Monday, February 21, 2011
We were supposed to have a traveling weekend. We were supposed to be in Ft. Lauderdale by noon on Saturday to help celebrate the twenty-fifth wedding anniversary of two much-loved friends. One of them has just come through two arduous years of cancer treatment and we wanted so much to be there in person to cheer them making it through. We rose at five a.m. and made it to the airport by six-fifteen, checked in and were at our gate by six-thirty.
My husband settled down with our bags and his Kindle and my daughter and I went off to browse the shops and get coffee for me, orange juice for my husband and a bagel for her. We rambled around companionably until my husband texted us and said they should be calling our flight soon and we better start back. When we got there, it was seven-thirty. I saw a long line at our gate, but the board said New Orleans. I waited, wondering how they would clear that flight from the gate in time to board our flight and leave by eight. Finally, at about seven-forty-five I went up to the gate agent and asked whether our flight was still on time and did she know when it would board?
"Where are you going?" she asked. I told her.
"We don't have a flight to Ft. Lauderdale at eight," she said.
"Yes, you do," I insisted. "Look, here is my boarding pass."
She took the printed piece of paper and said, "Oh, eight p.m. This flight is at eight tonight."
I felt as if all the breath left me. I covered my face with my hands and moaned, unable to believe my stupidity. I had been so thrilled to find $200 round trip seats that I hadn't paid enough attention to the hour. I had booked online, requested morning flights in my search, and then assumed that all flights returned were morning flights. But, this being spring break for most of the city's schools, all morning flights were booked, or overbooked as I was soon to learn, and the computer brought up the only flight of the day that still had three seats left.
Our friends' formal banquet was at six to ten that evening, and we were supposed to fly back home at eight the next morning, so unless we could get on a flight that would get us there by six or even seven, it didn't make much sense to travel. The gate agent tried for us, she really did. We went from gate to gate hoping to get bumped up from stand by. We stood with mournful faces as the agent made call after call, trying to help us get to Florida on time. But there was nothing available. In fact, all morning we had been hearing those announcements inviting people to give up their seats for $300 and a first class seat on a flight the next day. One hundred percent of travelers were showing up and stand by was an impossibility. We looked into whether we could fly into another airport, rent a car and drive. But those flights were overbooked, too.
At last, I called our friends and told them we wouldn't be there. And I had to call my cousins too—the ones from Virgina who were also traveling to be there, and the ones in Ft. Lauderdale with whom we had planned to stay overnight. Their disappointment made me want to immediately book a flight for next weekend, which of course I couldn't since we now had to eat the cost of our three nonrefundable tickets. My Florida cousins had soup bubbling on the fire and hot Jamaican patties in the oven, and several other cousins were on their way from West Palm to visit with us for the afternoon. We would miss them all.
The oldest of my three nephews from Virginia is my daughter's age. They are very close. His mother told me he cried when he heard we weren't coming, and that made me cry, too.
My daughter, wise radiant soul, put her hand on my shoulder and said, "Mom, maybe we're just not supposed to fly today. Maybe we just need to find the lemonade"—a reference to what we're supposed to do when life hands us lemons, except in this case I was the one who had handed out the lemons. So we caught a cab home, emotionally spent and tired from rising before dawn and tromping from gate to gate all morning. We put down our bags and climbed under blankets and settled in for a quiet day, drowsy day.
On toward evening, when my daughter and I were lying side by side on my bed watching episodes of Ugly Betty on her laptop, she said, "It's kind of nice to be here with no obligations and no one is calling because no one knows we're here. It's so peaceful." I agreed with her and kissed her head. After another moment she said, "I think this is our lemonade."