I’m stepping out of sequence here in order to offer up a cautionary tale. This travel thing. It sounds good, I know. But for every glorious moment on the grassy edge of sea cliffs, there has been an equal and opposite moment of angst, anger, frustration and/or downright despair. So consider carefully, travelers, whether your desire to break out of the bubble in which you’ve been contained these many months is sufficient to outweigh these many obstacles. It’s not easy out here. And I feel the need to give fair warning.
I’m sitting in Terminal E at the airport in Dallas-Fort Worth. I had a six hour layover in front of me. Yes. Six. My eyes are red beyond belief because I just had a full-on sobfest after being refused for getting on a flight to Santa Fe at 3:30 pm rather than my ticketed one at 7:40 pm. And I was asking at 2:50 pm. Nope. Cannot be put on this flight. Yes, there are seats available on this flight. But you have checked baggage madame and you cannot arrive at your destination ahead of your baggage.
Unless you arrive at your destination ahead of your baggage because they have screwed up. That’s okay. But you cannot arrive ahead of your baggage if you’ve managed to do the near impossible by getting to the earlier flight in time, are facing an incredibly long layover and just really, really, really want to get home.
And there’s where the breakdown occurred. I just could not, COULD NOT, take any more. Just about 24 hours of me trying to sustain myself in very trying conditions collapsed like a knitter standing in front of her favorite yarn store. But instead of buy, buy, buy, it was cry, cry, cry. I took my backpacks to a corner spot in the gate’s waiting area and sobbed.
I must have really looked pitiful because not one but TWO different people came over while I was having my cryfest, offering tissues and bottled water. Bless those fellow passengers of mine!
I don’t want to bore you with all the details. I’ll just start by telling you that in the previous 24 hours I’d
– checked into an airport hotel room for a shower and a few hour’s sleep before an early morning flight and found the room (including bathroom) hadn’t been cleaned. Subsequent request for another room was denied, as the hotel was full and my calls to nearby hotels produced no other options. My skin crawled at the thought of staying there. Especially in these times of Covid. Luckily, the single person working at the front desk offered to come clean the bathroom for me. I was quickly getting panicky. I thanked him multiple times. But I had to stay there. Ick.
– after walking to the airport from my hotel room at 4:30 am Please, don’t let me get mugged on my last morning in Glasgow… and waiting for the British Airways counter to open, I waited 45 minutes in line to check my bag because the first two people in line had complex check-in problems. 45 minutes! OMG, you should have seen the line behind me and felt the growing panic and anger. (I was fourth in line. So close to that counter and yet so far away…) No, nevermind. I wouldn’t have wished my worst enemy in that line. I don’t know how the two ladies at the counter kept their cool. I really don’t.
– I don’t know why I was living under the impression that once you go through security and are IN an airport, you won’t have to go through security again. Maybe lack of practice? Security check: every airport, every terminal change. And so I forgot and had water in my water bottle while trying to get from one terminal to the next at London’s Heathrow Airport. My bags got pulled, put in special trays for extra review and I sweated and sweated and shifted my weight back and forth and tried to contain my anxiety as the minutes ticked away. Oh my. People! Take your estimation for time needed to change terminals and double it! Triple it if you would like to actually make it on to that connecting flight.
Oh, I could go on. And on. But I’d better stop here. Suffice it to say that even knowing that everyone is highly stressed, KNOWING that everyone from restaurants to hotels are understaffed, KNOWING that every step of the process of travel is complicated and lengthened by showing Covid tests and additional documentation, KNOWING that most operational hours, procedures and routines will likely be different… KNOWING all that, I still was pushed over the edge by it all and broke down in tears.
I’m not even embarrassed about it. I can only keep hold of my equanimity for so long.
So I want to warn you, dear reader. This could happen to you. You might just breeze through everything without a care in the world. You might have ample time, helpful personnel, kindly queuing and endlessly patient people around you.
But you likely won’t.
Be prepared. Be forgiving, of yourself and others. You might want to take some valium along with you. (Darn. Wish I’d thought of that two weeks ago.) And if you can’t stand the heat (i.e. the stress, the discomfort, the endless obstacles to your equanimity), don’t even THINK about going into that kitchen.
Need a getaway? Consider a road trip instead, in your own car. Or take a nice long walk. Listen to the birds at a nearby park. Meet a friend for coffee at a new and different location.
Travel, especially by air and ESPECIALLY international travel, is no easy feat.
Now I’m gonna go wander the terminal for three more hours.
Next post: the rest of the Scotland scouting. In which Heather and Suzie meet some lovely sheep, fantastic new fiber folks and attempt the impossible – driving to George Square in downtown Glasgow.