Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Holiday Miracle

Family. The people in your life who you're closest to...the ones who get on your nerves the quickest. The ones who remind you of your most unattractive characteristics.... and who have the most dirt on you.

The holidays can be hard for families. Every year brings different heartaches... divorces, deaths, diseases. Often the holidays can remind us of what we're missing; what's not the same as it used to be.

It's easy to take your family for granted. And the holidays, although family-focused, are no exception. For the first time in my life, I thought there was a chance I was going to miss Christmas. Although December 25th would surely come and go, I knew without my family and oldest friends, it would just be another day.

Unfortunately, it took a horrendous 24 hours of pre-Christmas traveling to come to this realization. Let me paint you the long, but necessary, picture. 

5:00 p.m. Leave work... later than expected... for my scheduled 5:50 p.m. flight that has already been delayed until 8:30 p.m.

6:00 p.m. Get to airport. Check in/security randomness. 

6:30 p.m. Meet Cristy for dinner in the food court... laugh over the ridiculousness of the crowds and insanity. Call friends... laugh more. We love vacation. We love Christmas. 

7:30 p.m. Cristy and I relocate around her gate for her Columbus flight. We read magazines, talk pop culture, plan her wedding... Laughter continues... I leave Cristy... skipping off to my gate to check status and get ready to board.

8:00 p.m. Arrive at gate... Pull out Newsweek... Think about what I'm going to do once I get home.. 

8:05 p.m. Enter drunk 20-something guys who have been at the bar since 5:50 p.m. I knew one of them through a friend of a friend. Forward and touchy. Nervous laughter begins. 

8:30 p.m. Announcement of gate change. Ditch the drunkies

8:35 p.m. New seat. New boy. Western Reserve graduate in suit and tie. Yes, I judged. Conversation ends quickly after this WR discovery.

Realize we're not taking off at 8:30 p.m. Decide that I am starting to lose my Christmas cheer and try to avoid people at all costs. 

9:00 p.m. Commit to watching old episode of Grey's Anatomy on laptop. Killing time and any chance I may have to meet the (drunk) man of my dreams at the airport. Clearly fine with that situation. 

10:00 p.m. Plane arrives. Crew no where to be found. 

10:30 p.m. Apparently they locate crew. 

10:35 p.m. Load plane knowing the Cleveland airport is closed, and they are waiting for it to open. Grab the closest window seat I could find. 

10:45 p.m. Realize I'm sitting in the middle of a medical school reunion. Lots of talk of MBAs and how they are going to save the world... 

11:30 p.m. Get text from Cristy. She's in Columbus, and they are making her sing on the plane as they wait for an available gate. Haha, I laugh. I guess things could be worse. 

12:00 a.m. They update us that it's still touch-and-go, but they promise to get us to Cleveland tonight. 

12:45 a.m. They LIED! Cancelled flight. Unload plane.

1:45 a.m. After standing in line and being on hold with 1-800-I-FLY-SWA, realize all flights are booked until the 25th... make a bee-line for the rental cars. Still determined and optimistic that I'm going to get home. Somehow. 

2:30 a.m. Am informed there are no more rental cars available. Begin the search for my bags amongst the war ground that is the baggage claim area. 1,000s of bags scattered throughout the room in no particular order. All black, like mine.

3:00 a.m. Vow to buy bright orange suitcase. 

3:30 a.m. I have entered hell on earth. Realize I dragged about 50 pounds of luggage (with a bad back) through the slush to the airport to eat crappy food court food, be slightly accosted by drunk men, wait six hours for a cancelled flight, be denied the opp to fly or drive the next day to Ohio.... AND to top it off... LOSE THE LUGGAGE that started this chaos in the first place.

I lost all rational thought. I hated my life. I hated Southwest. I had no solution. Hysterically crying from exhaustion, disappointment and stress in the middle of Midway's baggage claim area, I called my parents. I was hoping maybe since they hadn't been stressing for the past nine hours, perhaps they could save me from what was sure to be a Christmas involving takeout and depressing Hallmark Christmas specials.

4:15 a.m. FIND MY LUGGAGE on carousel #6!!!!!!!! Shed tears of happiness. Can't stop the flow of tears that keep running down my face. I'm not even sure why I'm crying anymore. 

4:30 a.m. Leave Midway with luggage  but no plan as to how I will get home. Defeated once again by Chicago weather.

5:30 a.m. Fall asleep with Moxie. At least someone is happy I'm back in my apartment.

7:30 a.m. Mom calls frantic. Get changed! The Helmkamps are coming to pick you up in 10 minutes! Shut the F up... There is no way I am this lucky. Clearly I was good this year.

7:45 a.m. My miracle ride arrives to whisk me away to Akron, Ohio... once thought of as a ho-hum, regular destination, now the Oz in my Wizard... the pot at the end of the rainbow... the genie in my bottle.

3:00 p.m. Exhausted... but never happier to see my family and home on Christmas Eve. 

3:01 p.m. Begin most appreciated Christmas in Ohio EVER!

Have any trouble achieving your Merry Christmas because of the apocalyptic weather that arrived oh-so-conveniently during the height of holiday travel?? Any stories that beat mine?? Do tell... 


Kate on December 28, 2008 at 11:25 AM said...

Oh my Colleen! Sounds like you went through a little hell to get yourself to beautiful Akron!! Glad you made it and had a wonderful Xmas! Love you! Anne

Alyssa on December 30, 2008 at 3:54 PM said...

Wow, that sounds like hell on Earth. I had several Thanksgivings like that, and I vowed to never travel the Wednesday before Thanksgiving ever again.
The worst was my first Chicago Turkey Day going from O'Hare to St. Louis constant delayed flights and cancellations only to finally get home at 435 a.m. (supposed to be home around Noon - the day before). Holiday travel + crowds + bad weather = terribleness. Glad you got a ride home!!

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