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An Account of a Travel Nightmare

This is actually a true story, and it is my own personal experience. Being a writer, I simply could NOT resist writing of my travel escapades once I came home. It is humorous and explicit. It may sound like a movie treatment, but it is not. It's all true, unfortunately.

A few years ago I was friends with a man from Denmark. I am from Newfoundland, Canada, so visiting each other was not easy. During October of that year, my Danish friend was travelling from Denmark to New Orleans in order to attend a computer conference. He invited me to join him there.

The big day arrived. I was New Orleans bound and joyful singing reverberated through my house, as I performed the finishing touches to my make-up and personal appearance. Yes, let the fun begin!

The first leg of my ill-fated journey to New Orleans sped by like a winged charm. The flight crew were friendly, my seat was the best possible seat one could hope for...in coach, the two gentlemen I was sandwiched between WERE actually gentlemen, and did not turn into obnoxious drunks as the flight progressed. Then we landed in Atlanta.

On entering the terminal in Atlanta, I instantly knew something was amiss by the number of screaming kids, sobbing mothers, and cursing fathers. The rest of the airports occupants looked rather zombie-like, and on the verge of going into serious shock. I was just thankful I had no kids with me, nor do I swear or cry in public..or so I thought.

Checking the 'Arrivals' and 'Departures' screen, I was instantly aware my trip was in jeopardy. At this point I felt the first stirrings of panic waking up in my belly. I stared in uneasy confusion at the screen, reading 'All fights to New Orleans cancelled'. 'Please check with airport personnel'. Oh well I thought, I daresay it's just something small. Oh, the brave cheeriness of the inexperienced traveler. I'm no longer brave, cheery or inexperienced.

The lady at my flight desk told me, "Oh no Miss, you will NEVER get to New Orleans this evening." "Didn't you read the monitors...all flights are cancelled due to flooding from Tropical Storm something or other." 

At this point I entered into full blown travel nightmare hysteria. No more pretence. The airport walls started to close in on me, I started perspiring like I'd just finished the Boston Marathon in record time. It was then I realized how naive I had been, how ignorant my thinking was. I WAS NOT PREPARED! I had no American money, very little Canadian money, no travellers cheques and no credit card. I'm from Newfoundland, Canada; Arctic realm of snow and more snow. I know next to NOTHING about Tropical Storms.

On seeing my panic-stricken face and uniform body trembling, a kind man standing next to me inquired if I might like to use his cell phone to call the hotel in New Orleans where I'd be meeting my friend. I had no luck reaching the hotel. Vaguely, I heard someone say to someone else, "It's probably because the hotel in New Orleans is flooded, and all the occupants have been put up somewhere else". The entire airport lounge now seemed to be aware of my emergency.

Getting to the end of my travel nightmare was not easy. I fought with airport personal, I eagerly yanked cell phones from anybody that offered them, I tried the New Orleans Emergency telephone operator by pay-phone..all to no avail Finally, after spending eight hours in Atlanta, one more gentleman offered me his cell phone. I was by this time subdued and ready to accept my fate; A week in Atlanta Airport, no money, no food, and only bathroom water to keep me alive.

"Oh, there's something you should know about my phone", this kind soul told me. "It only works if you have it on 'speaker mode'" I calmly took his phone, dialled the number of the hotel once more, and like a bolt of lightening out of the clear blue, the front desk answered!  I don't remember asking for a room number, but apparently I must have, because before I could blink, my friend was on the phone. In my hysteria I wholly forgot we were on speaker phone. I poured it all out to him, and I may have embellished some parts, just to ensure I received his full empathy and sympathy of my dire circumstances. He was to take care of everything. I began to relax. I wasn't going to haunt the corridors and lounges of an Atlanta airport for an eternity! I was rescued!

My gratefulness was euphoric, and before hanging up the phone, I all but shouted "I LOVE YOU!!" into the receiver.

At this point every single person in that lounge burst into a cacophony of gleeful clapping and merriment. Shouts of 'Thank God!' could be heard here and there from huddled groups of passengers, scattered throughout the room.  It was then I realized every single person had heard every word of my frantic telephone call, as well as every word my friend in New Orleans had said as well. They were all taking a collective breath of relief that I was to be saved!

This is a true story. It was a nightmare, but I survived with my faculties intact, but with my pride thrown to the four corners of that airport.

I am no longer an inexperienced traveler.

Elizabeth Earle
Newfoundland, Canada.

Copyrighted and Written by Elizabeth Earle

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