Saturday, March 15, 2014

Good Bye America, Hello Spain!

On Tuesday I took my long awaited flights to Spain. I thought that it was going to be boring just like all flights but boy was I wrong.

The first one was normal enough. My only complaint was that I was at next to a “Bro” who kept trying to engage in conversation even though I had an eye mask on and ear buds in. It wasn’t until after my first flight that things got interesting.

When we landed I asked an airline worker where my new gate was, she then told me the number and letter –was even kind enough to write it on my ticket in case I forgot- faced me in the right direction. Since I had two hours to kill, I bought some food and made up camp at my gate where I stretched, wrote, ate, and took a nap. When it was time to board I gathered up my things and went forward only to find I was at the wrong gate. The airline attendant had directed me to the wrong place. Once I got my new gate number, I looked down at my watch and saw I only 5 minutes until my plane took off. So I ran.

I soon discovered that my gate was on the completely other side of the airport and would have to take the train. Of course when I reached the platform the train was just leaving so I had to wait for the next one. As each second ticked away, my anxiety grew more and more. On the train I met a woman who was also going to be on the same flight as me, so as we chugged through the airport I confided in her all of my fears about missing the plane but at the time trying to reassure her that everything was going to be alright. Her only reply was a confused “Si”.

When the train stopped I ditched her and ran through the airport thinking I could stop the plane for both of us since she obviously didn’t understand that we were late. When I reached the desk of our gate, I asked whether or not the plane had taken off yet, to which I got an even more confused look and the reply, “No, you have about an hour until take off.”

Shocked, I looked down at my watch and then up at their clock. Turns out my watch was an hour fast. I had forgotten to change it for daylight savings. Feeling like a complete fool, I hid myself in the back corner behind a pillar trying not to think about the stress headache that was coming on.

After an hour had past the airline worker told us our flight had been delayed twenty minutes due to technical difficulties. Twenty minutes later they told us that they had to get a new plane all together and that our new flight time was in two hours. A lot of groaning commenced but what made me groan was the fact that our new gate was one next to the one I had just come from.

While I waited, I made friends with this woman who told me stories of her travels and gave me 20 euros because I reminded her of her daughter and didn’t want me to get stranded when I finally did land. Then I explored the airport many shops and gates. Until finally, there was nothing left to do but go to my gate and wait.

By this point I had decided I hated Miami (the place where my layover way). I knew that it wasn’t Miami’s fault for my headache or my delayed flight but I obviously had no luck there and I wanted nothing more to do with it. So when it was time to board I excitedly ran forward and eagerly awaited my eight-hour flight out of, what I was pretty sure was, Hell.

Once we were all aboard, our pilot took off and as we were just about to hit the runway, our plane stopped. IT STOPPED. According to the loud speaker the coffee machine was broken and they needed to fix it before it leaked into the engine. Now I was certain that the Devil lived in Miami.

So the plane turned around and made it’s way back to our gate. While they were fixing it we were told we weren’t allowed to leave our seats, which no one listened to and everyone began walking about the cabin trying to figure out what was going on. Then something very unusual happened. During those two hours (yes two hours more) of being stuck on a grounded plane all of the passengers started to become friends.

The friendships started off in the usual way, bad talking a common enemy (American Airlines) and from there, grew into learning each others names, where we were all from, and that I was the only American on the mainly Spanish filled plane (or sitting in Economy at least). During this time I made friend with the two girls sitting next to me. They were 24 and 25 med students who had been backpacking through South America. To pass the time they taught me some Spanish and drew me a map of their county while telling me it’s history.

Right before we were about to take off for our second time a French family (who was sitting in the back row) started making their way to the exist explaining why to anyone who would listen in Spanish. According to new friends, they watched the repair guy fix the plane but all the guy really did was “put a band aid on a broken leg instead of a cast”

Everyone began freaking out and started gathering up their stuff by this point the pilot announced that we were allowed to leave if we wanted, but if we did we could not get our checked baggage or new ticket home. In those next five minutes I made the hardest decision of my life. Risk my life for Spain or save it and stay in Miami. I chose risking it.

The next eight hours were the worst. My stress headache turned into a clogged up nose, a sore throat, and an upset stomach. But since I had now become friends with everyone on a personal level, I had a multitude of mothers taking of me. One flight attendant would come by and place wet paper towel on my head to cool me down and a few others found me sinus tablets. At one point, this little girl began crying because she had been stuck in the plane for too long. Everyone in Economy came together and searched through bags for some chocolate and gum to help quiet her. Though it was probably the worst flight of my life, looking back I think it was probably the most amazing. That one flight restored my faith in humanity. It’s odd to think that in that one moment of terror a group of strangers become one.

I wish I could say my journey ended there, that would be such a happy ending, but it didn’t. I still had another flight (which I slept through) and bus ride equally as bad as Miami.

The Shuttle was filled with a few elderly European couples and a group of middle-aged women from New Castle. Two songs into our Journey, the song Brown Eyed Girl came on the radio, making one of the middle-aged women yell, “Oooo GIRL! That’s my song. TURN IT UPPP!” The bus driver didn’t so they spent the rest of the song yelling, “TURN IT UPPP!” missing the whole song entirely. Through out the rest of the drive they yelled tufor louder music and started a dance party in the back making everyone really annoyed and uncomfortable.

At our first stop the bus driver separated all of them and gave them assigned seating telling them that they couldn’t move or speak. Basically the bus driver put these middle-aged women in time out. Of course they didn’t listen and that only made the bus driver angrier. After they were gone, he was still angry (and I am pretty sure he tried to hit one of them as we were driving away). Soon I was the last one in the bus. After about five minutes we pulled up to a street corner and he told me to get out. Confused I asked him where my hotel was. He pointed somewhere and said few blocks that way. I should probably mention that it was midnight in a country I had never been to before that had a language I couldn’t speak, I soon became terrified.

“No, your manager told me you would drop me off at my hotel.”

But he didn’t listen he was too annoyed and didn’t want anything to do with me. So he flagged me down a taxi, took my bag and threw it into the back of his car and left me with a cab driver who didn’t speak English and for the first time, I felt alone. Putting on a fake air of confidents, I demanded the cab driver take me to the hotel that was written on a sheet of paper. He nodded and drove me there. Once I arrived I paid him (Money that should have gone towards something fun) and checked into a room that didn’t really feel safe.

Putting a chair up against my door that didn’t have a lock, I crawled into bed reassuring myself that I was as brave as my dad and as independent as my mom. Reassuring myself that I was strong enough to do this.

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