Tracey Jackson

Jan 3 2017 | Comments

THE NOT SO FRIENDLY SKIES

 

Without question yesterday was the worst day in the air I have had in fifty years of flying.

Today, between exhaustion and cortisol overload we are all walking around like zombies.

There is an ineptitude that reigns supreme at airports and usually you can get through it fairly unscathed, but yesterday was just disaster.

We left Cancun at 2:55 headed for Atlanta where there was a two hour stop over to clear customs, get our bags back on the flight and make the rather tight connection.

True to form I started obsessing about not making our connection two days before the flight took off.

Call me OCD but if the plane is a little late, say you are 15th for takeoff, if they can’t find a gate when you get in, if there is any issue you can miss  your connection – Especially when you have to clear customs.  And we were travelling on one the busiest travel days of the year, miss your flight – there are no more.

Minor panic started to set in when there was no plane at our gate five minutes before we were scheduled to take off.

That put us 15 minutes behind the 8 ball of time. Glenn said we were fine.  He still said we were fine when 25 minutes behind schedule they started to let us on the plane.  The wheel chair parade first, then the endless kids, but we were moving.  Until we were not. And that was immediate – total gridlock on the ramp, no one moved  for 10 minutes. Then my cortisol started pumping.  They finally let people on, but by then everyone was so backed up and of course everyone takes forever to find some space in the overhead bins, and they block the aisles so no one can get through and they can’t find their seats. Loading this plane took for fucking ever.

FINALLY, everyone was in their seat, but we didn’t move and we didn’t move and we didn’t move.  By then we were 40 minutes late which meant we’d have an hour and a twenty minutes to do the turn around. Suddenly Glenn was not so positive.

Slight aside Glenn and I have Global Entry, the girls do not. I was figuring how we would rush through, get the bags and then if the plane was going to take off I would have them hold it.  I figured this out before we took off.

Which we did not do for another 15 minutes because they informed us three people did not show up and they had to go and retrieve their luggage from the belly of the plane. Hundreds of bags and they are looking for three.  Three that could be dangerous.

Eventually we took off forty- five minutes behind schedule but according to Glenn destined to be only thirty- five minutes late, as we were flying faster than the distance at one point. This I did not understand.  I spent the entire flight staring at the flight map.
There was bad weather in Atlanta. As we were coming down, the plane was struck by lightning. This caused one of the Flight Attendants to yell “Oh Shit”

So not comforting under the circumstances.  And we could see the bolt hit the plane and a bright pink light like a laser whiplashed through the galley. Lucy never looked up from her movie. Taylor was terrified.

It did not make for a pleasant landing. I thought someone had a heart attack, as after the lightning strike one of the attendants took a box of what looked like oxygen to the back of the plane. Taylor overheard someone saying that someone was actually behaving badly.

We were so late so as we landed I told the girls to grab their bags and run.  We were in the front of the plane.

But as we taxied forever to the gate, the main attendant said no one could move a muscle until one of the passengers was escorted off the plane by the authorities. WTF. NO WAY. I have a connection I am barely going to make. If he is misbehaving, make him suffer and let us go. I didn’t say that. But I was chomping at the bit. Then the doors opened and four armed cops were standing there and a woman and child ran out the door screaming “he is going to kill us.” Then a group of witnesses start filing out. Then people are yelling “he wants to kill.”  And I’m thinking this is really bad, you have a homicidal person here, why are we not  getting the passengers off first?

 Why I am not allowed to run the world I have no idea.

Thank god the cops thought the same thing. They said get the passengers off first.

We were up front  and some guy with a little kid comes from the back and tries to butt in front of me, and I didn’t let him go. Lucy and Taylor said I should have and I said we are in first class, we are late there is a homicidal man on board this is everyman for himself. Let’s run.

So I did and they let him out with his kid. Which caused him to snarl at me “Your family is nicer than you are.” I so did not care at that moment.  I told him he couldn’t butt in front just because he had a kid.  And that was that, we were off and running to Customs.

We got there and I headed for the Global Entry machines. A woman stood guard and said they are not working. I then said, I thought I was nice, Taylor says otherwise, but it felt nice as it was coming out, ok maybe not nice, but entitled with an ounce of respect, I said “What good is Global Entry if the machines don’t work?”

I’m sorry that is not the worst thing you can say to someone. It’s not like saying, “Your face looks like your ass and your mother is a whore.” It’s matter of fact. What good is global Entry if the machines don’t work?

