Kerrie Bond: Stranded Traveler

I come to you now with a story of a journey home.

Months ago Anthony and I booked our flight to Orlando for a friend's wedding. We were to leave at 7:43pm on December 19th to attend the wedding the next day. I would then be picked up by friends and driven home on the 21st. A perfect plan.

My story for you begins at 10:30am, Saturday December 19th, 2009.

We'd been hearing tales of the blizzard on the way. Talks of historical snow buzzing in the air, we tried to pay no attention. But I was not completely shocked when I woke up at 10:30 the morning of our departure to discover that my bus into Philly for 12:30pm that afternoon had been canceled. Treacherous driving conditions cited as the reason. Things seemed serious. I predicted flight delays to Anthony as I looked into making my trip to Philadelphia via the New Jersey Transit.

Our flight was already delayed one half hour.

I boarded the 12:14pm train to Trenton, which would then connect me to a train into Philadelphia, setting my arrival time at 2:45pm. Perfect! Plenty of time to relax before heading to the airport for our 7:43pm flight!

Just before 2:00pm, I checked our flight status. Canceled.

I informed my travel partner of this news, deciding to call the airline upon my arrival.

The train pulled in promptly at 2:45pm. I pulled up my hood, tightened my scarf, and ventured out into the blizzard to complete the 15 minute walk from 30th Street Station to Anthony's apartment.

The walk took 40 minutes.

Climbing hills of snow, dragging my suitcase through mounds, slipping and tripping, wheezing and coughing, my hair freezing to my forehead. This was a blizzard.

I arrived at the apartment, a little worse for wear, but not discouraged. I settled myself in a bit and we called the airline.

The connection kept dropping before we got a chance to speak to anyone. The website wasn't giving us any information and/or was speaking in code. We took a break from this shouldn't be but was frustrating task.

When we did finally get through to a human being, we were informed there was nothing into Orlando until late the next night, long after the wedding. Nothing into Tampa. No way to make it in time. Discouraged by this news, I gave up but was able to book a flight straight home to Fort Myers free of charge. Leaving at 6:51 the following evening. We were missing the wedding, but at least I could still get home free of charge. Anthony canceled his flight altogether, as he was to return right after the wedding for exams. This was not the way things were supposed to go, but at least we had found some sort of resolution.

We went about our night satisfied with this outcome, though clearly not thrilled. I was supposed to sing in this wedding ceremony.

10:00am, Sunday December 20th, 2009

We awoke freshened by sleep and ready to explore a Philadelphia covered in snow. The day was full of promise and hope.

Wanting to be prepared, I checked my flight status after showering, just in case.

My 6:51pm flight out of PHL into Ft. Myers was already delayed. 2 1/2 hours.

Normally, why would this matter? Well, this was not a non-stop flight. I had a connecting flight in Atlanta, Georgia. A delay this absurd meant that I would miss my connecting flight and would be trapped in Atlanta.

Naturally, I called the airline immediately.

Naturally, I sat on hold for 20 minutes and never spoke to a human.

Frustrated, I hung up and just decided to go to the airport as if there were no delay, and figure it out there. Get re-booked on a flight that made sense. A different connecting city, a different part of FL, anything that could just get me home.

We successfully discovered a snow covered Philadelphia, though that doesn't even begin to describe it. This, however, is another entry.

I received a call from my mother around 4pm saying there was an earlier flight to Atlanta running on time. If I left right away, maybe I could get on the flight! We called a cab for me and I was at the airport by 4:23pm.

This earlier flight to Atlanta was not only sold out, but extremely overbooked. I sighed, but went about finding another way to get home.

"What is the first flight you have to Ft. Myers tomorrow?" I asked.

There were none.

I inquired about Sarasota/Bradenton. There was a flight out of Atlanta at 9:50am the next morning. Having no choice in the matter, I booked it.

This was now my itinerary:

6:51pm flight PHL to ATL
DELAYED until 11:10pm
Arrive in ATL at 1:45am

9:50am flight ATL to SRQ
Arrive in SRQ at 11:29am.

So, as I was at the airport at 4:30pm, this was around 7 hours of waiting at the Philadelphia Airport (as the flight didn't end up taking off until around 11:30pm, after a lot of bouncing back and fourth between 10pm and 11pm), and an 8 hour overnight stay in the Atlanta airport.

I watched half of Dexter season 1 in an effort to make time pass quickly. I slept for about 3 hours between 2am and 5am on uncomfortable seats in the freezing Atlanta airport. I ate expensive airport food and I resented 2 things that were being forced on me:

1. The song "Let it Snow" kept playing. A lot. I mean, come on.
2. AirTrain's slogan: "Go. There's nothing stopping you." I think it was mocking me.

5:00am, Monday December 21st, 2009

Horridly groggy and exhausted, but unable to sleep in such uncomfortable conditions any longer, I continued to watch Dexter and ate a muffin, impatiently waiting my flight to Sarasota.

I am happy to say that there were no delays in boarding.

We did, however, sit on the plane for a half hour before taking off waiting for people to board.

We landed in Sarasota at 11:51am. My mom and I went to Friendly's, and then made the hour and a half drive home.

And then... I was home.

I began this journey officially at 12:14pm on Saturday the 19th. It ended at around 3pm Monday the 21st.

I learned a lot about traveling during a blizzard: Don't do it.

I was interviewed for Fox 29 in Pennsylvania. (See the picture at the beginning of the entry).

I have slept about 4 hours, including some sleeping on the plane.

I wore the exact same outfit for 3 days.

But I did eventually shower and change and in a very short amount of time, I will even sleep.

I really wish we didn't miss the wedding. Not only because I was supposed to sing in the ceremony, but because we were supposed to be there.

I'm sure I may have forgotten little details along the way. I highly recommend taking a look at my Twitter timeline: I kept track of pretty much every single moment of this horrific trip. For entertainment.

This concludes the story of my journey. I rest now in my bed in my room in my home in Florida. With a very large Australian Shepard lying next to me. Snoring.

Mike flies in tomorrow. Luckily, there will be no blizzard to stop him.

Happy traveling to everyone, and very happy holidays. It'll all be worth it in the end.



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