As you enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers and think about the 30 million people who traveled by plane or the 55 million who traveled by car over the holiday weekend, undoubtedly some of them will have “travel nightmare” stories to share. We all have them, it seems.
Most of my “travel nightmare” stories become funny over time, although the last one I’ll share today has never been funny. Let’s start, though, with some common ones.
Missed or canceled flights
I’ve missed my share of flights. In one case, I spent an extra day in Amsterdam because I was five minutes too late. The plane was still at the gate, but the doors were closed and they would not be reopened. Another time, my daughter and I missed flights in South Africa because, in our jet-lagged brains, we did not have the right time for boarding, but rather the departure time. Oops.
In February 1991, I flew to Romania on Yugloslav Airlines. We were asked not to leave the Belgrade airport during our 10-hour layover because of political unrest. Two months later, when I was ready to return home, Yugoslavia as a country was breaking apart and Yugoslav Airlines no longer existed.
Almost five years ago, I booked an international flight on one of those cheap airfare websites for my husband, myself and two teens. We got to Dallas for our connecting flight, only to find out the flight didn’t exist. It wasn’t delayed — the entire route had been removed from the airline’s schedule months before. That was confusing to everyone, including airline personnel.
Traveling with kids
The number of those adventures traveling with kids are as long as my arm. I traveled home from Romania (on Romanian Air) with two disabled toddlers, by myself. Those were some very long hours. I’ve made the mistake, more than once, sad to say, of not being adequately prepared with diapers, wipes, extra clothes, bottles or formula. Delayed flights or baby tummy troubles have led to some, um, interesting times in airplane bathrooms, trying to jury-rig a solution.
Speaking of tummy troubles, I might also mention the time I got my first case of giardia in Ethiopia, where there are less-than-adequate public restrooms. If you’ve never had giardia, I am so happy for you. It feels like death is coming for you by ripping your insides out. That same trip, our newly adopted 4-year-old threw up all over the JFK McDonald’s — and his clothes — on our way home.
The worst, though, was on another adoption trip. I was adopting in Russia in early 1998 and had to fly from Vladivostok, on the far eastern side of the country, to Moscow, in the west to get U.S. visas for our two newest children. The flight was nine hours, each way, with less than 24 hours in Moscow before flying back on a red-eye. The 21-month old started crying before we boarded the plane and did.not.stop. until after we landed. That was a nightmare. Nightmare. I had a teenager with me who was watching the other toddler while I literally spent eight-plus hours in the airplane bathroom. He cried, I cried. For hours. To make the whole situation worse, it was just a few months after an American couple was arrested in the U.S. after they had slapped and yelled at their newly adopted Russian children on their flight home. I was positive every single eye was on me on that plane.
That one is still only mildly amusing. However, it was another confirmation of the mantra “You can do anything for nine hours.” (Or a day, a week, a semester, or even a year.)
The not-funny travel story
The one travel nightmare that is not even slightly humorous was the time I had a second-trimester miscarriage. It was 1992 and I was 17 weeks pregnant when I traveled to Moscow for one week. I had been feeling the baby move and had heard her heartbeat several times. I felt that by 17 weeks, I was out of the danger zone.
I started bleeding in the airport, getting ready to go home.
During that interminable flight, the bleeding got worse and the cramping began. I was able to lie down in the back row of the plane, while emergency sanitary supplies were found. I cried my way back to the U.S.
The flight crew recommended I seek medical attention at the first stop in the U.S., but I just wanted to get home. I went straight from the Salt Lake City airport to the University of Utah Hospital, where I delivered a tiny, perfectly formed, perfectly still baby girl. We named her Aimée, French for beloved, and so she was.
All in all, I am grateful for modern travel capabilities. I just wish the Star Trek transporter was a reality.