She then huffed and turned to her friend and said “Can you imagine?”

That was before I knew temperatures were a bit high in customs as we were faced with hundreds and hundreds – actually thousands of people sitting on the floor, lying on the floor, some standing in a long line that snaked and snaked and snaked around.

Kids, people in wheelchairs, hundreds of waterless, foodless, internet less, chairless people who had been there for hours and hours and were facing more hours of this hell as the entire customs system had gone out in every airport in America.

I immedtalty thought OK we are now totally fucked as we won’t get our plane and we will be here for ten hours.

I thought of killing Glenn as he had left our fancy duty free Tequila on the flight and we had nothing to eat or drink.

I thought we had been hacked by the Russians and started blaming it on Trump.  A thought I shared with a girl who barely spoke English.

I imagined us there for the night as did Glenn.

And then there were these adorable girls from the Netherlands who were clutching these  dolls that played Disney songs really loud and Lucy of all people said “shut the dolls up.”  But I found my humanity and said no, they are little kids this had to be really hard on them. And the mom said they had had no food since early am.

And the airport people, like usual could give two shits. No water, not our fault. No food, not our fault. No chairs – not our fault. Suck it up suckers we make minimum wage and you all look tanned and vacated.  That is kind of the vibe you got.

So we stood for a long time. And then at one point the masses started to move, and some guy who worked for the airport came down the endless line and said anyone with Global Entry or Visas follow me. I told him we had Global Entry but our kids did not. He said it was fine, in this situation they could go through with us,  just follow him.  I asked twice if he was sure. He said yes. So we ran with him past all the people to the machines. Now it was odd so few people had Global Entry. Glenn’s worked. Mine didn’t but that happens.  He then took us to a small line and left us. It was the Global Entry line.

A few minutes later a big burly, cop.  OK, anyone watching The Affair this season?   The guy looked just like John Gunther. So Gunther  barks everyone here have Global Entry, I said “We do officer, but our children do not.” He did not let me finish when he started screaming, “You are breaking the law, what are you doing? You are sneaking people through. You will lose your Global Entry.” Just went off. I calmly said, “A man from the airport said this was OK or we would not have done it.”  He barked at me, “Did he have a badge like me. Did he have a gun?”  I’m telling the truth here, had we been African American we would have been in a choke hold at this point.
I said no. He worked for the airlines. He screamed at the girls to get out of the line NOW. But he would not tell them where to go.  I was shaking and fighting back tears. I tried to tell him we meant no harm. We only did what the man said. He barked out something else and pointed to the kids to go the end of a long line. He then walked away.

About fifteen minutes later he returned and  demanded our passports. I was trying not to cry he was so abusive.  He took them and started writing. Glenn thought he was being nice. I did not. I said again, “Officer please understand I was not in any way diminishing your power I was just saying an airport official had told us to do this or we wouldn’t have done it.”  He then barked out, “I checked with my people and nobody told you to. You’re a liar.” I asked if he was taking away our Global Entry. He said he didn’t know but he  said he could do whatever he wanted with me.

When he walked away I broke into tears. Then they took Glenn to another line and I was alone. Crying.

I eventually got a nice man and told him the story, he said I could report it then. But I didn’t want to get into trouble.  I had visions of Gunther arresting me.

Then I found the girls, no Glenn, but masses of luggage everywhere.  Few people. Thousands of bags.  We had no idea where Glenn was.  Our plane was leaving in twenty minutes. Somehow we found our five bags and located Glenn who was at the gate.

He was having them hold the plane for us. I had to then push four bags through customs  to a place where they were putting them on a conveyer belt. I was sweating and tears were streaming down my face.  Two teenage boys ran to help me.  A lovely baggage handler looked at the boarding passes and said run.

Which we did. Took the train –  got to the gate where we thought they were holding the plane, except they were not.  By then it was two hours late.

So we went to the bar and had a big vodka

By the time we got on we were all exhausted. I asked the attendant for peanuts. That was all I wanted a bag of peanuts.

She said no peanuts on board.  There is a person who is allergic and we can’t serve them. WTF???? One person with an allergy and no peanuts on the fight.

At that point I went to sleep until we got to Newark;  where they had lost a piece of our luggage and the complaint line was 20 people long. By then it was 1 am.  By the time I got out of line, Lucy discovered she left her glasses on the plane.

