Last month, I had an urge to visit my East Coast family. It coincided with tempting airfares floating around for the post-turkey, pre-Santa travel lull. Curiously, I broke my own NO WINTER FLYING rule and booked a solo trip.
This is a story about facing your fears and what happens when you finally “put yourself out there.”
In defense of the colder months, I think they’re beautiful. Brisk, invigorating air. Inspired coziness. And of course, gorgeous, peaceful snowfalls. It’s a time most of us whisper, “Ah, a winter wonderland!”
However, if you deconstruct that little sing-song phrase, there’s a subliminal nugget of wisdom we should all consider. Namely, winter is a wonder if you remain on land. It’s not, “Winter wonder-sky,” is it?
So why did I travel? After much pacing and hesitating, I think the extended weather forecasts for all airports involved pushed me over the edge. I would depart from Kansas City, connect in Baltimore and ultimately land on Long Island. Weather-wise, the departure date looked downright dull everywhere. It was a five-day trip, and I figured, pffft, the return leg should be similar. After all, I rationalized, Jack Frost is usually a mellow dude until January. And technically, most of December is fall. What could go wrong?
Before I could talk sense into my index finger, I watched it click on the “purchase flight” button.
The new rule: There would be no trembling when I found myself tucking a boarding pass into my down coat pocket.
The leg from Kansas City to Baltimore was unremarkable. Upon landing, I was thinking to myself, “Well, duh, I should fly in December more often.” Even when I discovered my connecting flight to Long Island was delayed due to fog, I didn’t flinch. Fog sounded so … unfrozen. I eventually got there. The plane trip was a yawn fest. Why had I been such a weenie all these years?
I’ll tell you why.
The night before my return to Kansas City, my parents and I planned to eat dinner at an Italian restaurant. I was feeling good. The entire visit went well, and I had nabbed an “A” boarding position on my 9:30 a.m. flight. Plus, I barely needed my down coat. Winter, shminter. I realized I had over-dressed and over-worried.
Then, on the way to the restaurant, my cellphone dinged. It was Dion calling. Winter Storm Dion, as named by The Weather Channel in an effort to help Mother Nature with her branding issues. The text read, “SWA Flight 572 is cancelled. Go to Southwest.com/rebook blah blah blah.” Did I mention I had an “A” boarding position?
I spent the entire meal trying to rebook an alternate flight on my 2- by 3.5-inch phone screen. The new plan? Surf ahead of the storm. Leave 6:30 a.m. instead. As my plate of fettuccine turned cold, I thought, flying in winter is al dente.
I did not sleep. I had to “get up” at 3:30 a.m. I was a zombie by the time I reached the airport. Dion had not yet arrived, but the plane was parked overnight and had developed ice on the wings. Turns out, that was my first de-icing of the day. I don’t like de-icings, and I don’t like the nonchalant way pilots announce them. It’s as if they’re saying, “Welcome aboard. I like oatmeal.”
At that point, I was aware Dion had already closed the federal government, yet I was connecting in the Baltimore/Washington airport. The storm’s bull’s- eye. The entire flight was horrible. I felt like a sock in an unbalanced front-load washing machine.
Shockingly, the connection back to Kansas City was still on. But I was so beat up, so tired, so drained with worry, I didn’t care anymore. Apparently, I slept through more de-icings and a snowy hour on the tarmac. I opened one eye long enough to notice the takeoff, and then dozed as my plane sliced through the storm to head west.
More winter flights for me? A snowball’s chance in … you know where.