It’s safe to say this might be the longest post I’ve ever written. Who would have thought a semi-detailed account about a travel nightmare would rank highest on *longest post ever*? I can’t make it shorter. I can’t even try to make it shorter, my brain is still re-charging from the nightmare and in overdrive thinking about all the things that are happening back home. If you’d like to read our story… it’s behind the cut… if not, I don’t blame you, just know: we’re home and both of us are oh so happy to be home.
I arrived at the gate and found an American Airlines crew member to see if the ticket I was holding was for a middle seat, and if so, if it would be possible to A. move me to a spot with an empty seat next to it, or B. move me to an isle or window. But no, she told me: there was nothing she could do for me. Oh, thank you and hello middle seat assignment to the only mother traveling with a child on her lap on an overnight flight. (I did book a seat online, they didn’t end up reserving it). I said okay, thanked her, and walked away. An hour or so later, it was time to board. The plane was packed, completely full. The flight the night before had been canceled, and many of the passengers were reassigned to our flight. Every traveler boarded the plane. Each one of us, with our bags stowed away, or seat belts buckled… ready to leave, and needing sleep. We pulled away form the gate, only to hear an announcement a minute or so later that we would need to turn around. The same problem that had happened the night before? It was happening again. One would think… if you had the problem the night before, took the plane off schedule, for repairs, that you would be doubly cautious to send it back out, right? Wrong. We waited, in our seats for maintenance. We were told that we wouldn’t be taking off, and another plane would arrive at 11:40 pm for us to board, but it was set up exactly the same as the one we were on. We would have the same seats, same tickets, everything. We wait, as every single passenger exits the plane. We wait some more, in the terminal, for hours.
At this point: my child is tired, very tired. She’s blown through much of her milk reserves and all of her diapers. Her pants? Wet with pee. I take her to the bathroom, disrobe her, and use the hand dryer to dry her pants. I leave the bathroom to see a group of American Airlines crew members together, sitting and conversing. I ask them if they could help me… if they knew of any place I could find diapers, since the diaper dispenser in the bathroom was broken. They shrug. They literally just shrugged at me. I ask: “No idea? at all? A store?” “No, sorry” shrug. I ask Marlowe to continue walking. I attempt to pick her up. She refuses “NO, walk”. I tell her “Okay, you can walk, but you have to actually walk, if you don’t its fine, but I will carry you”. “No! Walk!” she takes a few steps, and lays down on the floor. She’s done. And so am I. We go in every store in search for diapers: there are none. Nicolle asks: “Would you like me to pick you up? Do you want me to bring you diapers?” “No, you live 45 minutes away. Thank you, really: thank you. I’ll figure it out”. Eventually, I find a working diaper dispenser, take the last 5$ cash I have, ask for change, and gain 2 one size fits all diapers.
After many hours of trying to find diapers with an over-exhausted toddler, we’re asked to the board the plane, just one gate over. Every single person boards the plane. Every single person stores away their luggage. Every single person sits down, and fastens their belts. We pull away from the gate for the second time… and of course: the same problem? It’s back. And I’m confused. Isn’t this a new plane that we were waiting for, to come in? Or is this the same plane that we were all forced to board again? Either way: I am not pleased and I am exhausted. Tears begin to fill in my eyes. It is now 7 hours after I have arrived at the airport. I’m angry. I’m really angry. I have questions, such as, the most basic commonsensical question: why wouldn’t they be more considerate of all their passengers? It is now one in the morning and we have been forced to board TWO broken planes. I understand, a plane is a machine, and sometimes machines have problems. But I do not understand: not taking the time to do everything possible to ensure that your passengers are not put in danger on the same broken plane, and made to be inconvenienced at the latest hours of the night. We sit. And we all wait. The woman next to me is refreshing her phone. 30 minute delay. 1 hour delay. Arrival time: 8 am. Arrival time: 9 am. The woman next to me: “I don’t think I’m going to make my connecting my flight.” I assure her, it’s possible, she still might be able to. She tells me “I’m supposed to be flying back to Jamaica. I’m going to miss my sisters funeral” I have no words. I tell her I’m sorry and that she still might make it. Arrival time: 1 pm. Arrival time: 7 pm. WHAT. 7 pm? She won’t make it, and I have no words. Over the loud speaker, we are told, that again, we would be making our way back to the gate, to exit the plane once again. Tears fill my eyes. Hours in the airport, on the plane, in the airport again, and on the plane again, I’m done. I’m exhausted, confused, my legs are are numb, my back feels broken, my white flag is up. One by one, we collect our bags again, and exit the plane. I see two lines forming. I ask what is going on, a group of women tell me they are re-booking tickets, so everyone must wait in line. Marlowe wants to be picked up, put down, wants to run, she has passed the point of delirium. I cry. I break down and cry. All I want is to get my kid, and myself: home. I want this wonderful journey to come to an end. I want to find my bed. I want a hug. I want to put down my belongs, release my back, and relax. The women in front of me tell me to go to the front of the line. I try to tell them “I’m fine. I don’t need to. I can wait in line” Again they tell me: “GO. You have a child. She needs to sleep, you need to sleep, please go” Again, I try to tell them “I’m fine” but instead, of words, there are only tears. I’m falling apart. I nod, attempt a very grateful thank you, and walk forward. I can’t bring myself to the front of the line. I feel guilt for trying to step