Cyclones, Blizzards & Birds
Yesterday afternoon, after over 60 hours of travel, I settled into my Delta Airlines seat for the short, 36-minute flight from New York to Boston. My colleagues and I would then be only a 60-mile car ride from home, and gratefully my colleague had driven s to the airport, not me. Over the course of the trip to and from Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean where we had been working, I had drained the battery on my Kindle (I recommend The Air Between Us), watched 8 movies (Genius was an unexpected find, Keeping Up With the Jones unwatchable, even with Jon Hamm), and graded all my student papers, so I was content to just sit. And then.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” the pilot said with a hint of both exasperation and absurdity in his voice, “it seems that when passengers were disembarking from the last flight a bird got into the cockpit. We will be delayed while maintenance looks for it.”
A bird got into the cockpit?
Knowing I was on the precipice of physical and mental collapse, maybe my two very good natured colleagues had paid somebody to play this joke on me.
A bird in the cockpit?
No, there really was a bird in the cockpit….or somewhere in the plane. This latest travel snafu was a perfect addition to what had already been a Perils of Pauline trip.
We got bird updates every 15 minutes or so. Why not just upgrade it to a Therapy Bird and take off?
Over an hour later, after the bird had been found behind a wall in the cargo hold, the wall removed and the bird escaping, we left.
My two colleagues and I went to Mauritius for 4 days of participation in a seminar for senior African leaders. Used to traveling with men who don’t like to check luggage (in truth, neither do I), I packed meticulously. We would be done every day at 2, so I wanted to have plenty of room in my carry on for bathing suits, cover ups, beach hats and flip flops. So I brought exactly what was needed for a tropical paradise.
Keep in mind as well that Mauritius is 9 hours ahead in timezones, and we had traveled Boston-London (6 hours), London-Johannesberg (11+ hours), Joberg-Mauritius (5 hours) to get there, and then went to work early the day after arrival at 7 pm.
Narcolepsy was rampant the entire time we were there and while traveling.
Rather than going to the beach the first day, I thought maybe a nap was in order. It seemed especially a good idea as it was overcast. But then the locals explained that was because a Class 2 Cyclone, Carlos, was headed toward Mauritius.
A freakin’ Cyclone!
We managed to get in an afternoon of sightseeing — nice scenery, a few monkies and the famous Blue Penny stamps, supposedly the most valuable on the world — but the wind was already starting to blow. I’m talking “Aunti Em! Aunti Em!” blowing…..
The hotel packed up all the beach chairs, closed the Sugarcane Bar, and generally prepared for horizontal rain and wind. And it came.
Apparently, “ponchos” are largely an unknown item in Mauritian gift shops. Nobody had anything to sell me – for any price – for rain protection. And an umbrella would have turned inside out instantly. I didn’t have so much as a jacket to wear, and we still had to walk around the largely exterior corridors and walkways to meeting rooms, restaurants and our rooms.
One night we ate at the hotel buffet with all the “inclusive plan” Europeans, but frankly….we just weren’t “buffet” people… So the next night I gamely followed my two male colleagues as we walked through a cyclone to get to an Indian restaurant. Imagine eating in a restaurant right after having fallen into a pool with all your clothes on.
The airport closed, schools closed, and so not to our surprise, our departure flight home was cancelled. That meant staying another day, which was fine though it did involve rebooking flights through a government travel service that often sends you from Boston to London via Chicago and seats you in Row 112. Rebooking was an all afternoon adventure involving several stops at airline offices, all through the driving rain.
Finally though we were headed home. Again, 5 hours to Joberg, several hours waiting there and then an 11+ hour flight to London. It was in Joberg that we heard about the Nor-Easter set to hit New England on Thursday, when we were scheduled to arrive in Boston.
When we arrived in London at 6, I honestly wasn’t sure if it was 6 am or 6 pm. Turns out it was am, and our flight home was scheduled to leave at 4 pm.
And of course the airline waited until 2 to cancel it, while we sat waiting at Heathrow.
Once cancelled we then embarked on another round of rebooking (with hundreds of other weary and some angry travelers) – “nothing available to Boston, but we can get you to New York, and then Boston” – before heading off to an airport hotel.
It was freakin’ cold in London, and all I had left in my suitcase was my unused beachwear. Everything else I brought I had slept in on an airplane, some things more than once.
Finally, finally…we were on our way to the right continent. New York never looked so good.
Until I got pulled out of the Border Patrol line. I was one of those people you see being led away to a side room. Was the travel ban back on? Did somebody think I was born in Yemen rather than Toledo, Ohio? Had The Donald been reading my Twitter feed? My colleagues subtly turned away. I would have done the same.
Apparently, the computer wouldn’t read my passport, or so the Border Patrol said when they released me.
All we had to do now was change terminals and make that Delta flight to Boston. What could happen then?
There’s a bird in the cockpit.
Once at Logan airport we laughed, talked about how between the Cyclone, Blizzard and Bird we had met our “things happen in three’s” quota, and were just ready to go home.
But not so fast there travelers.
I kid you not. My colleague’s car battery was dead.
We got back to Newport around 930 – a full 72 hours after leaving Mauritius.
We all have travel horror stories but I’m thinking this makes any top ten list.
I encourage – challenge – others to share those on the It’s Not Me Right Facebook page, and please… include pictures.
Me? I’m feeling the narcolepse coming on. Maybe it’s time for a nap before I fell asleep mid……zzzzzzzzzz