Crying in 28L
After waiting so long to fly overseas, not a thing went as planned.
August 19, 2022
Happy Friday, travelers!
This week’s issue comes to you from our new home: Substack! I’ve been working for the past few weeks to move From the Aisle Seat and it’s finally ready.
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On deck for this issue is the story of our flying experience to reach Scotland last week. Buckle up. It’s a wild ride, one I’d never before experienced trying to fly overseas. The stories of chaos with flying right now are true, friends. They’re true.
And, of course, I’m sharing what I read while waiting for hours in airports.
Got feedback on our new look, on the newsletter itself, on anything here? Comment below or reply and let me know.
Now, on to this week’s issue: Crying in 28L.
If things had gone according to plan, we’d already be 3,472 miles away. But instead, we were still on the ground. On the opposite side of the world. And I was silently sobbing in seat 28L.
In my attempts at discretion, at having a private emotional moment in the midst of over 200 passengers, our significant delay (finally) worked in my favor. At 2am, in the dead of the night, everyone was exhausted. No one had the energy to notice a twenty-something woman having an emotional breakdown in the exit row.
This is how it happened.
The planning of this trip came and went in the span of two days. Our first flight was less than a week later. Even for me, this was tight. After all, there were so many moving pieces: three roundtrips, four airlines, three cities, two states, two countries. A mother and a daughter. At least both of us had done similar things before.
It all started with a tattoo, but not the kind your mother abhors (at least, if she’s anything like mine). We were headed to the land of kilts, haggis, and highland ‘coos’ for the Royal Military Tattoo Festival. It sounds like formations of stern men with their hair high and tight, but it was more of an international variety show.
I went in with zero expectations and absolutely loved it. You can see past performances on YouTube or learn more about the tattoo from the people who run it. They will explain it far better than I can here.
Being back in Scotland after a 3-year hiatus in such perfect weather was amazing.
Getting there, however, was the worst flying experience of my life.
Since I started traveling as a 19-year-old, I’ve taken many flights. I don’t know exactly how many, but a fair estimate is around 100. We were gone for roughly a week on this trip, and every single flight we took was delayed. A chain of delays like this was a first for me. This isn’t a big deal in and of itself. I was just grateful to be in Europe again for the first time in years. I will be grateful every day that I even get to do this.
What caused the difficulty was dealing with companies that don’t want to admit they made a mistake. Because mistakes mean compensation, and who wants to pay that when you’re trying to cover billions in losses?
Our first flight was delayed by five hours. The second was delayed by four hours, then we were rebooked onto an earlier flight, which was cancelled. What transpires next causes me to laugh so hard I cry.
The gate agents frantically rebooking us didn’t explain a word of what they were doing. Of the dozen or so people at the desk, not one of us knew we were being rerouted to get on a plane that was at the gate and leaving right then.
Mind you, the airport was empty. Everyone else had already left, either on a plane or a hotel shuttle. Our group of misfits was all that remained in the terminal.
A man in our group asked what was going on, and the gate agent finally told him we were getting on a plane to leave right now. “Right now?“ he asked.
“Yeah, right now!”
At this news, he didn’t say a word. He simply turned on his heel and broke into a full sprint down the empty aisle of the airport, between vacated rows of uncomfortable chairs, flailing his arms in the air and yelling his wife’s name at the top of his lungs. She’d already started walking away. To where? No idea. But she got the message, and so did everyone else.
We are getting on that plane, right now, not a moment to waste. Because how can we know we’ll make it tomorrow? Seize the delay.And when things get frustrating, seize every ounce of laughter you can get.
We landed in Dulles at 1:30am, long after our connecting flight took off. Solemn, somber, after the delirium wore off, we booked a hotel room in the hopes of getting at least some sleep. We were assured that there were two beds with our names on them just a short Uber away.
But when we arrived, the quirky nighttime manager told us this wasn’t the case—he was completely booked up, and this happened to the hotel often. Someone from corporate would book rooms for the wrong night and send stranded travelers to him, where all he could offer was the helpful advice to “Call ‘em and raise hell.”
Off we went to the next hotel after being picked up by a very large man wearing Big & Tall overalls in a tiny cerulean Civic. This was already a night of contradictions. He fit in quite well.
Alas, we made it to a room which we did not leave until 4pm the next day. Our next flight was due to leave at 10:35pm.
We didn’t leave until 2am.
And that was after being delayed at the gate, getting on the plane, then deplaning, going to a new gate, getting on the new plane and *finally* taking off. This is where I tie the beginning to the end. This is when the tears started to fall.
I love long flights, from the extra-large plane to ordering my vegan meal in advance. I’d looked forward to this one since my last one touched down in March 2020.
But in that moment, I wanted nothing more than to just get there already. The journey, the moving away from, the moving towards, is too important to wish away. For that half hour, I didn’t recognize myself or the Journey to 197. Even worse, I didn’t like what I saw.
This is a problem when we’re talking about dreams. What do you do when a dream is no longer what you thought it would be and suddenly seems not worth the effort?
This is the question I’ve pondered off and on since March 2020. The conclusion I’ve come to is it can and will look differently, just as I change and the world changes.
That is a reason for wonder, a reason to keep going, and definitely not a reason to quit.
How do you deal with second-guessing what matters most to you? That can be such a disorienting place. I’ve experienced it in more than travel. What has your experience been with this?
What’s on My Tray Table
Western Ukraine used to be called Galicia. As a lover of Spain, I was fascinated by this. What tie in ancient history could be between the Galicia of northwestern Spain and the region of the same name in Ukraine? I want to find out.
This week’s book is Kris Spisak’s debut novel, The Baba Yaga Mask. It’s the story of two American women whose Ukrainian grandma brings them on a wild goose chase all over Eastern Europe.
I did like this book, but the character development was a little bit weak in my opinion. I look forward to reading more of Spisak’s work as her style develops, especially if it’s about Ukraine.
My favorite part of this novel, though, was how beautifully Spisak tied the ending together. It made my heart beat faster, my breath come in a rush. The chapters alternate between the modern day and 1941, when the grandmother was young and displaced due to World War II. This is a common structure of historical fiction that some say is overdone, but I enjoy it.
Did you know Ukrainians dealt with occupation from Soviets and Nazis? Until I moved there as a recent college grad, neither did I.
I give this book four stars. Here are links for Amazon and Bookshop.
Next week, I’ll talk about the beauty that was Denmark. If it’s not on your list, it should be. In the meantime, you can see my Copenhagen Instagram story highlight. Before this trip, I would have told you to go to Paris for pastries. My answer is different now. I’ll tell you all about it next week!
Be brave and stay that way,
Credit: I saw this clever copy on an American Express ad in LaGuardia. I wish I knew the copywriter’s name so I could quote them directly.