In Family, Life Lessons, Pursuit of Happiness on July 14, 2010 at 10:58 am

The alarm went off at around 3:00am yesterday morning.  It was essentially the middle of the night, but it didn’t bother me at all.  Quite the opposite actually.  Although I was awake before the birds, it meant that I was one step closer to our long-awaited visit to New York.  My wife and I got ready, and then woke the kids up just after 4:00am to get ready.  Even in their sleepy haze, they were excited that the day had finally arrived (my son in particular).

At 4:20am, the phone rang.  It was our car service arriving 10 minutes early.  We scrambled to finish getting ready.  I took my little one’s hand and told her that it was time to leave.  Outside, we saw nothing but headlights from the car shining through the pitch black sky.  Still kind of sleepy, my little one looked around and then looked up at me and said…“Daddy, the plane isn’t here yet.” I guess at her age, the disconnect between living in an apartment complex and taking a private jet doesn’t exist.

We got into the Lincoln Navigator driven by the owner of the company…a Nigerian man named Peter.  He and I had spoken on the phone a handful of times.  It came as no surprise to me that he was so friendly and polite when we met him because he was exactly the same way on the phone whenever we spoke.

Fearing the possibility of running late and missing our flight, we decided to err on the side of caution and arrive at the airport two hours early.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best decision.  Trying to kill time at an airport early in the morning, with kids, is no easy feat.  Most of the stores aren’t open, so there is nothing to do but wait around.  Needless to say, I wasn’t too happy to see that our flight was one of two that was delayed.  An extra hour and twenty minutes to entertain restless and anxious children.

After a long wait, we finally got on our flight.  It was the first time that my daughter had flown on a plane.  I buckled her seatbelt, she looked out the window and said the magical words that every parent longs to hear…“Daddy, are we there yet?” She had her moments of fun on the plane, mixed in with moments of crankiness.  Overall, about what I expected from her.

When we landed in Milwaukee for our layover, we decided to stay on the plane since it was scheduled to depart for New York 40 minutes later.  Before long, we were being told that we had to exit the plane because there was something called a “ground stop” issued at LaGuardia Airport.  We were looking at another hour at best.   It was frustrating, but it is a part of air travel that everyone has to deal with.

We kept checking the departure board.  No changes for a while…and then it happened.  Next to our flight number, in all capital letters, appeared the word “CANCELLED.”  This had never happened to me in all of my years of business travel, and now it was happening for the first time with my wife and two kids on the most important trip since our honeymoon.  Frustration doesn’t even begin to describe how I was feeling.

I immediately returned to the ticket counter, and was told to take any carry-on items off of the plane.  When I asked what we were supposed to do, I was met with looks of sheer confusion by the Air Tran workers.  They told us all that our checked luggage could be retrieved at baggage claim, but also that it could be left there as it was being watched.   Somehow I doubt that it was actually being watched, but that never factored into my decision to leave it there, especially since it would likely have created more problems as we only possessed boarding passes for a flight that no longer existed.  Lost luggage was a risk that I was willing to take if it meant that I’d be able to get onto another flight to New York later in the day.

Waiting on line is something that no one ever wants to do.  I am certainly no exception.  But I was determined to do whatever I could to get my family to New York.  Being stranded in Milwaukee was not an option that I was willing to accept.  So I waited….and I waited…..and waited some more.  It took all of the restraint that I had to avoid having a confrontation with a foreigner who spoke no English, and thought nothing of cutting the line.

As I waited on line, I overheard the results that others were getting….“tomorrow is the best I can do”“it may be as late as two days from now”“if you fly through Atlanta to Philadelphia, you will arrive at around 1:00am.” Quite frankly, all of the options short of getting onto the next flight were terrible.

I called the airlines, and was assured that I would be on the next flight, but I still had no confirmation from the ticket counter in the form of boarding passes.  So I waited….and waited…and waited some more on the line.  At one point, they decided to move the line to another counter, and told us all to keep our place in line.  What a joke!  People took their chance to move ahead, but I stood my ground and made sure that I wasn’t pushed any further back.  I may be living in Texas now, but I am still a New Yorker willing to thrown down some New York attitude when the situation calls for it.

