Whoever says “It’s about the journey, not the destination” clearly has never travelled to the caribbean from New England in the winter!
(start from beginning here)
It’s the morning of departure and traveling makes me anxious.
Even after all the miles I’ve flown, I still can’t help the tummy-flutter & clammy hands that flying brings me. The anxiety is like something I drag around with me on travel days like an additional piece of unwanted luggage. I call it The Baggage Scale of Anxiety (BSA). Some days its just a wallet sized anxiety that’s easily managed & tucked away. Other days, its a 50 lb. overstuffed maximum weight suitcase with broken wheels that I have to struggle with & strong-arm. I do not enjoy it, to say the least. I also do not take medication for it because I don’t feel like it’s bad enough that I need to pop a pill. It’s not an uncontrollable fear, I recognize it for what it is; me being anxious due to not being in control, being in crowds, and the possibility of evildoers both on the ground and in the air. I’m about to step into a flying bus & put my life in the pilot’s hands, plus hope that a myriad of potential mishaps -to put it mildly- doesn’t happen. There’s not a thing I can do about any of it, so I silently, but ‘awarely’ (I know that’s not a real word) move through the airport/airplane situation keeping in mind “If You See Something, Say Something” and carry my preverbal baggage around, shut the hell up about it and just deal with it naturally the way any self-respecting adult should, with booze! I pray the pilot doesn’t have the same philosophy I have. Just sayin’
There’s a Nor’easter fast approaching & I’m worried.
Its expected to hit at the precise time our flight is scheduled to depart and has created extreme worry for me and, I’d venture to guess, it would for you too. Our Jet Blue flight is scheduled to depart at 9:46am, direct to San Juan, Puerto Rico where we will connect with Tradewinds Aviation for a comfortable journey to St. Barth. The car picks us up at 6:30am with our friends already inside & off to the airport we go. We all discussed the impending weather some but decide it’s best to just remain optimistic about the situation & see how it unfolds, after all, no real weather had started yet by New England standards; it’s just cold & cloudy. We have an easy 1 hour drive to Boston Logan Airport, but as we got close to the airport I notice that the actual stoplight poles in the city on one particular corner are literally bouncing & shuttering in the wind tunnel being created through the street. I make a comment about how strong the wind must be to make those posts shutter but try to not dwell. My BSA level is still respectably hovering at small handbag size. We use curbside bag check, cruise through the airport, pre-check through security, and since it’s too early to sit in a bar, grab a coffee from Dunkin’s & park ourselves at the gate. Delightfully, its an uneventful start to the day.
Then comes the waiting…
…along with the wind, the snow and the stress. Checking the electronic departure boards reveals that about one third of the morning’s flights are canceled. An employee tells us it’s due to constant 40 mph wind in Boston, as well as, terrible winter conditions in other cities. Oh great. I’m still remaining hopefully optimistic but my BSA is now at Oversized Roller Carry-on that Everyone Gives You Dirty Looks About level. I tell myself it’s just barely snowing and we could be in the clear if we can board on time and be wheels-up as planned.
A voice comes over the intercom.
“Ladies in gentlemen, we’re a bit delayed due to a crucial member of the flight team not being here yet.” ….What?! I immediately start thinking about where I can get my hands on booze at 9am. That’s it, our flight is now officially delayed and snowflakes are really starting to fly. Horizontally… as if being shot out of a snowmaking gun at a ski resort. Shit! BSA shoots immediately to 50 lb. Monster Suitcase Sans Wheels size. I want a drink.
Within minutes we’re informed that we are going to board soon. Praise baby Jesus! I haven’t had to crack open my emergency stash of Tito’s vodka nips yet. A few more minutes and I might have to resort to desperate measures. We board relatively quickly, settle in, go through all the normal procedures and wait. On comes the captain, informing us we’re going to have to go through some de-icing before we can take off. Things have already gotten to the point of de-icing and the weather has only just hit within the last 30 minutes. My heart sinks, and unlike my real bag, my monstrous BSA is here with me, sitting in my lap, and I peek around it to gaze out the window and watch the blizzard surrounding around us.
The pilot powers up and steers the plane to the de-icing area.
I see the guys sitting up high in the anti-icing machines with their big spray guns that spray whatever it is on the planes. I watch the amounts being sprayed on the other planes and I know its for the safety of hundreds of lives, but I wonder where all this stuff is going after it drips from the plane. I see the drains on the tarmac, I hope they go to some holding tank and not directly into Boston Harbor which surrounds us. I know it smells strange and within minutes of them spraying our plane I can feel my face start to flush; I’m having a mild allergic reaction. (I later found out from our friends, who were sitting on the other side of the isle, that Karen also had an almost immediate reaction.) This stuff can’t be good but I know ice on the plane is catastrophically worse to my health.
