24 hours on the East Coast.
My grandmother died last week. She lived in New Jersey, and my sister and I immediately began making plans to fly back east for the services. Her funeral was on Monday of this week, and I'm sure you can imagine that making plans to fly from Seattle to New Jersey at the exact time that Seattle is playing in the Superbowl- which was held in New Jersey- is not the easiest or cheapest thing I'll ever do. But, thanks to heroic efforts by my sister, we found an itinerary that would work.
The plan was perfect. I would fly from Wenatchee to Seattle and we would fly together to Philadelphia and make the two-hour drive to our grandmother's hometown. Start to finish, I would be gone 36 hours.
The plan was perfect. Except for the fact that when I arrived at the Wenatchee airport, the plane was being diverted to Spokane. By my calculation, I would have had just enough time to make the connection in Spokane and get to Seattle to board the flight to Philly. Except for this one woman.
There was one confused and frantic woman who monopolized the three ticketing agents for over 30 minutes and demanded that they personally rearrange her travel itinerary leaving a line of passengers who were largely being ignored. While this was happening, I was watching the minutes tick by while waiting to board the plane and began to realize that I would not make my connection in time. And I'm certain others were in the same predicament. No problem, I'll just catch the next flight out of Seattle. An inconvenience for sure, but at least I would get there.
The plan was revised. I used the time to rearrange my itinerary, which had me route through Chicago, before heading on to Philly. And while I wouldn't land in Philly until six hours later than expected, I felt lucky to be there in time.
The plan was manageable.
When I stepped off the plane to Chicago, and casually wandered to my new gate with time to spare, the agent informed me that my flight from Chicago to Philly had been cancelled. Naturally, I asked why. Naturally, he did not give an explanation. Instead, what he told me was that that happened to be the last flight to Philly while placing a "This Counter Closed" sign in front of me. I realized there was now no hope of making my grandmother's service in time. I began to ugly cry. Which, after all, was a better option than punching him. At least for him.
The plan was a disaster. I realized that based on this, not only would I have missed my grandmother's funeral, but I would have flown halfway across the country only to sob on the floor of the Chicago airport before turning around and flying home. I decided to go big. Not only did I ugly cry, but I did it grand fashion as a crumpled mass in the corner while hysterically shouting into the phone at my sister. Not my finest moment, but at least I owned it.
At my sister's instruction (she's so smart), I picked myself up, stumbled to another counter and found a much nicer and sympathetic agent who booked me on another carrier for a flight that was currently boarding. They were in the final stages of boarding and wouldn't hold the plane for me. I was counting my lucky stars that my ugly cry hadn't lasted longer while she called ahead to tell them I was coming. What happened next was a new PR, undoubtedly set to the "Chariots of Fire" theme, as I proceeded to sprint through the airport. I boarded the plane, sandwiched myself between two large men, and proceeded to mop up the sweat and do my best to muffle the residual sobs.
I made it. My sister picked me up, we drove to our hotel, and landed in bed at 2am. We were home free.
We awoke 4 hours later to something called the "Polar Vortex" and 6 inches of snow on the ground and a rental car without snow tires. And, we still had 30 miles to travel on the NJ Turnpike to the site of the services. I haven't told Jason this part, and I hope you won't either. He'll freak. So let's make this our little secret, okay?
We were only 5 minutes late for the services, but we made it. We left immediately after to make the long and treacherous journey home, only to find our return flight delayed by 3 hours. This caused me to miss my connection to Wenatchee and overnight in Seattle, but we found a bar and passed the time by toasting our grandmother.
So, if you're keeping track, I only made it on one of the actual flights I had booked on my very expensive ticket. I'm convinced my actual itinerary would have been nearly free since it was so awful. But, I made it, and if given the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn't hesitate.