Then she broke down. But they miraculously found them.
My suitcase is scheduled to arrive tonight. Though I’m not holding my breath. When you call the number they say too many calls and hang up.

I am not going anywhere for a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Amanda Dushan

    Wow! I’m sorry that the cop was mean to you, Tracey.
    You and and your family went through a lot!
    Years ago, I returned home from Texas, and I couldn’t find my bags at the airport. The Airport people returned them to my house later on that night.
    Then in 2005, I got off the plane, returning home from Texas, only to find that my aunt wasn’t there to greet me. (Before 9/11, when I got off, my dad wast there) I had to walk around the airport, before finding her.
    Other then those two things, nothing else happened to me at the airport.
    I’m sorry you all had to go through that.

  • penelopebi@me.com

    I had to shut two doors between me and our bedroom so I did not wake Adam up! Shrieking with laughter……I was. Honestly!!!
    What a writer you are!! Forget about “it doesn’t matter what happens to you! It is how you respond to it!”
    Forgetaboutit. Hilarious. My favorite was “Your family is nicer than you are!”

    Please use this scenario in your new tv series!!!!
    Brilliant!

  • michele

    Jesus! Talk about a perfect storm of mishaps, miscues, misinformation, mistakes and in the case of the officer perhaps misogyny in addition to whatever other issues he had. What a bloody nightmarish way to end what seemed to be a perfect relaxing vacation. Go spend the day at the spa my friend, you earned it! <3

  • Awleib

    OY TO THE VEY VEY VEH!!!
    I pronounce it perfectly OK to bully a bully BACK. You were way nicer than I would have been. When I’m appropriately reactive in bad situations, Jordan can be heard saying, “Mom, you’re such a bitch.” My response: “You say that like its a bad thing.” xo

  • I love that response. I need to remember it. When my kids said I was not nice I was like – when crammed on a plane with a homicidal lunatic there is not time for nice.

  • I’m OK…it took me a day. Worse things can happen. But thank you. Rather have lunch with you than go to a spa.

  • It was funny after the fact. Maybe. I see it as funny on paper Thank God! It was great seeing you. xoxoxoxo

  • So you have had some experiences. Airports can be difficult places
    Happy New Year to you! xoxox

  • Awleib

    You were spent and at the end if your rope! We need to really teach our children to give themselves permission to feeling the truth in the moment and act with conscience but ALSO with authenticity. And my friend, I imagine it takes A LOT to bring you to tears! I applaud that you got through this with as much grace as you did. Your family is lucky to have you in their trench. Sending love for the New Year, and onward and upward. Xxxo

  • Vicki Tennant

    Oh, Tracey, I am so, so, so, so sorry. 1. That cop was an asshole. Period. I don’t care how stressed he is – he should not be in an airport during massive stress periods. I was stranded 2 years ago and the agents were as nice as could be considering a lot of people were stranded. 2. Too bad the cop didn’t look like Noah – HUBBA HUBBA!! (Although I LURVE Brendan Fraser and am happy to see him working again) Last two times I’ve travelled I’ve been stranded so I’m not going anywhere for awhile, either. I don’t drink, but on a day like yesterday, I would’ve downed the vodka, too. Happy New Year to you and your fan damily, and I send love from KS/MO.

  • How crazy that that is Brendan Fraser. George of the Jungle!!
    Wow…
    One of the agents was super nice. It all depends. The guy who was aggressive was a cop.

  • LE

    Can’t top that story but I have my own. On the plane over the holiday, as I usually do, I took pictures and videos of anything and everything. In one case I was waiting for the restroom and I shot a few pictures of the exit door. Next thing I am hauled up to the front by 2 flight attendants who interrogate me as far as why I was taking pictures. [1] I say ‘I just take pictures of all sorts of things that I find interesting’. [2] They end up making me delete the pictures. I wasn’t going to give them a hard time or stand up for my rights. For one thing my wife was already mortified that I was called out for doing this. So I just complied.

    What I thought? Wow this must be what it’s like to be non white. I don’t think I ever had anything like that happen as I look like the respectable parent of an Ivy League student typically (dressed casually of course). [3]

    [1] Someone had ‘seen something and said something’ so this was maybe an hour later approx.

    [2] They didn’t think that was a good answer because typically non creative types don’t understand why someone would find simple objects interesting.

    [3] My state requires two license plates and for 3 cars and many years I’ve never had one and have never been stopped.