Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Worst Airplane Trip Ever Reprise (Theme Thursday #2)


When I heard that this week's theme for Theme Thursday was "Flight",  I knew it was time to dig through my archive to resurrect my story of...



I had just finished graduate school and my parents invited me to go on an exchange program to an undisclosed location.  This was one of the early trips of "The Friendship Force," a program established by then president, Jimmy Carter.  (In fact, my parents went on the inaugural "Friendship Force" trip with Miss Lillian Carter.)    The idea was that you signed up and paid to be a friendship ambassador to another country.  Later a group of people from that country would visit your hometown.  You had to be willing to go anywhere in the world.  I had my doubts about whether I would be sent to some exotic location or end up in a dangerous travel zone.  At the time, Idi Amin's reign of terror in Uganda came to mind.  But, never having been overseas and still being adventurous at that point in my life, I registered for the trip and signed up for my first passport.

It was soon revealed that a group of about a hundred people from my hometown would be traveling by chartered jet to Cardiff, Wales.  My first reaction was, "Where?"  Obviously, I was in desperate need of learning more about the world!  It was to be a two-week trip, staying with a host family to experience the land and culture of this corner of the British Isles.  I'd always been intrigued by castles and this was a land of castles, so I was fired up!

The day of departure arrived.  I had my newly issued passport in hand, ready to begin receiving stamps to document my travels.  We boarded the plane with excitement, taking off right on schedule.  As soon as the plane was in the air, the flight attendants came around to offer us beverages to toast our departure.   When they got to me, I requested a Coke with ice.  As the deliciously cold beverage came my way, I reached for it and proceeded to drop it in my lap, soaking my brand new tan corduroy jacket and pants!  The sticky, brown substance quickly seeped into every crevice of the corduroy.  I had six more hours on the overnight flight with no way of changing into dry clothes and it was evident that laundry would be one of my first tasks once we landed.  I was not amused.  After sulking for a time, though, I got back into the spirit of the trip.  (Everyone was apologetic and felt sorry for me, so that helped.)  Laughter once again abounded as we sped through the skies.

We were all having a lovely time until the weather changed and we hit a severe thunderstorm.  We were advised that we'd be making a stop in Toronto to wait out the storm.  Hopefully, it would be a short layover while the storm passed and we'd be on our way again quickly.  We had just pulled up on the tarmac to await departure when a huge flash of lightning struck.  It wasn't long before we learned that what it had struck was the control tower of the airport.  The air traffic controllers' screens were now blacked out.  Which naturally meant that no planes would be taking off or landing until things were repaired.  It could be awhile.  Since we were an international flight, we were not cleared from customs to deplane and would have to stay on board until it was safe to depart.  It figures, given a Cat Lady's luck!

Now, sitting on the tarmac in August makes a plane warm up quickly.  Because we were not at a gate, we had no access to the external air conditioning system they use while planes are on the ground.  But by this time the rain had stopped, so the the pilot and flight attendants determined it would be safe to open the doors of the plane to get some fresh air in while we waited.  They, of course, took safety precautions by putting ropes across the exits to remind us not to fall out of the plane.  We all welcomed the fresh air.

A bit later, the pilot got a message that they were going to move our aircraft to a gate where we could deplane to a secure holding room within the customs area.  Heaven forbid they allow us to actually step foot in Canada.  We felt like illegal aliens, which I guess we were!  Because we were on the ground, we had to be towed to the gate by one of those little trucks they have at airports.  The pilot said that everyone should take their seats for the short trip, but that they'd leave the doors open to keep the air flowing.

Once again we were moving, albeit at a snail's pace.  Hooray!  We were all chatting merrily as we watched our progress toward the terminal and air conditioning, when we began to notice a strange scent that quickly became stronger and soon overwhelmed us.  Yes, dear readers, in moving across the tarmac we had run over a skunk!  Unbelievable!  What are the odds that you could run over a skunk in a plane while the doors are open?  Unheard of!  Only a Cat Lady would find herself in this situation!

It was with great relief that we poured off the plane into the air-conditioned holding room.  After about an hour, the tower repairs were complete and we were cleared for takeoff.  From this point on, the trip could only be anticlimactic.  The next five hours or so were quiet, with passengers trying to get some sleep before landing.  Somewhat later the flight attendants began serving breakfast.  Imagine our surprise when the pilot once again came over the intercom to tell us, "We might have a slight problem..."

Apparently, the Cardiff airport was not geared toward having planes our size land there. OOPS! We were warned it might be a tight squeeze on the short runway, so to please return to our seats for a possible rough landing.  Oh, great!  All this, just to crash at the end of the runway?  I think they hit the reverse jets before the wheels even touched the ground.  With a screeching of tires and roar of jets, we rolled to a stop... just at the end of the runway.  A cheer went up from the passengers on this ill-fated flight.  I'm sorry to say, not so much for the expertise of the pilots, but because were were so gosh darned glad about the prospect of being released soon from the plane ride from hell.

There were still surprises to come on the trip, like turning all my clothes blue when I finally got an opportunity to wash the Coke stains out.  We also managed to get on the wrong train on one excursion, which meant we had to go all the way up a remote mountain and back before we had a chance to find the right train, turning a quick 10 minute train ride into a three hour one.  However, I quickly grew to love Wales and the people I met.  My horizons had definitely been expanded and I returned with plenty of tales of adventure.

After all, a Cat Lady needs plenty of good memories to fill the quiet hours of her life.

29 comments:

IndigoWrath said...

Wow, so you can't say that "no animals were harmed during the writing of this flashback". Bad CatLady!

I've only ever spilled one drink on an aeroplane. It was all over a beautiful woman who had just taken a shine to me on a flight to San Francisco. It was coffee. Hot coffee. She didn't speak to me after that.