With only one person in front of me, the frazzled supervisor got on the loud speaker and announced two names that had boarding passes for the next flight.  Thankfully, mine was one of them.  However, when I raised my hand, he handed them to me without checking my ID to see who I was.  He did the same with the other woman.  A bit ridiculous when you consider that, in today’s times, my 3-year old had to have her Dora the Explorer sneakers scanned for shoe bombs.  Interesting how security measures take a back seat to chaos.

When I got the boarding passes, I returned to my family and proclaimed loudly and proudly (in my best New York accent)“I feel like I won the friggin’ lottery!” Amazing how perspective can change so quickly.  If someone would have told me before my trip started that I’d arrive in New York 4.5 hours late and be happy about it, I would have had them immediately committed.   Seeing the haphazard manner in which the suddenly flightless passengers were handled, I didn’t see any possible way that our checked luggage would have gotten onto the flight with us.  Unfortunately, my prediction came true.  As I am writing this, it is getting close to noon, and we’re still waiting for our luggage to be delivered.  But it doesn’t matter.

As tired and frustrated as I was with how the day began, I was thrilled with how the day ended.  We were home at last!  Our niece and her boyfriend picked us up at the airport.  What a sight for sore eyes.  We hit traffic on the way home, but it didn’t matter.  I knew the roads.  I knew that the traffic would be heavier near the Jackie Robinson Parkway, and then it would let up a bit.  The same holds true for the Douglaston Parkway area.  None of it mattered.  With each passing exit on the Northern State Parkway, it felt more and more like home.

Nearly a year had passed since we packed up the van and headed southwest.  Our kids have grown before our eyes, but their growth was very noticeable to their aunt and cousins.  Seeing my kids hugging everyone made me happy and a little sad at the same time, still dealing with my feelings of guilt for moving away.

It had been a long, stressful day, and none of us had eaten anything of substance.  Our planned pizza lunch had now turned into a late pizza dinner.  I couldn’t even wait for the pre-ordered pies to come out.  I had to get a slice that I ate at almost room temperature.  As the old saying goes…“you don’t know what you’ve got, ‘till it’s gone.” Like all displaced, native New Yorkers, we’ve missed New York pizza terribly.  The room temperature New York pizza that I had was far superior to any pizza that I’ve had since moving. So, despite having an annoying, frustrating day yesterday, it ended on a high note.

“Home” means different things to different people.  Sitting down with family and eating New York pizza on Long Island is “home” to me.  Same goes for the bagel breakfast this morning.  And though I can’t speak for my wife and kids, I believe that they feel the same way.

I guess, to an outsider, it may seem that my homecoming is about “carbo-loading” with family.  But it is much more than that.  I didn’t know it until I gained the perspective of being outside of New York, but pizza and bagels represent more than just food.  They represent the New York culture, where many unrealized moments are shared, and very often, taken for granted.

Despite the difficult journey getting here, and the aftermath of missing luggage, all in all, I am very happy to be home!

  1. Hey Adam I’m so glad you made it home safe and sound. That’s really all that matters! Have a slice of pizza for me and have an AWESOME time!!


  2. The lovely computer sent the above without my finishing, so no, I am not a lunatic yet, and I do complete my thoughts!
    How incredible a journey can be! From your daughter’s first flight, which seemed at best LONG, to her thinking the jet was picking her up at your apartment complex. Loved that part! I have not flown AirTran and do not think I will after ALL the horror stories I have heard from friends here and now you! Stick to SW…download DING on your computer from their website for daily specials and you will be amazed at the prices + the ultimate: non-stop flights! (My flight from here to Baltimore was $89 + taxes, non stop, and in case of bad weather, there is no fee to rebook.)Of course now you can fly to Pensacola pretty cheap, but again I roam in my thoughts. Going home with your wife and precious bundles of joy is a fabulous feeling. The pizza and bagels are an added plus. Letting your children experience the wonders that you have known all your life is priceless. ENJOY! ENJOY! ENJOY! Have a wonderful trip, but ya’ll gotta come back here too! Much love & joy!

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