Recapping the Wackiest Day of Travel Ever

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Did you see that news story, a couple weeks ago, about the incoming flight that landed in Dulles only after everyone on board barfed? I was fortunate enough (that's sarcasm, folks) to be flying that day... out of DCA, which is just a few miles away from Dulles.

As early as the morning before, I knew my flight might not make it out of D.C. A Nor'easter was heading toward the East Coast, & there was already a surprise snowstorm back home. D.C. is notorious for shutting down at the mere thought of inclement weather, so I tried not to keep my hopes too high for the possibility of making it back to the CLE as planned.

Off to a rocky start...

Late Thursday night, I checked the status of my flight & saw that it was delayed two hours for operational issues, so I planned to sleep in a little later than expected. The next morning, I woke up at 7am on my friend Barb's pull-out couch to a text telling me the federal government had shut down due to high winds - but I also saw that my friend Allison made it out of town on an early-morning flight from DCA, which gave me some hope.

Around 9:15am, I caught a Lyft to the airport - but not before texting my friends who live in Virginia, to ask if I could stay with them if I got stranded. They have a guest room & two adorable kittens that I knew would help ease the sting of getting stuck.

The sexual video-chat guy...

After grabbing breakfast, I settled in at my gate to charge my phone & read A Wrinkle in Time. The relative silence was broken by a loud-voiced man a few seats down, video chatting his ladyfriend. He was intermittently arguing with her & then attempting (poorly) to whisper very sexual things to her.

It started with a fairly benign comment: "Is that what you're wearing? God, you look sexy. I love your smile." That wouldn't have been so bad, but it quickly escalated: "I can't wait to have you tonight, to feel your nails in my back." No. Stop. "Get your sexy ass back to Washington," he said, which was especially confusing given that he was waiting on a flight out of Washington.

This continued for a whopping hour & a half, & though it was a deeply uncomfortable conversation to overhear, I couldn't drown it out because I had to charge my phone, & on iPhones, the charging port & the headphone jack are one & the same. Damn you, Apple.

The Christian music lady...

Blessedly, sexy-talk guy eventually left. But speaking of blessings, he was quickly replaced by a woman who was listening to loud Christian music on her laptop... sans headphones.

I actually don't think this woman knew she was doing it. She was, in fact, wearing headphones, but her music was most definitely not playing through them. Instead, it was blasting aloud to the entire gate... & she seemed none the wiser.

I kept making hilarious eye contact with two women sitting across the gate from me, pantomiming to one another as we tried to determine whether this woman knew what was going on, & rolling our eyes at her bad tunes.

Alllllll the delays...

Initially, our flight was delayed two hours for "operational issues," which likely meant that something needed to be fixed.

And then, we were delayed because our incoming flight landed in Baltimore instead of coming into DCA. We had to wait for them to deplane & fly to us.

And then, once our plane arrived & the staff boarded the flight, an announcement over the PA system told us that we couldn't take off yet because the wind had picked up again.

The gate agent said that the weather tower at Dulles had been evacuated due to high winds, & our staff couldn't determine a safe route through the wind without their assistance. The gate agent even said something to the effect of, "It''s really dangerous out there, folks. I was on the plane myself, & you can feel it rocking back & forth from the wind." Thank you, sir, we weren't already panicky.

When we finally boarded, I had two seats to myself, but I was sitting behind a single mother traveling with two babies. (Poor lady.) Another mom got on the flight & whispered to her, "I almost didn't get on the plane. I asked the gate agent whether she would take this flight, & she told me, 'Not a chance.'" Continue the panic.

And more delays! 

As we waited for a not-too-windy window for takeoff, we learned that we couldn't take off because the flight was too heavy. We needed to spend 30 to 45 minutes on the runway burning off excess jet fuel. OK, what?

Fifteen minutes later, the flight attendant told us the crew had recalculated the weight distribution & determined that we could leave sooner if two people from the front of the plane would move to the back. Even though I had a great window seat & no seatmate, I volunteered because hey, why not? Maybe I could get away from those babies!

Guess where I ended up sitting? Behind the only other baby on board, the one whose mom almost didn't board. Her anxiety was palpable, & it made me at least 25% more anxious than I already was. (The baby was pretty cute & chill, though, tbh.)

I was seated next to a man who was feverishly rubbing a rosary. Maybe some of his good luck would wear off on the rest of the flight? I considered asking him to say a little prayer for me, too. At this point, I was mostly just amused by the whole day - &, you know, praying we didn't all go down in a ball of flames.

The final chapter...

I fell asleep almost immediately, & though I'm told that takeoff was bumpy, the rest of the flight couldn't have been too bad, because I didn't wake up until we hit the ground in Cleveland. My seatmate laughed at me for my ability to snooze the whole ride through.

There was no barfing, to my knowledge, & as a bunch of us passengers stood on the jet bridge waiting for our gate-checked luggage to be unloaded, we were able to laugh about the whole situation. Apparently DCA shut down right after our flight took off!

We feel grateful that we had a skilled & determined pilot... who was from Cleveland &, apparently, wanted nothing more than to get home to his own family. Thanks for getting us out of there, United!

I was thrilled to make it home to Mike for a whopping 36 hours before I took off for NYC... a visit that had some weather issues of its own. Suffice it to say that I'm happy not to have any more March travel plans. What an unpredictable time of year!

Your turn. Hit me with your craziest travel story.

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