After two weeks in the glorious Australian sunshine, I’ve finally made it back to ‘Sota! Unfortunately, in addition to 15 days down under, I also managed to log 3 days and 2 nights at the Dallas Fort Worth airport. So, while I’m sure you were hoping to hear about Kangaroos and Vegemite, I’ll first be making you suffer with me through a recap of what an entire weekend trapped in various American Airlines terminals feels like.
(If it’s any consolation, I promise there will be plenty of Kangaroos and Vegemite tomorrow.)
News of the impending layover arrived while my travel buddy Kayla and I were still at 15,000 feet on our 14 hours flight from Sydney. A terrible ice storm had hit Dallas earlier in the day, and while our plane would be landing, only ten flights were scheduled to leave the airport over the next 24 hours. Assuming a half-full plane to Minneapolis wasn’t a huge priority, I resigned to the fact that we would be spending a little bit of time at the airport.
I just didn’t realize how much time.
As soon as our aircraft landed we scurried off the plane and rushed through customs. Kayla and I knew the line for rebooking would be nothing short of hellacious, and wanted to secure a good spot in line. We did…but still had to wait an entire four hours before we were booked on a new flight home the following morning. That flight ended up being cancelled, as did the three other itineraries we would eventually be assigned. After two nights spent at the airport without so much as a hotel or meal voucher, we’d had enough. Some last-minute sleuthing revealed an early morning flight on Sunday that would have us back in ‘Sota by 9:00 am. Yes, it cost us $100 bucks each as it was a different carrier, and yes, it was one-hundred percent worth it. There are still over six hundred people stranded at DFW, and we likely wouldn’t have escaped until Tuesday if we had stayed with American Airlines.
Sure, our luggage is still in Dallas and it’s currently -10 degrees in Smalltown, but we’re home. When our airbus took off from Texas, it felt like a less life and death version of the scene in Argo where the Iranian hostages flight departs for America. I would have stood up and cheered had I not been passed out in my seat, enjoying the plush comforts of economy class. (After sleeping on a cot in an unheated terminal for two nights, seat 12F felt like a five star hotel.)
Somehow, we survived. Now that we’re home, I can even laugh at the situation. Truth be told, we were already laughing during the situation. (There’s something undeniably funny about wearing the same sweatpants for four consecutive days and lugging your airport issued cot from terminal to terminal like it’s your lifeline.)
Yet since arriving in ‘Sota I’ve been doing more than chuckling at my three days of airport homelessness. I’ve been reflecting. How did we do it? Will my sweatpants ever feel clean again? Did I really need all of those cocktails?
That’s when it hit me — enduring a long-term airport stay-cation is oddly similar to experiencing a major loss. Dare I say it, in those 40+ hours in Dallas, Kayla and I experienced our own version of the 7 stages of grief. Allow me to illustrate…
The 7 stages of layover
1. Shock and Denial
Did that small Asian woman really just shove the group of Australians in front of her with her luggage cart to secure a better spot in line? Have we actually been standing here for four hours waiting for a new flight assignment? This can’t be Texas…we’re still in Australia! There’s no ice because it’s still ninety degrees outside!
2. Pain and Guilt
This cot hurts my back. I suppose that’s what I get for convincing those poor women from Portugal that their flight would totally be leaving in the next hour like the gate agent had assured them, and that they didn’t need them anymore. I’m a horrible person. I deserve to be stranded at gate D22 without so much as a blanket or charged iPhone.
3. Anger and Bargaining
I hate American Airlines! I hate Texas! I hate my life! I’ll never dishonestly convince someone to give me their cot again if I can just get out of this airport!
4. Depression, Reflection and Loneliness
I’m going to drink three bloody mary’s, eat two giant fish tacos in less than three minutes, and then sleep the pain away.
After that, I’ll hit up Dunkin’ Donuts.
5. The Upward Turn
No. I’m not going to Dunkin’ Donuts. I’m instead going to see this fiasco as an opportunity. In fact, I’m going to use all of this free time to better myself!
(Translation? I’m going to read the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living cover to cover if it kills me.)
6. Reconstruction and Working Through
I will not let the absence of showers turn me into a victim!
(This is how I found myself washing my underwear in the bathroom with an anti-acne face wipe at approximately 11:30 pm.)
7. Acceptance and Hope
I don’t care what it costs, I’m going to pay for a new ticket to get me out of this place for good.
Also? I forgive American Airlines for keeping my luggage in Texas all week.
Even if it means Jolie and Penny will have to wait until Friday to enjoy their new, Kangaroo hide rug.
(If that’s not moving on, I don’t know what is.)
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