I’ve circumvented the globe a couple of times and am eternally grateful of the people, cultures and places I’ve encountered. But there’s one thing that utterly sucks about traveling. The act of getting there. No one really loves flying. Anyone who says otherwise is a big fat liar.
I’m not scared of it, nor do I have any strong particular feelings about it. It’s just annoying. It’s the thing standing between you and the destination. And let’s be honest, sometimes, the destination ain’t really that fun either. I’m looking at you, business trips. But you know what sucks more than the meeting itself? Flying five hours to get there. I can guarantee you the person who said it’s about the journey, not the destination, wasn’t around when commercial flying came into existence. [Ralph Waldo Emerson died in 1882, so there’s that] This is when I wish teleportation - or maybe portkeys even - did exist.
After racking up the miles to be just short of Gold status on three different airlines (it’s makes me cry just thinking about it), I’ve rounded up the wacky, the weird and the just plain crazy flight experiences.
The Close Call
My boss, coworker and I were returning from a business trip and took the last flight out of Boston back to LA, which was unusual for us, but we had meetings that ended pretty late that day. The flight before ours - the one we’d usually take - ended up having to be grounded in North Dakota because it passed through a storm causing such fierce turbulence, that people flew out of their seats, hitting their heads on the baggage bins, and even the toilets got ripped out of their position...basically the whole plane got royally fucked up. Our flight crew got wind of this and aside from a brief stint of turbulence and a message from the pilot letting us know we were diverting to avoid a storm, arrived in one piece, toilets in place.
Denver? We’ve Got a Problem
I cannot mention toilets without talking about the infamous #poopgate2016. A few years ago, I was on a flight to SF from NY. About ⅔ of the way there, I got up to use the restroom. After the deed, I noticed the toilet wouldn’t flush. Before you think I caused a clog - I just went number 1 - so in the words of Shaggy, it wasn’t me. Since I’ve never encountered a faulty toilet on board, I wasn’t really sure if it really was faulty or if I was just being stupid. Which is a very real possibility.
Being a good citizen, I notified a flight attendant and they noted that yes, it is indeed not working. In fact, none of the toilets on board would flush anymore. Apparently, they forgot to empty the septic tank in NY, meaning it was at complete capacity. The pilot came over the loudspeaker and let us know that he couldn’t reasonably ask for all of us to hold it in for the next hour and a half before we made it to SF, so we were going to make an emergency grounding in Denver. At the tarmac in Denver, men in orange suits ran up to the plane trailing massive amounts of toilet paper to help sort out the clog. With our toilets were fixed, we were soon on our way, but I can forever say I was an instigator for having to ground a plane.
I’m Pretty Sure Horror Stories Start Like This
Last toilet story, I promise, my parents and I were flying to Morocco by way of Paris a few years ago and landed in Paris close to midnight when the airport was closing down. In a near empty airport, we stepped into the restroom to do our business. Each stall had these big long doors with just a small opening up top, and no openings on the bottom. I somehow got locked into the stall, unable to open the door back up, no matter how hard I tried wiggling the latch and pulling on the door. While my mom called for my dad, I started maneuvering my escape. I jumped on the toilet seat and climbed onto where the TP rolls come out, barely being able to then swing my leg over the opening on the stall door. In a crouched position, ten feet above the ground, I then jumped into my dad’s arms, and we all hurried the hell out of there.
Please Read the Safety Card for Instructions
On a flight to Peru from Buenos Aires, I sat right next to the toilet, which was one of those standard push in scenarios in most planes. Somehow this technology absolutely floored the passengers on the flight, and I saw, one-by-one, each person struggle to open the door. Many used the outdated cigarette extinguisher that pulls out as a makeshift handle - or trying to use it as such - before realizing the door pushes in, not out. It was without fail that every single person that went up to use the bathroom made this same mistake, making me feel stuck in an entertaining twilight zone loop. Who knew doors needed instruction manuals.
- Sat next to someone who didn’t understand the concept of headphones and proceeded to watch all of Star Wars on their iPad on full volume
- That time I didn’t take a flight because they canceled it last minute, causing my friend and I to take the train to our final destination instead (luckily it was a short flight and that option was available)
- Had my first flight delayed to the point where I was left with 5 minutes to spare to get to my second flight. I sprinted my way to the gate, making it as they were closing the doors.
- Getting onto the bus that takes you from the tarmac to the airport, as a seven year old, I had the doors close on my face at my ears so I was stuck in the doorway. I had to scream for them to realize what was going on and to open the doors.
- The time I was upgraded to first class and the flight attendant seemed to have a personal vendetta against me, smiling to everyone but me and overlooking me each time she was offering food or refreshments. What I did to this lady, who knows
- The time I missed my connection because my first flight had a technical malfunction. The next flight to my final destination wasn’t until the next day, so I ended up missing the ceremony of the wedding I was flying to in the first place.
How Did You Get Here?
The time in which I was screwed over the most by an airline. It was spring 2016 and I was flying to Lithuania. I woke up at 5am to a text from United letting me know that my first leg was delayed by 3 hours. Which meant that I would be missing my second leg and thus my third and final leg - but no changes to that itinerary was mentioned or accommodated for by United. So as I frantically got ready and on my way out the door, my mom was on the phone with United and was able to rebook me on new first and second legs. I checked in at the airport and all was well - I was just told that I’d need to recheck in at Houston since I was flying with Lufthansa on that point forward, but my bag was checked directly to the final destination.
I arrive to Houston and go to the United counter in terminal X. They let me know I should go to the Lufthansa counter in terminal Y. I get there and they let me know they can’t find my record and that United needs to figure it out. So I walk back to their counter in the other terminal. They tell me they can’t do anything and to go back to Lufthansa. Please note that this is not a short walk - each time to get from one to the other, it takes at least 7-8 minutes. I arrive back to Lufthansa, and they were about to send me back to United for a third time. I realized the madness had to stop. I asked if the man behind the counter could sort it out by calling United instead of treating me as a human ping pong ball with a seemingly broken message.
Taking a look into their computer system, with a single eyebrow raised, the man behind the counter asks me the infamous, “How did you even get here?” They had no record of me being on the plane to Houston, and by all their accounts, I was still on the flight to Washington, DC. They realized the root of the problem was that the cancellation never processed, so once they set that into motion, they ticketed me and I was happy to go on my merry way.
Roughly 14 hours later, as I’m waiting for my bag in Vilnius, Lithuania, it never arrives. Turns out that once it got to Houston, they were as confused as the ticketing counter, so it got tossed off the route and stayed in Houston. I was able to get my bag a few days later and was never more happily reunited with an inanimate object.