me – which he knows, having himself been a commercial transatlantic pilot for a long time. He even went so far as to check the arrival history of the Emirates flight I was on – “always late”.
He had emailed me my itinerary months in advance and I hadn’t bothered to check exactly where I was staying. He’s usually brilliant about these things, being so savvy that I rarely thought twice about how I was going to get where I was going. But when I plugged the address into Uber, it showed a 1.5 hour ride, followed by a fare four times what I expected. My father had booked me a hotel at LaGuardia airport and I had landed at John F. Kennedy airport. Normally I could deal with something like this, except it was also the moment my father had chosen to inform me that my beloved dog – Tippy, the Lhasa Apso my parents had first year and who is, by all accounts, my best friend – had gone to the vet for borderline kidney failure. After sobbing for the 90 minute drive, it all got morbidly worse when I discovered that my hotel room overlooked a cemetery – and not just any cemetery, rather a large strip of land where not less than 210,000 people are buried. Lord, I thought, am I going to have to choose a headstone for Tippy?
I do not understand how i keep getting into these travel fiascos – although at least it was soft, by my standards, but it all worked out in the end. My dog, being the stubborn creature that she is, pulled through, I arrived in Minnesota and learned to check everything – even my father, the professional traveler.
Until you were forced, by tyrannical airline weight restrictions, to transfer the contents of your luggage from one suitcase to another on the rough, sandy airport floor while two employees of Air Canada are watching with joy, until you accidentally drop that pair of underwear you should have thrown away three years ago, but somehow you never did. and now every traveler who passes you now knows it, until you suffer the indignity of having your personal diary confiscated and read by an overzealous TSA agent on the presumption that it was a bomb, until until you have realized all this, you have never known shame.
My trip to Greece was strewn with cancellations, delays and missed connections, starting with my canceled flight from Nashville the night before. The airline had me book a layover flight through DC pretty quickly. But while I was relaxing at my empty door in Dulles, they announced that my flight to Montreal was delayed, meaning I would miss my direct connection to Athens.
By then I had become tempted to catch a flight home – I was still in the US after all. But, I arrived in Montreal, just with a later flight that would take me to Frankfurt before Athens. Of course, this flight was delayed. On top of that, a family of four had to be landed on the tarmac. Still, I thought I would make my next connection, but I didn’t. My surprise six o’clock in Germany was not the fun time it could have been. I had to go back to security, where they thought I had explosives in my backpack. I finally arrived at Athens airport almost twelve hours later than expected.
It was my first trip abroad, and I thought to myself, “At least my trip home can’t be worse. At worst, I got stuck in Germany for three days. Fun highlights: a humiliating attempt to get a taxi, brushing my teeth with hand soap, a three-hour queue to book a flight that ended up being cancelled. On my last trip to Frankfurt airport (the only stamps in my passport are four from here) all three of my bags and my body went through security, plus a random secondary security check that was waiting at the door. Once in Chicago, a flight from home, another three-hour line at customs took me through O’Hare with untied shoes and five minutes to board. I finally returned in mid-July, but my suitcase is still lost in the ether.
Overall, my study abroad experience was overwhelmingly positive, including my COVID-19 test.