Finally, after a thorough soaking we are ready to go and second in line for take off. With blizzard conditions all around and accumulations piling up quick, I know that if there’s any further delay, we’ll be grounded. I also know the de-ice also only lasts so long so they don’t mess around once the planes are ready. Within 5 minutes we’re speeding down the runway, we hit that moment when the tires come off the ground, are airborn and begin our ascent into the clouds. It feels like a steeper climb than usual, maybe it’s to try to get out of the snow packed clouds quicker. I’m not sure & can’t really discuss with anyone because my boyfriend, Ship, has his noise canceling headphones on, head propped against the window & appears to be fast asleep. He hates to fly, and deals with his anxieties in his own way. His fear comes from a very real tragedy in which his parents were killed in a small plane accident when he was just a teenager. I respect that. I can’t even imagine having been in his shoes. I let him sleep undisturbed.
We’re on our way.
We have free movies, Even More space seats, free snacks and free Fly-Fi, I love Jet Blue Airlines. I order myself a cranberry juice & unpack 2 of my secret stash nips from my carry-on to make a Cape Codder. Since arriving at the airport, I’ve been in constant contact via Voxer with my girlfriend Nadja in St. Barth. She hates to fly just as much as Ship and more than me so I know she will really appreciate all the happenings of my morning and help me deal with it in a humorous and understanding way as only girlfriends who truly get you can do! I inform her that “good news is, we’re on our way; bad news is, we’re an hour and a half behind schedule and have less than 30 minutes to make our connection” A 30 minute connection is not sufficient! Travelers of the world, you understand this as well as I do! My Baggage Scale of Anxiety is now teeter-tottering back and forth; big bag on one end, small carry-on at the other. Up & down I go between being relieved to be in the air and on the way then worrying if we’ll miss our connection flight. That flight is the last one of the day from Puerto Rico into St. Barth. The small runway is sandwiched between a hill on one end & a beach at the other, making it too dangerous to attempt in the dark, so the airport closes 30 minutes after sunset. If we miss this flight there are no other options to get to our destination until the morning. “Tito” is starting to take the edge off my worries though, I feel calmer and I decide to think about the possibility of spending the night in Puerto Rico as more of an adventure rather than an inconvenience. I put on my headphones & concentrate on the movie playing on the small screen in front of me. I also pull out my 3rd nip. Why not, I’m not driving and it’s ‘medicinal properties’ are kicking in nicely.
The landing in Puerto Rico is perfect and uneventful…
…Which is exactly the way I like my landings to be! The weather has gone from 12°F to 80°F and the sun is shining out our window. The captain instructs us all to please let those with tight connections exit the plane first. We fit into that category, gather our belongings & exit immediately. My BSA is back at a large suitcase level again but maybe because of the vodka it’s easy to manage. Stepping out of the jetway I immediately see a man holding a sign with our name on it. He’s got another sign with someone else’s name & is already talking to them. It’s the Tradewinds VIP guy, his name is Javier, and that couple is on our next flight too, I know immediately that we are in good hands and are going to make that flight. Baggage Scale of Anxiety plummets immediately to the size of a fanny pack! The stress is all in someone else’s hands now, I can release mine & relax. He explains to us what we’re all going to do & we start to walk together. While walking he takes our passports, and not breaking his stride, he proceeds to take snapshots of them with his phone & send them along to the ticket counter I imagine. He’s also taken our luggage tags & handed them off to someone who will go get our bags from the carousel for us. We don’t have to do a thing!
Javier leads us to the upstairs private lounge where there are complimentary beverages & snacks to help ourselves to. He instructs us to relax for a few minutes then disappears to work his magic. I immediately grab myself a Heineken from the little fridge & pop it open, It’s 4:30pm, I declare it Beer:30 & take my first swig. I feel good! My Baggage Scale of Anxiety is finally reduced down to wallet size and by the time I finish with this cool refreshing Heiny I know it’ll be completely gone.
I have arrived. I’m feeling chill for the first time all day. We’re out of the snow & in good hands. We still have on leg of travel to go but my baggage (of anxiety) is finally checked and I am now feeling vacation mode kick in.
Next Leg of the Journey: St. Barth, We Have Arrived!