My plane landed at JFK international airport at 11:30 PM. My inland flight to Columbus left at 11:55 PM...from LaGuardia…across town…in New York City…on Christmas Eve…and it was snowing. Right.
This was just another in a long line of travel mishaps for me that Christmas. It had begun in Bonn. I’d left my hotel in plenty of time to get to the airport, but when I’d arrived, I’d discovered that the Lufthansa flight was canceled due to a mechanical problem. Ok. I’d rather not be on that plane anyway. We passengers were directed to a waiting area and put on stand-by until the next available flight. “Stand by.” They really mean that.
I’d hustled to find a seat when someone got up to use the restroom. It was fair play, but the lone traveler like me was at a disadvantage. I’d waited until I thought my bladder would explode, but you know…there’s only so long. I’d hauled my luggage with me because, of course, without a plane, my bags were homeless. And when I’d come out from the restroom, my seat was taken. (If it hadn’t been, I’d have looked to see if the rapture had occurred.)
Finally we’d “qued” up to board our flight, and let me tell you something about Germans…they aren’t British. They don’t “que”. The whole group had stormed the ticket counter en masse, and I was left fighting to get within arm’s reach of an agent. But I’d soon discovered that an elbow is a useful body appendage.
After I’d gotten on the plane, I was seated in the smoking section. I get migraines from cigarette smoke…the kind that makes me puke, so all the way across the Atlantic, I’d heaved my guts out. At one point, the latrines were all full, and I’d been desperate enough to use “the bag.” Later an attendant gave me a bottle of soda water to “clean” my sweater. Right.
After living through the migraine sufferer’s flight from you-know-where, I was happy to land on U.S. soil. Once in the terminal though, and told the good news about La Guardia, the stampede was on for all of us to get a taxi…in New York City…on Christmas Eve...in the snow. Right.
It happened that a priest, a rabbi, and I shared a taxi (Yes…we got one!) to LaGuardia. I was trying not to think about the fact that I smelled like…well, you know…and that we were crammed in this car with what luggage that wouldn’t fit in the trunk stuffed between us. The rabbi was sitting on the jump seat facing the priest and me and the pile of suitcases. We lucked out and got an aggressive (i.e. “crazy”) driver. He drove everywhere but on the road. At one point, while I was trying to convince myself that we weren’t REALLY riding on two wheels on the side of the highway divider, I glanced over and caught the priest crossing himself.
But we lived and made it to LaGuardia in time…we thought. We three struggled into the terminal, lugging our stuff, just in time to see our plane disappearing into the snowy sky toward the Midwest. It turns out the flight was overbooked (what else?), and we couldn’t get another one until morning. We were stranded in New York City…on Christmas Eve…whatever.
We decided to take turns watching each other’s stuff while we slept on the floor…oh man! And the cold bums off the streets that slept along beside us? Well, let’s put it this way…we napped with one eye open and our hands balled in fists.
Dawn came and we finally got on our flight to Columbus. We decided we might as well go the whole way together, but have I mentioned that priests and rabbis can be grouchy after sleeping on a floor all night? It didn’t help that the Santa we greeted when we got off our flight in Ohio growled at us and said, “What’s so merry about being in an airport at 9 AM on Christmas morning?” Right.
We three amigos said goodbye to one another at the door of the airport. The rabbi laughed and said he’d be able to tell “a-priest-a-rabbi-and-a-Pentecostal” jokes with impunity from then on, and the priest gave us each a blessing. I just said “Thanks for the memories” and got in my rental car.
Did I tell you that my family wanted to go cross-country skiing as soon as I hit the door? Right.
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