I warn you this story is not for those with weak stomachs.
It was a comfortable Tuesday morning when my alarm went off at 4:30am. I grabbed my overstuffed luggage that I had finally succeeded at cramming shut at midnight, my laptop and Bloggy, threw on some tennis shoes, tied my hair in the best possible ponytail given how short it is, and ran out of the door to catch a ride to the Sacramento Airport.
On Monday afternoon, after a month long email chain and correspondence with the PR rep organizing the press credentials for The World Science Festival in New York City from June 10th through the 14th, I was emailed confirmation for one event, that one event is still in the works, and the third - her colleague would email me confirmation for Wednesday's opening ceremony. I suppose traveling from California to NYC is irrelevant. I guess that is where my optimism that the press passes would come through is evident.
The 7am flight to Washington D.C. was not that bad. I dozed off a couple of times, didn’t vomit when we hit some turbulence, and the kind flight attendant kept me satiated with all I can handle bottled water – free of charge. We arrived at 3pm and had two hours until our connecting flight to Laguardia in NYC. I grabbed a large cup of coffee because I want to be as alert as possible when getting to the city, because as Hank tells me about 18 times, it’s the city that never sleeps. I want to blend in.
Announcement over the loudspeaker: our flight is cancelled. I look around, thinking, really? This stuff happens? Not to me. So I approach the gentleman at the counter with my boarding pass hoping I had heard wrong and ask him in my ‘maybe he’ll take pity on me and squeeze on the flight boarding that moment’, “I think my flight got cancelled?” Yes. He was an older gentleman, who took my boarding pass and then asked me for it again, and couldn’t find it sitting on the desk in front of him. He informs me the next flight is at 9pm, I call Hank to tell him the good news and as he proceeds to the counter, a nice fellow standing next to the man helping us says to him, “Are you Campbell? I’ve been calling you for 15 minutes, I was gonna get you on that flight right now, but it’s too late cause you never showed up.” His remark is dripping with a rude, condescending and matter-of-fact tone.
I look back to Hank, standing there in his jeans, black SB shirt and a tan sports coat, with his cool hair, expecting some sort of freak out, and I am amazed at his calmness when he simply says, “I just got here. My flight’s not for 2 hours,” in a tone that casually made the clerk’s comment seem irrational. We go back to waiting in the terminal and a storm breaks loose, lightening, thunder, ominous clouds and sideways rain – the works. All planes are grounded, flights cancelled, delayed, etc. Our flight gets delayed again to 10:30 pm. The time ticks slowly but eventually the storm passes and we board our flight. By flight, I mean an aircraft that is surely a converted minivan. A plane with three seats across in shaky weather does nothing to soothe my fear of flying. Even my head hit the roof of the plane when walking to my seat.
It’s fine, I think to myself, we’ve had the worst, we’re almost there, I’ve never seen New York, I have a date to protect me – Bloggy. We finally make it to Laguardia, drag our feet to the baggage claim and wait for our luggage, and wait…and wait. There is no luggage on the belt at all – what are the odds that they lost everyone’s luggage??
After another 15 minutes and no luggage, we all line up to submit ‘delayed luggage claims’ on a kiosk. Apparently, not a single piece of luggage had come into Laguardia since 11:30 that morning. No toothbrush, no pajamas, no clothes, no hairspray, no mascara, no way! And at 5:30 the next afternoon I have to be at the opening night ceremony, looking my best for Alan Alda. Instead, it seems I will be wearing my baggy jeans, ridiculous ponytail and running shoes. I apologize to Bloggy for making him look bad. The guy – at this point no one is a gentleman – tells me the baggage should be delivered to the hotel tomorrow, between 3pm-11pm. Really?!
With a claim ticket in hand, a car takes us to the hotel, which fortunately hasn’t burned down or fallen apart since I talked to the front desk telling them we’d be extremely late. Ready to sleep off the depression, we walk to the front desk and ask for our rooms. That would be too easy though, so instead he informs us that there is only one room saved, in the entire hotel! I’m baffled and can only say, “but I reserved two”. He says he knows, and that the paperwork says that, he doesn’t know what happened because he just got there, but there is only one room left. I can’t even think of words. I just stand there staring at this man, hoping that Ashton Kutcher will pop out from behind a curtain and yell that I’ve just been punked! He doesn’t though. To be continued…
More World Science Festival articles can be found here.