in front of everyone. They have been waiting too. Traveling too. Inconvenienced too. I stand near the front, unable to go forward. A woman grabs my arm and pushes me to the front. She tells the woman at the front desk “please help her. please. She has a baby that needs to sleep. She shouldn’t be here.” The American Airline worker, puts her hand up, and yells back “I’m helping someone else. You will have to wait your turn”. The stranger responds “I understand, thats fine, but will you please help her when you get a chance?!” the crew member, again: “I’m helping somebody else”. Fine. I stand there. She finishes and calls “next”. Everyone looks to me, and pushes me to go ahead. The American Airline employee tells me the next flight available for me will be at 1 pm (21 hours after my original flight). I know there is a flight at 6 am. and at 11 am. but I say “okay.” to the flight offered 10 hours, from then. I take the 1 pm. I ask her… “and my luggage?” She says: “it will get there before you do”. I ask: “and my carseat?” She asks: “Well, what did you do with it?” I tell her I checked it. She says: “then it’s with your luggage.” I want to scream: so the only way I’m going anywhere is to find someone to pick me up with a carseat?? I say nothing. I walk away. Nicolle keeps calling to check on me. I retire from my stubborn waiting and tell her “Okay, please come pick me up now”. Before I get a chance to do anything, she tells she she is en route. Marlowe climbs, jumps, counts, and plays. I try to get a hold of Alex (our ride home) and wait. I hear the complaints of everyone around me. Theres no food. No water. An entire soccer team is starving, laying on the floor, and their coach can’t find food. There is nothing open. And American Airlines offers us: NOTHING. We are told our only for option is Subway, in another terminal. But there’s a catch, if we choose this option: we will have to go through security again. But it gets worse: Security doesn’t open until 6 am. If we choose to get food, we must leave, and not be allowed to re-enter until morning, when the airport begins to fill up again. Sleep? Not an option. What about the food on the plane? Does that not exist? Water? Anything? No. We have no options. We are offered nothing, not even an apology. Rude? An understatement.
Let’s look at this from another point of view, shall we? what about the American Airline crew member? Awake, having to deal with passenger after passenger? I am certain: their job is hard. But: it is their job. No matter how tired I am, how stressed am I, how difficult life is from dealing with unnecessary bullshit: I smile at my job, or at the very least: I am considerate with strangers. Maybe it is not in my power to hand out free things to people, but I ask. I always ask. What can we do? This person is unhappy, what can we do? 9 hours, waiting in an airport… what can we do? Water shouldn’t be a question. Part of me feels even guilty about blogging about this. First world problems, right? Right, it is. We all survived and are back to our normal lives… but my god, no matter how rich or poor we are, how much or little we have… consideration and kindness? It’s free. It’s something we should all have and should all give.
I lay Marlowe down on the guest bed, fully clothed, very much asleep. I brush my teeth, put things away, and climb into bed. I wake up in an hour, to look at my phone. Alex hasn’t called yet. He hasn’t texted. I’m nervous his phone died and he’s headed the the airport. I call. Nothing. I fall asleep for another thirty minutes, I call. He answers, he says he’s on the road to the airport. I tell him, I’ll be home at 9 pm and ask to please have something to eat for Marlowe and I. It’s already time to climb out of bed, re-pack my diaper bag and Marlowe’s food. I wake up Marlowe, and attempt to feed her, but she is too tired. I place her in the carseat. And Nicolle drives us back, again. She tells me: “I knew something was wrong. I normally don’t wait for people at the airport, but when you left, through security, I knew something was wrong.” I tell her, I felt it too. She drops me off. I strap a mostly asleep baby into the ergo, I give Nicolle the biggest hug ever, and make my way through security.
My face is pale, my stomach is turning, and my eyes are bloodshot. I wait in line. I feel like I’m losing my mind and all I want is go to home. We go through the scanner, I go to collect my bags and panic. I feel like I can’t find what I need, but it’s right in front of me. I tell people, I’m sorry, I’m tired. I was here 15 hours ago. Our terminal is packed. I run into familiar faces, stunned, that we have not left. I tell them “our flight is soon”. I go up to the front and ask about my ticket, to see if there is a better option, if they can help in anyway. Or give us a window seat? Nothing. Marlowe needs to lay down. She gives up, in the middle of a walkway, near the front desk, I sit down, and she lays her head on my thigh, crying for a bottle. I cry too. A man offers us his chair, I tell him, “Thank you, my child needs to lay down.” The crew members occasionally glance over, say nothing. Different crew members and pilots are asking if they can catch this flight, they want to board too, they are vacationing to Machu Picchu. They are given seats. One person after another, head to the front desk to see if they can get on a stand by list. An older couple, asking if there is a way that they can get on the same plane, to the same place. The crew members respond: maybe. Another delay. 50 minutes. Eventually: an announcement: it would be time to board. The soccer team would be boarding first. I pick up Marlowe and tell her “We are getting on the plane” The soccer team boards, and I ask “Can I PLEASE, get on the plane now?”I ‘m told to get to get the back of the other line. I do. I arrive at the front and they tell me to step aside, because no one ever re-entered my daughter into the computer. They begin to fill out the information. The man, in the front of the line, waiting for a stand by seat says “Please, give her a seat, They need it more than anyone”. The information is typed in, and we are magically offered a different seat, a window seat. A booked flight, with 20 plus people on standby, *magically* had a window seat open up.
