If you’ve only been to a city’s airport, can you really say that you’ve been to that city? I don’t think so but if you’ve stayed overnight, then I think you can. Though it was unexpected, we can now legitimately say that we’ve been to Houston, Texas!
On our recent trip to Costa Rica we were reminded of yet another advantage to being retired. When our homeward journey took 24 hours longer than planned, there was no reason to panic, no boss to call, and no substitute teacher plans to make and email or dictate over the telephone! An unexpected night in a Houston hotel wasn’t the big deal that it might have been if we’d still been working.
The delay was also a reminder of how dependant we are on computers to do the things that were once done manually. Our problems began at the Liberia airport where the entire system was down and every passenger had to be processed the old-fashioned way with boarding passes and luggage tags all being written out by hand. They were only able to process us as far as Houston where we’d all have to check in again before boarding our next flight. We were still standing in line when the plane was supposed take off and once we were all onboard, we sat on the tarmac for another hour. No idea what that was about!
Since we had a quick connection to make in Houston, we were pretty sure before we left the ground that we wouldn’t make it. Almost everyone onboard was in the same predicament but the stewardesses told us not to worry. Apparently, there’d been a major storm in Houston that morning with downed trees and power lines all over the place. Numerous flights had been delayed or rerouted. Though the storm had passed by, your planes might still be there when you arrive, they told us.
By this time, we were very hungry. We’d eaten breakfast at 6:30 a.m. before driving three hours to get to the airport. We’d left ourselves plenty of time to buy lunch before boarding the plane but that time had been eaten up standing in line. By now, it was well past lunch time. Gone are the days when airlines actually served meals at no additional cost but we can buy lunch on the plane, we thought. Not so! There were no meals onboard! We had to make do with a snack box. Trail mix and chocolate covered pretzels weren’t quite what we had in mind but they were better than nothing.
Sure enough, when we arrived in Houston, though it was already over an hour past it’s departure time, our flight to Edmonton was still on the ground. We had 25 minutes to catch it! 25 minutes to go through US immigration, claim our luggage, check in, go through security and make our way through the enormous airport to the right gate! Could it be done? We tried! We spoke up and were ushered to the head of the check-in line but there was no way to get through security quickly. When we finally reached the gate, the plane had just pulled away!
That led to another long slow line up as we waited to find out what the airline was going to do with us. Due to the storm, the airport was full of disgruntled, delayed passengers and many of them were in line with us! Though we were hungry, tired and disgruntled ourselves, we were determined to be pleasant. After all, the poor women behind the counter facing angry traveller after angry traveller weren’t at fault. When our turn finally came, Belinda treated us very well. We soon had vouchers for a hotel room and three meals each in hand. She even called to find out when the hotel shuttle would pick us up.
Park Inn on the northern outskirts of Houston was a lovely place to spend the night. Though it was almost 10:00 p.m. by the time we finally checked in, we were soon sitting down to a delicious and much appreciated buffet dinner in the hotel dining room.
In spite of the delay, the trip might have ended quite happily had it not been for baggage problems. Our suitcase spent the night at the airport as it would have taken 3 or 4 hours to get it back and, having had a premonition that such a delay might occur, I’d packed all we’d need for an overnight stay in our carry-on. The next day, when we boarded the plane, I sat down in my window seat, looked out and saw our suitcase sitting on the tarmac waiting to be loaded. Nice! Imagine my dismay, however, when I watched the baggage handlers reject it, load it onto a baggage cart and drive away with it! Alerting the stewardess and the captain did no good and we never did receive an explanation.
The suitcase arrived home three days after we did and somewhere along the line, it must have been used as a punching bag. My toiletries bag was a mess! The handle was broken off my hairbrush and a tube of lotion had been squished all over everything! I always pack a tiny container of powdered laundry soap so that I can wash things out by hand if necessary and that too had been broken open. Fortunately, it had been packed in one of the suitcase’s smallest compartments so the mess was somewhat contained.
Oh well, when I think of our trip to Costa Rica, these aren’t the things I’ll remember. No, I’ll remember beautiful beaches, zip-lining over the rainforest and swimming below a waterfall! And I’ll remember that we’ve been to Houston!