By Anita Doberman: Columnist
My children and I left Rome a week ago on Thursday morning. Reaching Florida should have taken a full day, with two flights: one to New York City and the other one to New Orleans. Instead, it took us four days, countless hours at airports in Newark, N.J., and Charlotte, N.C. – and of course, lost luggage – to finally get back home last Sunday night.
It all started when we landed in Newark on Thursday afternoon. We were told several flights had been canceled for weather and we should proceed to the Continental Airlines ticket counter to speak with an agent. Unhappy and tired, like everyone else, we got in the long line that was only getting longer.
After an hour and a half, I finally made it to the ticket counter where the agent on duty started talking without making eye contact, typing full speed on her keyboard. I hadn’t said a word about where I was going or coming from, and she was already typing away. She told me I had been re-routed – on Saturday night.
“Wow. I’m traveling alone with my children and our luggage is lost. Are there other options to the Southeast, or is it possible to look at other airlines? We just arrived from a 10-hour flight from Rome.” I was trying to sound nice and calm. I had to; this woman held the keys to my happiness or despair.
“Our policy doesn’t allow us to book you on any other airline, but you can have your husband or a relative look if other flights are leaving, or see about purchasing another ticket.”
I tried to stay calm. “My husband is deployed, I can’t get in touch with him, and my relatives are in Italy. Is there anything else I could do or …?”
She interrupted me, and (finally) looking up from her keyboard, still typing, said, “Ma’am there are many passengers behind you. There is nothing I can do. I didn’t ask your husband to deploy, or you to travel alone with your children to Rome. You can wait here for two days, or purchase another ticket. It’s weather related, there is nothing the airline can do. Step aside, please.”
I was tempted to jump across the counter and show her the best of my Italian temper, and had I been alone, I really think I might have.
Instead, I just wrote her name down, and moved to the side like she asked. I had to focus on my very tired children and think about the best solution for our situation. More than anything I wanted to hear my husband’s reassuring voice telling me that I could handle it, even if my luggage was lost and I was in Newark in the middle of mayhem.
I didn’t have that option, so with my executive and sole decision-making authority, I decided that if I couldn’t get back to Florida, I would make the best out of our time, and show my children New York City, my first home in the United States.
I booked a hotel in Manhattan, loaded my kids and the stroller into a yellow cab, and took off. My husband would have been proud of me for making the best out of a tough situation – except for a tiny little bit of shopping I indulged in.
When I lived in Manhattan as a young woman I fell in love with the city and all it offered. Military living and being a mother have given me a different perspective on this metropolis, but I still enjoyed learning new things with my children.
Of course, next time I visit “The City,” I would gladly give up a little shopping to have my husband with us —not to mention my luggage.