We board. I apologize and explain to the man next to us, she is tired, but will sleep soon. We wait. A more than obnoxious, inconsiderate pilot, comes on the loud speaker. Offers no sympathy to the people who have been waiting all day, night, and previous day. He tells us it will be a short flight, and he hopes to see us all again soon, on American Airlines. Everyone around me scoffs. What a joke. I’m happy to hear I am not the only one thinking “This is the worst service I have EVER gotten from an airline. I will NEVER fly American Airlines again.” Another delay. Another 40 minutes go by. I have no idea what time it is at this point. Marlowe doses off, in my arms. I confirm with Alex, our flight will arrive at 10:30 pm. We FINALLY, begin to take off, Marlowe wakes up, and stays awake for the entire trip, until the last hour. Lucky for me, she is exhausted, delirious, and easy.
A five hour plane ride, doesn’t seem so bad anymore. It was easy compared to everything else we had to deal with in that 48 hour time period. I even dosed off for thirty minutes, with Marlowe watching a movie on my lap. The hardest thing was Marlowe asking to eat. We had dry cereal and peanut butter sandwiches, but she was tired of them. Almost two days with no real meal and she really didn’t want filler snacks and meals anymore. The saving grace of the whole trip was seeing the moon in the sky. Every flight we took, I told Marlowe we would go up up up and visit the moon in the sky. Only a few times, could we see a small moon in the distance. This trip, the moon on the sunset was perfect. The perfect sliver of a moon on wall of reds, purples, and setting blues. It was a perfect moment for me, to open the shade and yell out to Marlowe “Look, the moon! It’s here! We made it!” I got emotional to see the Miami lights growing closer and closer. I cried upon landing. I was so incredibly happy to be safe and to be home.
I took a few minutes to gather my things. I knew Alex hadn’t arrived yet, and other people were in a much bigger rush to catch connecting flights. With one bag in each arm, a baby-carrier under another, and Marlowe being held in-between, I made my way off the plane. When stepping into the airport, I was walking side by side with an American Airlines crew member, one that I had seen and asked questions to, many times. He looks at me, smiles, and says “Oops! Be careful, your shoe is untied!” I look at him and respond: “I am aware, thank you, but my arms are a little tied up right now, so I don’t have an option to fix it.” A kind older woman in front of me, stops, turns around, and asks, “would you like me to tie your shoe?” I feel bad to have her do it for me, but I say “thank you so much, really thank you”. She double-knots it, and we continue walking.
You hear a lot of negative things about the airline industry in general, but honestly, every flight I had went on this summer was wonderful. Yes, wonderful. I traveled with a toddler, alone, across the country, and it was wonderful. I don’t have complaints, not even one, about any of the airlines we used. But American Airlines? I have MANY. Too many. I will never again, travel with such a horrible and inconsiderate company. American Airlines should be ashamed of themselves for their horrible service and inconsiderate and rude attitudes. And not just to me, god no: to every one of their customers… to the elderly couple asking to place be able to board a plane together, to a woman who faced anxiety while flying who wanted to sit near her husband to hold her hand, to the woman who would be missing her sisters funeral, and to anyone who they inconvenienced (aka: everyone). As I already posted to American Airlines automated twitter response they gave me: complain about a rough travel day? Try 21 hours alone in an airport with a toddler. Thank you for your rude and inconsiderate service. I will never use American Airlines again.
Crap, I’m glad to be home. I have to give some credit to Alex, he really made it easier for us. A bottle and toys for Marlowe, my favorite pizza and kombucha drink for me, a fridge full of all of my regular items, plus some extra goodies that he knows I love, and help to get a very off-schedule baby to sleep. Marlowe could not have been happier to walk through the door of our house and play. “Mama play. Dada bubbles”. Delirious smiles all over the place. She is so happy to be here and so am I. I’ve said it so many times, but this summer has been really great. I’ve met some amazing women and their families, I watched my daughter grow into a whole new little person I saw and adventured to many new places, I had up time and relaxing time… and I did it all with my little kid by my side. I thought travel would be out of the question, once I had Marlowe… that I would never be able to pick up, explore, and go, but here, I am: back from one of the best and unexpected summers I could have dreamed of. This flight experience from hell almost *almost* made me stop believing in the magic of all the good things around me… like I had a short-hold on magic, and it decided to leave… but within 24 hours of being home, I know: that all the good: it’s still happening. It’s everywhere. You just gotta keep opening your arms to it, and make things happen.