Now this is the story all about how
My flights got flipped, turned upside down
And I’d like to take a minute just sit right there
I’ll tell you how I became a hostage in a series of airport mishaps.
OK, I admit the last line sucked. Sorry.
All times listed are in Central time to avoid confusion with Turkish and Indian time zones, and because that’s what time my brain is in right now.
Monday, January 9
1:20pm – Say goodbye and leave home to run final errands before setting off to Chicago.
3:30pm – My mother and sister pick me up in Bloomington and off we go.
5:00pm – Receive an indication that the flight may be delayed.
5:30pm – After multiple calls and website checks, delay ranges anywhere from none to 7 hours. Also, dinner at my sister’s friend’s house.
6:00pm – Decide to proceed to airport just in case.
7:45pm – Leave airport because it is definitely delayed from 9:20pm to 5:00am.
9:00pm – Reach my sister’s friend’s house again for a quick nap before we embark on the airport once again.
Tuesday, January 10
12:00am – Wake up to make sure flight is still at 5:00am.
1:30am – Wake up again to confirm because I’m anal like that. Then get ready.
2:00am – Head to the airport.
3:00am – Reach airport, check-in, security, waiting, the usual.
5:00am – Board flight to Istanbul. Pretty sure I was somehow upgraded to Business Class.
5:30am – Begin movie ‘Kapoor and Sons’.
6:30am – Breakfast is served.
I got grilled chicken pasta and ate around the chicken. It was absolutely delicious. The bread was fresh and the salad was crispy. The slimy brown thing with white cubes was gross, and I’ve never been a fan of carrot cake but I must say that putting the frosting on the bottom was a really ingenious way to do it. Overall, 🌟🌟🌟 (would have been a 4 had there been an actual dedicated vegetarian option).
7:30am – Begin movie ‘Aloha’.
9:40am – Wake up to a rough patch of turbulence so put on ‘Me Before You’ for a distraction.
11:20am – I excuse myself to the bathroom because crying in a dark theater is entirely less embarrassing than crying in a well-lit plane where no one else knows what you’ve been watching so they all just think you’re insane. This bathroom was incredible. There was a window, lotion, and you could control how hot or cold the water was rather than just the usual selection of either hot or cold. Best airplane bathroom ever.
11:30am – Begin movie ‘Suicide Squad’.
12:30pm – Bust open a packet of Lorna Doones because they’re clearly trying to make me starve to death.
1:20pm – Time to downgrade to TV shows since there’s only about an hour and a half left. First stop: Modern Family.
1:30pm – Lunch is served.
The potatoes that weren’t touching the eggs were delicious. The rest of them had absorbed egg juice. Not a fan of eggs or tomatoes, or the mysterious slimy dark things. The fruit was fresh and I ate the cucumber and grape out of the black bowl. Tried a bite of the white triangle but it didn’t taste like anything. The bread was incredible. Another 🌟🌟🌟 (would have been a 4 if the potatoes hadn’t soaked up egg flavor).
2:10pm – I begin ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ as the pilot announces our descent and the climate conditions below.
3:05pm – Land in Istanbul. My flight to Mumbai has already left.
3:40pm – After waiting in line at 3 desks, I finally find a promising line but there are are least 100 people in front of me. A lady halfway through says she’s been waiting 5 hours. It’s midnight local time and thus only 2 desks are open.
4:15pm – A worker takes the expired boarding passes of everyone going to Mumbai with the promise of bringing updated ones since that flight is long gone.
4:45pm – Worker returns with new boarding passes. For tomorrow night. We have the option of free hotel accommodations, but I don’t want to pay for a visa or risk dying or getting lost or my parents being pissed. So I opt to wait in the airport.
5:10pm – I find a comfortable looking bench near other travelers who are also sleeping and lie down with my backpack as a pillow.
7:15pm – Unable to sleep and also unable to put down my phone, I’m forced to relocate to find an outlet.
7:20pm – Success.
8:00pm – A turd-man asks to use my outlet and I sadly comply as I seek another soft bench.
8:15pm – Success and mini-naps.
10:00pm – I begin reading ‘Binge’ by Tyler Oakley. Fluffy enough to pass time easily, long enough to pass a decent amount of it.
11:30pm – The sun is rising (because it’s actually 7:30am). I’m using my solar-powered charger for the first time, laying on a bench reading, and hoping these next 13 hours fly by.
Wednesday, January 11
12:30am – I wake up to group of 3 segways rushing by. A woman wearing a fur coat glares at me, the creature with chapped lips and messy hair, as I groggily blink my eyes.
1:00am – My solar charger has depleted so I relocate to the coveted floor spot between the window and the outlet, and continue reading.
1:30am – I see a plane take off and I’m not in it. Immediately I feel the sting of jealousy.
2:30am – Realizing I’ve not eaten in 13 hours and that is probably why I’ve got this awful headache, I snack on some Lorna Doones then set off in search of food.
2:50am – Pizza. *Not pictured: Tylenol
3:15am – Located a soft bench with the intention of reading the final 50 pages of this book and then napping. Only 10 more hours.
