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Trapped in Cincinnati
Have you ever been stuck in an airport thousands of miles from home? That unfortunate adventure happened to me last summer when I tried to travel back to Portland, Oregon, from New York with my father and brother.
The minute we arrived at the airport we saw lines of travelers snaking from the check-in counter through the terminal and out the door. We waited in one of those lines for hours – so long that we nearly missed our flight. At last we rushed through security and made it onto our plane. The three of us scurried down the aisle and sank into our seats with a wave of relief. We had made it! The pilot taxied from the gate as we buckled our seatbelts.
The plane rolled onto the runway. . . and then stopped. Annoyance filled the air as passengers eyed each other suspiciously. What was the holdup? After we sat there for thirty minutes, the captain’s voice came on the speaker. “Folks, we have some severe thunder storms outside, and we’ve been instructed to wait here until they pass through.”
Those storms did not “pass through” for three more hours.
When we finally arrived in Cincinnati to catch our flight to Portland, it was after 9:00 P.M. Our flight home had left hours ago. We approached an airline representative who told us that our flight home had already departed.
“When is the next flight to Portland?” my dad asked.
She scanned her clipboard and frowned. “Nine o’clock…tomorrow.”
We all groaned.
At baggage claim, the conveyor belt circled with a few sad bags that did not belong to us. When we asked, an airline representative told us that our bags had made it on the flight to Portland. Lucky bags. We were stuck in Cincinnati without a toothbrush or a change of clothes.
When my father pointed out to an airline clerk that he was stranded with two kids, they took pity on us.
“Here’s a voucher for a hotel room and food,” the man said. “You’ll be staying at the Ivy Hotel. Your courtesy van will meet you right over there,” he said, pointing to one of the airport exits.
A hotel and a courtesy van. My brother and I exchanged hopeful smiles. Maybe we could turn this lemon into lemonade.
Outside at the shuttle stop, other disgruntled passengers from our flight milled around. When the van arrived twenty minutes later with five available seats, four other people dived in before us. By the time I peeked in the door, every seat was taken.
How much worse could this night possibly get?
The driver promised to return for us in forty five minutes. We waited another ten minutes and decided to take a cab to the hotel.
As the driver pulled up in front of the Ivy, my eyes widened at the large glass windows looking into a lobby with a big winding staircase and a crystal chandelier. Inside the lobby, my brother pointed out the plasma screen TV, the smooth leather sofas, and the tiny ivy leaves in the pattern of the carpeting. I started to feel better. At least we’d scored a tidy, comfortable place to stay.
But when my father went to check in, another problem arose. The only room left was a smoking room.
“Like sleeping in a chimney,” my dad said.
“Why don’t you wait and see if another room opens up?” the clerk suggested.
More waiting! Suddenly the lobby of the Ivy wasn’t so comfortable. We endured one more brutal hour of mindless lobby chatter until a room opened up. The walls were painted mustard yellow and the sheets were sticky, but desperation drove us to grab it. After hours of travel, we needed to get vertical. We climbed into bed and slept in our clothes.
In the early morning, my dad called the airline to confirm our flight. The woman on the phone told him there was a slight mistake. Our flight wasn’t 9:00 A.M. this morning. The only available flight was 9:00 P.M. – in two days!
“What?!” my dad gasped, pushed beyond his limit. He begged and threatened. He kept pointing out he was traveling with two kids. Finally, the representative booked us on a different flight that evening, with a connection in Minneapolis.
“Another connection?” I said, thinking of everything that could go wrong in Minneapolis.
Late that night we finally arrived at PDX, happy to be home after a long, long adventure. The three of us learned that we needed to be flexible if we wanted to travel. We also agreed we would never fly through Cincinnati again.