See this girl who was all smiles when dropped off at the airport? Ha. Well that was the look of naive bliss! That was back when I had two bags and before I knew that what was supposed to be a day full of flying and embarking on my journey to Antarctica, would soon turn into ultimate and utter chaos.
It started with a furiously raging woman in the security line, screaming at the TSA guards because "The line is NOT moving!!!" In her defense, the line really was not moving. -at all, for a very long time. She did have a valid point but her approach was nonetheless super cray. Her screams became so hostile, all the guards gathered around her and she managed to shut things down even longer for all of us.
But after finally getting past the checkpoint, I saw my airlines and the destination was still on the screen at gate 8! Yippee!! The departure time appeared to be delayed by an hour so I'll still make it after all! Nope. Wrong again kiddo. -and it took me way too long to realize that I was just sitting there smiling at gate 8 while my actual flight, which departed from gate 9, was undoubtedly already in the sky. Way to figure that one out Kimi!
And of course while I waited happily in my bubble of hopeful oblivion, everyone else who missed the first flight jumped on the signup list of the gate 8 flight and it became completely 100% full.
Re-book, re-route, try again. After multiple phone calls and kiosk conversations, my trusted airlines tells me they can't do much because my whole 4-flight itinerary has been erased. Vanished. And they can't do anything about it because it wasn't booked through them.
More phone calls and with the help from travel agent friends, I'm back in the game with a whole new flight plan to get me there and it only took us one hour! Ooh right as I embrace that sweet relief, an email update about my new flight out of Hawaii buzzes on my phone. Hold up, a 6 hour delay?!!! All other flights will be missed. Again. No!!
Re-book, re-route, try again.
Usually this stuff doesn't get to me because it happens all the time and I just wait it out and go with the flow. But here's the problem: I actually need to be at that little tip of South America exactly when that little boat going to Antarctica pushes off. There's no other boats or planes I can just jump on if I miss that vessel and my window of opportunity is now seriously closing right before my eyes. It feels like the biggest sucker punch right to the gut.
I finally get a flight out of Hawaii but it only takes me as far as LAX and it's now 4am and both my bags are missing. Another news flash prevails; without my gear, I can't get on the tiny boat and go to Antarctica because I will freeze to death and that just won't work. My gear making that boat ride is just as essential as me making it. And I somehow doubt the airlines would deliver it to me days later in the middle of the hazardous Drake's passage.
No sleep. Phone call after phone call. Dropped call after dropped call. "We're sorry ma'am there's nothing we can do but keep you updated if we find your bags. They are either in San Francisco or Florida. We're just not sure which."
And I'm not the only one having issues. So much anger. Angry customers, irritated workers, humans taking out so much hostility and blame on one another. So many of us disgruntled passengers got crammed on a full flight with all of our emotional and literal baggage in tow.
This guy from the first class cabin actually stomped back to my seat in coach to open my overhead compartment, and ripped my bag out from it and screamed at me for my bag "smashing" his bag. I tried to tell him that it's not smashing anything and it's only filled with puffy jackets anyway but as I swung around to show him, I accidentally almost whacked another angry flyer right in the face with my dive fins and then that guy shouted at me to "Watch it!" Everyone is looking and it's two against one, both glaring at me and further justifying each other. I sit down, too embarrassed and too defeated to talk anymore.
The utter shittiness continued on in various forms for an eternity and it sucked big time. But out of all of it, do you know what really made me cry?
The people who were kind.
The lady at baggage services center who actually answered the door when I knocked on it at 5am and told me that they don't open until six but once she saw the disappointment that washed over my face, she said "Well hold on; I can help you now anyway, let me just get set up. Where are you going honey?" Holy, bottom lip trembling and I can barely talk and am suddenly all choked up, as that was the nicest thing anyone has said in the past 38 hours of madness and it caught me way off guard.
I try to tell her that I'm going to Antarctica or hoping to but my chance of going is slipping through my fingers. I can barely speak and the kinder she is to me, the more I fall apart. Oh dear, tears are officially falling; I keep my head down as I give her my info and thank her. She gets my number; she gets my email. She tells me she will do everything she can to find my bags but that I need to run off to my next flight and she will personally call me with updates. I look up only to steal a glance at her name tag. Thank you RoseAnn; thank you so much. It's crazy how after all the rejection, yelling and fails, it's a simple act of kindness that makes me absolutely crumble.
And though sweet RoseAnn did later call to say that she couldn't find the bags and all that she knew about them is that they unfortunately won't be leaving the country unless I'm with them, which I'm not, just the fact that she's really trying, shows that I've got someone on my side. -and I honestly love her for that alone.
The pain I feel eating me up inside also really tells me louder than ever, how much I really wanted this. The panic, regret and worry that seep into me as I watch my dream fall apart before my eyes, makes me understand all the more, how truly lucky and privileged I am to be given such an opportunity and even though I've become a desperate and broken woman in the process, sometimes watching a dream die is exactly what makes you realize what it really means to you. It becomes so apparent to me how much it's worth fighting for just to keep it alive. Please Antarctica, please come through for me somehow.
And as fate would have it, as I left RoseAnn with those tears still trickling from my eyes, I came face to face with the angry first class guy. He looked kinda broken too and I could tell that he had no idea that I'm the same girl he just yelled at. He literally screamed at me but didn't even really see me. So I simply chose to see him. I looked him right in the eyes and I held my watery stare on purpose. And with all the strength in my heart, I simply said, "I'm sorry for smashing your bag." His eyes widened with recognition and his face softened with care immediately and with gentle remorseful voice, he pleaded, "No, no. I am so sorry. I lost my mind back there. I'm SO sorry." And I just nodded in acceptance before continuing on my path, because I know that he has a story too.
And then in the midst of this all, I get a text from my fellow Antarctic crew members who are all in Mexico and my stomach aches and twists at the thought of telling them they might be going on without me, but before I do, I hear them say, "Hey we saw some bags that looked like yours at the airport in Mexico City, so we went up and checked them out and they are yours! So we figured we'd just grab them and take them to Argentina for you!"
How? Are you sure? Yes grab them!!! Grab them and don't let go! Don't get arrested but do not let go!
Game motherfucking on!! playa!
(Sorry, but that is actually what my brain said so I might as well be honest and write it)
And I guess my main take away from all of this is that in the midst of an army of chaos and anger, kindness and compassion can absolutely move mountains. And sometimes when we think all is lost, by simply choosing to keep moving forward and not give up or give in, miracles are indeed found. I'll be spending New Year's Eve in the sky tonight, and though I still have two flights and tight connections left to make, I sure hope to start the new year embarking on my journey at sea to that last continent, the island of ice.
2016, you've been great to us; you've been hard to us. You taught me what real will truly is and that battles certainly can be won with peace. You've shown me which dreams are the ones worth holding on to and I'm not letting go any time soon. Thank you. Cheers. And bring it on!