Bucking the Universe – Part 3

September 13, 2018 12:40 PM

So far in my story, (read part 1 here and part 2 here)I have survived a claustrophobic flight in a small airplane to Philadelphia and I discovered that the swim spa I was convinced would work, would not. Dennis and I spent a lot of extra time trying out more expensive pools at the sales showroom, which meant we did not get to tour a defunct prison, try a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich or visit a Wa-Wa (a gas station/convenience store recommended to me by a nun I met on the shuttle to the rental car office.)

After a grabbing a hamburger at a drive thru, Dennis and I made our way back to the airport to drop off the rental car. Traffic wasn’t terrible, we breezed through security lines with our TSA PreCheck and our flight was still on time.  The weather was now partly cloudy and warm. Still good weather for flying. The day had been long, and disappointing in many ways, but it was almost over. All I had to do was fly home in a nice large plane, with normal sized aisles and bathrooms. I even had my aisle seat assigned. No extra leg room, which meant a bit more tight quarters than I’m comfortable with, but it’s only a 90 minute flight. I’d be fine.

I was concerned our flight could be delayed, because I know east coast airports are very busy and sometimes have more delays than we see in Milwaukee. I continued to check the status throughout the afternoon and it was not. This was great news. It was crucial that we leave on time, because I had the pet sitter scheduled to pick up the dogs from the kennel about the time we would be taking off.

Officially, I was paying for two nights of boarding at the kennel, because the dogs were being picked up 1/2 hour before they closed, so they charged me for an extra night whether I picked them up that day or the next morning. This was fine with me. It was a bit more expensive, but it also offered a buffer if my flight should be delayed. I could leave the dogs there an extra night and get them in the morning if our flight was late. We were supposed to leave around 5:10 PM, the pet sitter was scheduled to the pick them up around 5:30. Should there be a delay, surely, I’d know it in advance to her picking them up.

We were due to arrive back in Milwaukee around 6:50 PM, which meant we’d be home no later 7:30. The pet sitter was going to bring the dogs home from the kennel and give them dinner. This arrangement meant that the dogs would be alone for about an hour between the time the pet sitter left and we returned home. I knew that Sammy would probably bark the entire time. Not the greatest, but I figured the cats could deal with the barking for an hour, so the dogs didn’t have to spend another night in the kennel.

The time came to board our plane about twenty minutes before it was scheduled to take off. As we settled in, I noticed there were two babies sitting behind us with their parents. One was a toddler age, in the window seat, Mom sat in the middle seat and Dad was on the aisle. Mom and Dad were juggling the infant between them.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-baby by any means.  I understand that families have to fly with babies and I understand babies cry. It was just unfortunate that I happened to be seated in front of babies on the one trip where I didn’t have my noise-canceling head phones. No matter how limited carry on space is, I will never, ever fly without them again.

While we waited to take off, the Mom of the babies realized that the lady across the aisle from her husband was traveling to the same funeral they were. Which she and the lady discussed at great length. Very loudly. Around this time, I also noticed that it was getting a bit cloudier outside. I started to get a little nervous. A storm could mess up my entire plan with the pet sitter, and the short window I had to contact to her to tell her to leave the dogs at the kennel instead of picking them up was rapidly ticking away.

The time to take off came and went. It got cloudier outside. The baby started to cry forcing the mom to talk even louder so the lady across the aisle to could hear her. I kept expecting Mom to change seats with Dad, who was on the aisle, so she could more easily talk to her new-found friend. It never happened.

At 5:20, ten minutes after we were supposed to take off, the captain came on over the intercom saying there was some rain in the area and our take off would be delayed for a short while.

I panicked. My carefully orchestrated schedule did not allow for a delay that I found out ten minutes after we were supposed to take off! Dennis and I quickly discussed our options. I decided that since it was so close to when the dogs would be picked up, I’d call the kennel and tell them they had to stay another night. I’d text the pet sitter once I reached the kennel.

I made the call, cupping my hand over my free ear to block the crying/loud talking behind me. When I reached the kennel, they told me I was too late. The pet sitter had picked up the dogs already. Okay, no problem, I can deal with this. I’ll have to ask the pet sitter to bring them back.  I confirmed with the kennel that the dogs could  have their room back, if I needed it, and I told them I would let them know in five minutes whether the dogs would be back. Then I called the pet sitter to discuss options. Around this time, the toddler started whining and crying which meant Mom needed to talk even louder to her new friend.

The pet sitter was already at our home with the dogs when I called her. We discussed options of her staying the night or bringing them back. Since she had other plans early the morning the next day, I opted to have her bring them back to kennel. At this point it started to rain. Torrents of rain, all at once. It literally went from a couple of rain drops to a deluge.

I called the kennel to confirm the dogs would be returning and they told me they now could not take them. What? I just called. I paid for two nights. What do you mean you can’t take them? I never did get an answer why and I didn’t have time to dig into at that point. I hung up and called the pet sitter again, and told her the dogs had to stay home. I was completely at a loss of what to do. Other than something happening to the people in my life, having my animals not cared for is my worst case scenario when traveling.

I have a really awesome pet sitter. She worked it out that she would spend the night if we needed her to, and would leave very early in the morning. I was so relieved. How wonderful to have someone to rely on like that who isn’t family. I promised her I would text her as soon as I knew anything since we were still hoping to fly home at some point that night. The dogs would be alone, worst case, for three or four hours that night until she returned. As long as we could get home by early morning, all would be fine.

