Stormy Travel

The weather that affected my life most recently happened on April 7th on my flight out of Tampa in a lightning-and-thunder filled rainstorm.

I am flying American, not my usual standby, Southwest. I love Southwest. I have their credit card and like their offbeat humor. But I change because my Coast Guard son is flying in from Cali and we want to meet up in Richmond at 4:15 p.m., then drive to Gloucester, our final destination.  On Southwest, I would get in at 11:50 p.m., an unseemly hour, so I find an alternate flight on Black Friday.  Perhaps that should have been a sign. It’s American Airlines, one way, for a great price.

I’m in line outside TIA. I’ve just checked my bag when the lady behind me asks, “Did you hear our flight’s been delayed two hours?”

I’ve already arrived two hours early, so this is not good news. My boarding passes are no longer correct, so I go inside and get into another line to the ticket counter, although I have no bag. The agent says I won’t make my connecting flight in Philly with the weather delay. So, the next thing I know I’m booked to DC, then on to Charlotte and from Charlotte to Richmond. I also have a stand-by flight and am booked on a later one if I don’t make the first one. Going through security, I am tagged with a wine opener containing a 5-inch blade.

Delays continue through the day.  I grow sure that the Greyhound bus would have been faster.

On my DC flight, my phone app tells me I won’t make the connecting flight to Charlotte but that I can choose from several other options. Muttering that “if I can just get there before midnight it’ll be nice”, I click through the options.  All flawed by the fact that to choose one of them I have to see the gate personnel on the ground. This is where I vow never to leave home again.

Well, time for one of my standby flights and some running between gates. I make the earlier flight into Richmond. My son has been waiting six hours now. I’ll arrive at 10 p.m. instead of midnight.

Yessss! I’m on the ground. There by the belt is my son, Shawn. I just have to grab my metallic blush hard-side bag, and we can go.

We watch expectantly, but without success, until the gate on the belt closes. He tells me to take my baggage sticker from check-in and go to the baggage claim office to report my missing luggage. I venture, “They don’t still do that surely?” He shows me his sticker, but I’ve got nothing.

The lady is helpful, and my bag is eventually delivered to Elizabeth’s house in Gloucester at 5:45 a.m. We know this because of Ring and the three dogs that go wild, when it is plunked on her doorstep. Everything inside is soaking wet. I ask my travel friend, JoAnne, “Why is it all wet?” She says it was left on the tarmac all night in the rain.

But for now, we are luggage-less, and we text for an Uber. But the little car on the Uber App map never moves. Finally, the Uber driver calls and says his car won’t start. The fare would have been $140, as it’s an hour from Richmond to Gloucester.

So, we pull up the next Uber, but he’s a hundred and seventy-five dollars. Shawn decides to just go in and rent a car. Only two stations are manned. They both say “You can’t rent one way”. Shawn tells them, “I have it confirmed on the App for one way.” But still, we are told it’s not possible.

We spend several minutes doing this, then we try Uber again, but now Uber’s over two hundred dollars. (They know we are desperate.) Elizabeth is on the phone and, although she and Hailey are in bed, she says they will come. But it is late, school day tomorrow. And it’s still raining.

So, I say, “Let’s go old school and just see if there’s a cab outside?” There are two. The cab driver says it will be between $125 and $140, so we hop in, arrive safely just before midnight, and are greeted by three happy dogs. Shawn hasn’t been home in several months. I am so glad to get there. I thought I was going to have to get a hotel in Charlotte, a place I’d never been before tonight.

As I go to bed, I say thanks that I am here and on the same day, and–as I rub my obsidian necklace–murmur “I wonder how good life would be if it was always 75 degrees and only rained between the hours of 1 and 5 a.m.?”

The next morning, we load dogs, gear, and food into a Corolla and head out for the wild horses on the outer banks. While we are there it is a lovely 75 degrees, and it doesn’t rain. But after a few days, we figure out how to turn on the television and hear the news that our glaciers are all melting. The polar bears and penguins are losing their homes. It’s a global disaster. Snow is melting and flooding the mountains and valleys.

I run downstairs to my jewelry bag for my black necklace and rub it saying, “Oh really, I was just kidding! Please, restore Earth’s natural climate.”

Now for the trip home…


Jan Vaupel retired from teaching school in California to begin her adventure in Florida and was delighted to discover OLLI-USF. She has enjoyed many cooking classes, especially Italian and Spanish, but her passions are writing and hiking with Gail Parsons. She enrolled in Gail’s classes, including the Exploring Hillsborough County Wildlands and Bird Watching and is now part of the OLLI Hiking SIG. She has also taken creative writing classes and several watercolor classes with Harvey Berman. She is currently in an OLLI writing group called the Imaginative Crew.

6 Replies to “Stormy Travel”

  1. A really, really great story! Sorry to say, if it was true, all our lives since COVID have changed, but I hope not forever!!!

  2. TIME TO BUY YOUR OWN PLANE BABE–THE KIND WHERE THE WINGS FOLD BACK INTO THE
    FUSELAGE—AND IT BECOMES YER OWN LIMO —-WITH A.E. IN CHARGE AT YOUR SERVICE—AND BE A GO-GO GAL—LOVE YER STORIES–

  3. So happy you got there safely. Family is worth the inconveniences. A story well told 😉

    I used to love travel, but all has changed over the last two years.

  4. Quite the travel saga, Jan. Glad you could maintain your optimism and sense of humor and enjoy time with family. May your next travels go more smoothly, may the contents of your luggage arrive dry, and may you use your sense of humor just for the fun of it, not to maintain your sanity. Thanks for your engaging story.

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