6:00am – Wake up, go to the bathroom, and check to see if my gate is posted yet. No. And I lost my soft bench. One is open nearby but it’s across from a shop so it’s louder. Oh well. Book was good, btw.
8:00am – Wake up after an unexpected nap and check the board to see if my gate has been announced since we are down to 4.5 hours.
8:15am – It’s too soon and now my seat is taken. I find another a few benches down.
9:00am – I check the board again. It’s listed, but says gate number is TBA. My phone battery is down to 28% and my solar charger is depleted. I don’t want to tap into the other too soon so I walk up and down the now familiar walls searching for any free outlet.
9:15am – Success and the beginning of a new book ‘Present Over Perfect’.
10:00am – I make my way to the board and finally the gate is posted: 312. I take this time to head over (2.5 hours early) and use the bathroom now so that I can yet a good bench.
10:20am – Swarming with people, I’m forced to sit two gates over so that I don’t have to stand.
11:00am – I join the line to board.
11:20am – After the line and a bus ride to the plane, I find my seat. Back in economy class 😔
12:00pm – I fall asleep shortly after putting on ‘Age of Adeline’.
1:30pm – Lunch is served. I don’t like cooked spinach so I ate the rice with the potato tomato mixture. The roll was great, but the mysterious brown O was not a donut. Because of this, only 🌟🌟because it got my hopes up.
2:00pm – Time for ‘Miss Congeniality’. Also learned that the people who stuck around to get visas for Turkey were in line for 6 hours so glad I didn’t go that path.
3:30pm – The 3rd ‘Hunger Games’.. I don’t know the title differences.
6:00pm – Land in India!
6:20pm – In the line for immigration.
6:30pm – Joined with the crowd around the luggage carousel.
7:10pm – After making friends with a Gujarati auntie who settled in London, I see my bag and take the time to use the bathroom. But none have toilet paper.
7:30pm – I’m told to wait in a line for domestic transfers.
7:40pm – I’m told to go upstairs and wait in a different line for domestic transfers.
7:45pm – I’m told to go wait in a nearby line for domestic transfer customer service.
9:30pm – After much back and forth, she will put me on the evening flight that I missed yesterday.. but I have to wait and come back after 6 hours. I can’t leave the airport but I also can’t pass through security. I’m trapped in the limbo of the check-in lobby.
9:35pm – I sit in the chairs across from her desk. I will stare at her until she changes her mind.
Thursday, January 12
12:30am – I rejoin the line to see if they know if I can get the ticket yet.
1:15am – She says to wait 2 more hours.
3:00am – I return to her desk and all of the faces are new. Their shifts changed. She deceived me to avoid doing it. I tell new lady what happened and what the other lady said she would do. She said that isn’t possible and tells me to go talk to the guy at the end of the desk. This being the 40th time I’ve explained everything, mixed with exhaustion.. I feel that familiar warming sensation. I am crying like a fool in front of everyone.
3:15am – He tells me to go with a guy who looks like he’s 12 and he will take me to the overall manager’s office. We go downstairs and downstairs until it’s just a dungeon of employees and security guards. I explain the situation to the manager and again start crying. He tells me not to cry and begins typing frantically while making 2 calls. He asks for the print out of my itinerary and then scribbles on it. My 12 year old tour guide takes the paper and we go back up. I apologize along the way and tell him I haven’t slept in 3 days. He says no problem and gives the paper to the new lady from before. She types fervently, the end result being a boarding pass for the flight in 2 hours.
3:30am – I finally join the line to check-in. And the subsequent security and bathroom rituals.
4:00am – Realizing that I’ve only had 2 Lorna Doones all day, I am immediately drawn to the overwhelming smell of food and go to the most predictable place: Pizza Hut. For a mere 260 rs (almost $4) I get a personal pizza and a bottle of water.
4:30am – I reach the gate and look at the beautiful palm trees outside. The pictures sucked with all of the window glare, but you’ve seen palm trees before so it’s alright.
5:15am – Boarded and in my seat. Beyond ready for take-off.
8:30am – Land, get bags, convert the money. But they won’t change more than 5000 rs now which is really annoying.
9:00am – I walk outside and the familiar air of India greets me. Warm and heavy with the distinct smell which is all too familiar after so many visits. I begin to walk to the car and a relief washes over me that tonight I will sleep in a bed. Tonight I will have a door. Tonight I will be able to turn off the light. Tonight I can wash my hair and my face and brush my teeth 😍 I’m so excited.
These past few days have wreaked havoc on my anxiety between not knowing what’s going on, barely eating or sleeping, and not having a single moment where I wasn’t surrounded by 100 strangers. But I survived it! I actually kind of like when things go terribly wrong (only sometimes) because it forces me out of my comfort zone and God knows I need a little shove here and there.
Please do not let this account of one terrible experience deter you from flying. I’ve had several seamless flights with lovely, helpful people.. this just wasn’t one of them. Usually it’s way better than the above string of events. A huge thank you to Steven of Air India for saving my life.