The rain continued. And the winds came up. Hard enough to shake the plane. Afternoon showers don’t last long, right? They move through in twenty minutes or so? Wrong. This afternoon shower hung over Philadelphia for hours. We were watching the radar on our phone. One little storm cell, surrounded by many big storm cells, just sat, swirling around Philadelphia, not moving.

In addition to the rain and the wind, came the thunder and lightning. I wondered what happens if a plane gets struck by lightning? I decided not to ask Dennis. It didn’t really matter because I was stuck on the plane, no matter what. At some point in the storm, they made us taxi to a far part of the runway. I suppose to get out of the way of flights still trying to get in? I’m not sure. But I know we were in no-man’s land, and that’s not a good place to be when you’re stuck on a plane. I tried to count my blessings. At least the plane I was stuck on wasn’t the tiny one from earlier in the day. And the bathrooms were still working. I’ve heard horror stories about passengers being stuck on the tarmac with no bathrooms.

I have to say, after the initial crying for maybe ten minutes, the babies were really good.  They were quiet and seemed happy. Way happier than I was, by far. The Mom, however, continued her across the seat and aisle conversation with her new BFF for most of the three hours were stuck there. It was very unfortunate that the plane was not serving alcohol. We got water. Water does not help to calm nerves or sooth annoyances. I will never, ever, travel without my noise-cancelling head phones again. Did I say that already?

As we sat, with the plane rocking in the wind, Dennis and I began discussing worst-case scenarios. We’ve both been in situations where we’ve waited out a weather delay, only to find out the flight crew has been working too long, and the flight gets cancelled anyway because the crew can’t fly anymore that day. This doesn’t happen that often for early morning flights, but it’s a lot more common for evening ones, like ours.

We started researching driving home (assuming they ever let us off the plane). It’s thirteen hours from Philadelphia to Milwaukee, driving straight through. Assuming we didn’t sleep, and didn’t stop except for gas, that would put us home mid-morning (leaving an hour or so to get the rental car and leave the plane). Except it had already been a long day, we were both up at 4 AM. We’d need to sleep a few hours. This would put us home early afternoon. Not good, but it was the best we could do. We booked a rental car as our back-up plan and waited.

We started to get hungry but we hadn’t pack our usual snacks in our carry on because of the limited space.  Stupid, stupid, stupid. I did find a still wrapped blueberry muffin that was only kind of crushed that I bought in the Milwaukee airport that morning. We considered selling it to the other hungry passengers on the plane to pay for the rental car.

At the 2:25 minute mark, which was well past the time we should have been home, the Captain come on the intercom and said we were taxing back to the gate. We figured that was it. The flight is cancelled and we’re driving home.

Once we reached the gate, the Captain came on the intercom again and said that we still couldn’t deplane because the lightning was too bad to bring the bridges in to get us off. We’d have to wait until it died down. Oh, goody. I resisted the urge to Google what happens if a plane gets struck by lightning.

After another fifteen minutes or so, they finally decided we could deplane. As we got to the gate area, I noticed the Captain was at the check in kiosk talking to a customer service agent for the airlines. We stopped, and Dennis asked him how much longer he had in his shift before he wouldn’t be able to fly. Finally, we caught a break! He and the rest of the flight crew had just come on for this flight. They had thirteen hours left in their shift! Hooray!

We thought it was unlikely the storm would last for ten or eleven hours, which is what it would take before this crew couldn’t fly anymore. We canceled the rental car and I hung out close to the gate and listened for news, while Dennis ran to the closest fast food place and got us hamburgers. Really bad, cold airport hamburgers. They were a very poor substitute for the Philly Cheesesteak I’d been hoping for.

After only about twenty minutes at the gate, the crew said there was a break in the storm and they were going to try get us out. We quickly boarded and the crew did all the safety procedures super quick. No one wanted to lose the window to fly.

I composed a text to the pet sitter telling her we had taken off and she didn’t need to spend the night and I sat, with my finger on the send button, until I felt the wheels leave the ground. Given how the day had gone, I didn’t trust that we were really, and truly leaving Philadelphia until that point. Once I felt the wheels lift, I clicked send and turned my phone off.

Thankfully, the rest of the flight was smooth. If there were bumps flying up and over the storms, I didn’t feel them. I was too happy to be in the air and too anxious to get home to my animals.

We got home that night about 10:30, a little over three hours from when we planned. It seemed longer. Probably due to the stress. Sammy was barking and probably had been for quite some time, based on how the cats were acting. Everyone was back to normal the next morning, though, thankfully.

I debated calling the kennel to find out what the hell happened. Why, when I paid for two nights, did I lose my room because I chose to have my dogs picked up early? However, by Monday, when the kennel was open again, I calmed down and decided to let it go. My kennel is affiliated with my vet, and I like my vet. I also like the manager of the kennel who has gone out of her way help me in the past when my dogs stay there. I will never again tell them I am picking my dogs up in the afternoon, however. If I pay for two nights, I’ll tell them I’m picking them up the morning of the third day, even if I plan to get them earlier. Fool me once, and all that.

So, after all this, am I getting a pool? Maybe. I’m still not sure, and I’m waiting for a few weeks to see if the Universe cares to weigh in on the decision. This time, if it does, I’ll listen.

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I had these exact head phones at home, charged and ready to go. Why, oh why, didn’t I bring them?

1:42 PM