Our Travel Plan: Thursday, April 6th:
Leave NYC 1:50pm, Arrive Houston 5pm.
Get picked up in a rented church/ party van at the airport. Fellow travelers: My dad, dad’s wife, husband Vinny, 12-year-old niece and a shih tzu named Chewie. Plan to drive (approx. 4 hours) to Horseshoe Bay, TX, home to many retired white people, down-home cooking and my grandparents. Estimated arrival time: 9:30pm.
What Actually Happened:
1:00: The rain is falling. Our Uber driver drops us outside La Guardia and tells us to have a nice flight. Looking back, I realize that phrase is bad luck. We need a new saying for “have a nice flight”, something along the lines of “break a leg”, but gentler. Suggestions?
1:30: All checked in. We came here knowing this flight was delayed; we learned at home which gave us freedom to leave the house late, which we always do. We were originally scheduled to leave at 1:50, now the board says 3:00. We have time for lunch in the airport. Airport lunch: A treat if there ever was one.
1:45: I text dad and let him know we’re now arriving at 5:47pm instead of 5:00.
1:46: His response: “Ouch.”
Vin has a burger and fries; I hit that turkey club with a bag of chips.
It is now legitimately pouring outside. I check my phone; flash flood warnings for the area. Vin calls his folks and asks them to check our basement for flooding. Our basement has flooded three times since we moved in less than a year ago, and every time it did, the gush was so forceful I consider wearing floaties and having myself a swim.
2:00: We take two seats at our gate and wait for boarding.
3:00: The plane hasn’t arrived yet. The sky is pitch-black. The children next to me are kicking their seats. Everyone’s food stinks.
3:42: We get an update over the loudspeaker. The good news is, our plane has landed.
3:43: The bad news is, it’s been struck by lightning. In eight places. There are scorch marks and everything.
3:50: The maintenance crew can’t assess the damage because the airport is still under threat of lightning. Once they figure out how bad the damage is, they’ll let us board the aircraft. I’m actually not that interested in this plane anymore and would prefer they go wrestle up a new one.
4:00: El Capitano comes over the loudspeaker. “So, the plane you’re going to be on was hit by lightning in eight spots. There are some burn marks they’re checking out. No planes are leaving this airport because of the heavy rain. All the ramps are closed. I don’t know how long they’ll stay closed. I’m assuming not forever. Eh, I don’t know, folks. Surmise from that what you will. I’ve been doing this a long time.” We are all humored by this, but not reassured.
5:45: Vin’s parents give us an update. The basement flooded. I think of my vintage rug down there and send my best from afar. Which actually isn’t that far at all, considering we live ten minutes from the airport.
6:00: Announcement: They got us a new plane and we’re leaving at 7:00. Sighs of relief abound. The 7th graders in the corner go back to playing chess. I am picturing my father having a coronary from his leather couch in Kemah as he realizes he’ll be driving until at least 2 in the morning.
6:10pm: An Orthodox Jewish man with five children under the age of 10 file in seats across from us. There are always a lot of Orthodox Jews leaving from La Guardia, and I don’t know what it is about them (or me) but I always find myself wondering where they’re going and what they do on vacation. But when I see this gentleman, all I want to know is what he does for a living, and how he can afford that many plane tickets.
6:45: We board, five hours later than planned. By 7:20, we’re in the air. A five hour delay, but hey, this is a flight on United. We could have waited around five hours only to be punched in the face.
10:30: We’ve got our bags, and we’re in the silver party van dad rented for this road trip. We’re each handed a bag from Jack in the Box, and we’re on our way.
11- 12:50: The stars at night are big and bright.
12:55: We are deep in the heart of Texas. Bastrop, to be exact.
1am: We make a pit stop at Buc-ee’s; a convenient store the size of three football fields where you can choose from 20 different kinds of beef jerky, 25 brands of chewing tobacco and a wide variety of breakfast tacos. The one by my dad’s house is tiny, but this one also has a section for clothing, home goods and full-size barbecue pits. There are apparently 83 toilets and this is the view you get as you walk toward them.
2:15am: We have arrived at our rental house. I seek out my toothbrush and my bedroom. In 13 hours I could have made it far into Europe, but I have only made it so far as central Texas. Tomorrow morning our whole family will gather in Horseshoe Bay to celebrate my dear grandfather’s 90th birthday.
Incidentally, we will also be celebrating mine.