Hit 40 said...

I am glad that you can look back and laugh at the trip!! I had kids too early. I should have waited until I got to see at least a little of Europe!!! We plan to go soon. My youngest will be ready for major travel with us in a couple more years.

Jules said...

I'd be asking for shots of ANYTHING while we were waiting....

willow said...

A skunk?! (or I should say "stunk" as my son used to call them)

Keith said...

Oooh. That makes most of my 'plane journeys very plain. Have you flown since?

nonamedufus said...

Great story. Sometimes air travel can be hell.

Betsy said...

Oh dear...yep, that was a bad flight!

Brian Miller said...

oh my. my stomach is not feeling good and i was not even there....lol...a skunk on top of it....too much. happy tt!

Quirkyloon said...

Forget the skunk, whatever happened to your tan cordoruys?

Now THAT is tragic. AND...that's what happens when you go rogue and drink Coke instead of Dr. Pepper.

Just sayin'. *smile*

subtorp77 said...

YEp! That's a topper over any I've ever had-LOL! But the skunk had to bee the worst part....oofah!

The Old Silly said...

Hmm, methinks that was quite the adventure! My worst was when I had to do a short leg on a multi-stop flight in one of those single propeller "puddle jumpers." The pilot had to ask a couple fat folks to get off the plane cuz he couldn't get it to lift off! And when we DID finally get in the air we hit turbulence and man, in one of those kits you really FEEL the turbulence. I got through it with lots of prayer and several adult beverages.

Marvelous Marv

*Akilah Sakai* said...

You killed Pepe Le'pew! I knew there was a reason he went off the air. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

CatLadyLarew said...

Indigo: Yes, animals WERE harmed in the making of this post. (Don't let the PETA people know that.) And too bad about the hot coffee spill... yet another potential romance nipped in the bud. *sigh*

Hit 40: I haven't traveled overseas in 25 years... I think it's high time for another adventure, don't you think?

Jules: They tortured us by having NOTHING to drink in the holding area... I think I should notify the Geneva Convention. Good news, though... on our return trip, the charter company gave out free drinks to compensate for the rough trip over! Party!

Willow: I believe your son has the proper idea.

Keith: Yes, including another trip to the UK. I like to push my luck!

Noname: And they said war is hell...

Betsy: At least I lived to tell the tale. That's the important part.

Brian: None of us wanted our dinner too soon after leaving Toronto!

Quirky: The tan corduroys were never the same... even more disappointing since I sewed them myself.

I'm still shocked and outraged that airlines don't offer Dr. Pepper in flight! Maybe we should start our own QuirkyAir... it would be the joy of every boy and girl and be the most original airline ever in the whole, wide world. Be a Pepper!

Subtorp: It was OH so much fun! (This is one of the favorites of the kids at school... they were always asking me for stories!)

Old Silly: I could have still made it on the puddle jumper back in the day... now I'm not so sure... I might be the one bumped for "extra baggage". Bring on the adult beverages!

Akilah Sakai: R.I.P. Pepe Le'Pew... I can take the blame for that one.

AngelMay said...

Wonderful story - even though it sounds like the flight from hell. One day I must post about my flight from hell ... a return trip from Australia to the US. I'm surprised I wasn't arrested for murder after that one. Heh.

Wings said...

Yeesh! After this post & VE's post, I am not sure I WANT to fly anytime soon.

Scott Free said...

Wow, Batty Lady, that was one ill-fated flight. It was probably because you were heading so near Scotland, the home of Macbeth, the weird sisters and black cats and horseshoes and stuff. Although you were just as close to Ireland, the home of the lucky four-leaf clovers...It was probably a bad-luck and a good-luck front fighting over you.
Sorry. I'm getting into scientific analysis. Not good for me.
*Dances off in a kilt, playing the bagpipes*

e said...

Quite the adventure, Catlady! I hope you've had better since then???

spudballoo said...

This is hilarious!! I love the skunk bit...but I'm sure you didn't....Fab, thanks for sharing xx

California Girl said...

I'm with Jules, I'd be drinkin' LOTS.

Bird Shit and Baby Caca said...

Please tell me you have never travelled again! lol!

Summer said...

The skunk. Wow. I really didn't see that one coming.

Baino said...

Yeh definitely that skunk's time to go. Talk about the wrong place at the wrong time!

Laoch of Chicago said...

Wow

CatLadyLarew said...

Angel May: Just the sheer distance of flying from Australia to the US makes for a plane ride from hell!

Wings: Okay, VE definitely wins for the most horrifying plane ride ever! Hands down! I'd take my trip over VE's any day!

Hey, Scotty: We're lucky we didn't get caught in the vortex created by witches, ghosts, black cats & four leaf clovers! (BTW... I like my new Batty name! It's somehow endearing!)

e: I've had better... how could I not?

Spud: Yeah, not too many people have had that experience. I feel pretty special!

California Girl: Trust me, we drank everything they had!

Bird Shit and Baby Caca: It took a long time for me to get on another plane!

Summer: Obviously, neither did the pilot.

Baino: When you gotta go, you gotta go!

Laoch: I don't make these things up... seriously! My parents will even vouch for me!

otin said...

I can't even remember the last time that I was in a plane! Shit, I get nervous in airports! haha!

SquirrelQueen said...

I've had some flights from hell but the skunk puts your story well above any of mine. Makes you wonder why the skunk didn't try to get out of the way, I mean he had to see it. Maybe it was a suicide mission!

CatLadyLarew said...

Otin: Yeah, but walking takes so much longer.

Squirrel Queen: He must have been really depressed. So sad, so sad.

Dreamhaven said...

A flight from Hell
Yet it turmed out well.
Happy TT

CatLadyLarew said...

Dreamhaven: I'm dreaming of a better trip next time!

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