Denise Snodell: The plane truth

07/17/2014 2:53 PM

07/22/2014 10:31 AM

If you missed it, my last column was a cautionary tale about how you can plan a simple getaway, yet suffer awful complications trying to get from point A to point B.

In my case, all I wanted to do was fly to New York. The airline proffered a Fort Lauderdale stop. That’s how air travel is today. There are no straight lines. If you connect the dots over a U.S. map, your flight path usually looks like a large equilateral triangle. Trapezoidal journeys are rising in popularity as well.

But to review my Florida-dipped drama in a coconut shell: It took 24 sleepless hours to reach my destination. In addition to the illogical route, I had a long delay, and an aborted 2 a.m. landing in New York. This culminated with a last-minute diversion to the Baltimore airport. It was there I spent the wee hours crying, grimacing and blinking like a low-budget window display Santa.

While in New York, I couldn’t shake the physical and emotional exhaustion caused by the incoming trip. So I changed the return flight. I took Florida out of the equation to reduce potential trouble-per-mile. My new way home would be much more streamlined, map-wise: An isosceles triangle! This, ironically, included THAT airport in Baltimore.

But I told myself, “There’s no way my journey back to Kansas will be as wacky as when I left it.”

You know who also thought that, in those exact words? Dorothy.

Yet, on the day I packed my bags and headed back home, I was feeling invincible. After all, I had been through inbound hell and survived. I was a hardened traveler. I felt like I could ride the new Verruckt waterslide with a flaming baton clenched in my teeth and a live cobra wrapped around my neck.

So when I found myself connecting planes back in Baltimore, I shrugged off flashbacks of the infamous all-nighter. I was even at the very gate where I had “slept” just days before. My eyes darted to the precise spot where I went horizontal — the floor space right next to a high-demand charging station. Again, I reminded myself I had been through the mill already. Statistically, what were the odds of another mill? All was cool.

The invincible feeling stayed. I even shrugged off the whole two hours we were delayed on the tarmac because the pilot had to add fuel. Why? There were storms in the Midwest. The route had to be changed. Stuff had to be recomputed. Navigating through peril requires hours of paperwork. Whatevs.

I casually texted my husband, “What’s up with the storms?” He informed me there was a tornado watch, but no problems until sunset. I calculated the delay would get me there at sunset.

A new mill briefly materialized in my imagination. I knocked it over.

The flight was remarkably smooth. As we approached the airport, I gazed out my window, marveling at how many lightning strikes per minute one can witness.

Fast-forward to the parking lot shuttle bus. The sky looked weird. My fellow passengers were freaking out. The clouds had that look: Tornado-y.

I did a quick situation analysis: I was being dumped onto the worst spot on earth one could be for a potential twister — the enormous, flat, ditchless asphalt expanse that is the KCI economy parking lot. Normally, I would have panicked, but I was the new Invincible Me. I stumbled out of the bus just as the sky let loose. (These were the June 30th storms, btw.)

It was all a blur, but I’m pretty sure I body surfed to the car atop my new spinner-wheel luggage. I know I got there fast — whoosh. I adore spinner-wheel luggage.

As I was driving south on Interstate 29, an actual-real-official tornado warning blared on the radio. I might have been totally verruckt at that point, because I rolled my eyes and waved off the announcement as if it were fly at a picnic.

Freelancer Denise Snodell writes every other week.

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