This is a story that, as it was happening, I knew I would hesitate to tell once I’d arrived back home. I think I’ve managed to only tell it just once so far, and to a large group. So if you, like myself, enjoy laughing at the misfortune of others & love a good travel story, go get yourself a cup of tea, change into your jimjams & grab a blanket because it’s a touch long – but I promise to keep it as short winded as I can.
Travel route: Helsinki-Stockholm-Helsinki-New York-Los Angeles-Seattle-Vancouver Total travel time: 48 hours. (Not including time zones)
Those of you who have been following my travels know I paid nearly $400 out of the blue for an additional flight just hours before I needed it (Stockholm-Helsinki R/T) on my way overseas. So it’s the night before I call Finnair and ask very nicely if it’s possible instead of travelling all the way from Helsinki-Stockholm to come back to Helsinki for my flight to New York, if it would be possible for me to just skip the first two flights & get on in Helsinki for my flight to New York. “No, sorry, if you do not show up for a prior leg in your reservation – your remaining flights are canceled.” Fine. So instead getting a good nights sleep & leaving at 3pm, I sleep for 2.5 hours and leave at 6am.
After threatening with an all nighter, I reluctantly lay my face to rest one last time on the floor of Anna’s Helsinki apartment and set my alarm for 4:45am. I stumble out the door with my 50.2lb backpack on my shoulders and flag down the bus for Helsinki Vantaa airport. It’s packed, but I manage a seat anyway. I get to the airport, and get off at the second bus stop for international. Finland-Sweden is inter-nations isn’t it? Apparently not. After walking a further 5 minutes in the wrong direction, I stop and ask someone – Yeah, I’m in the wrong terminal. Blue1, my airline, is a 15 minute walk that way. Excellent, we’re now down to 55 minutes before departure. I get into the back of the extraordinarily long line at check-in and watch minutes tick off the clock still. Thankfully, one of their employees shouts for any more passengers travelling to Stockholm at 8am to please come forward… Yeah, that’s me, thanks, folks!
Made my flight. It’s scheduled to be just over an hour, which would have us arriving at shortly after 8am local time. We’re 15 minutes early, so I’ve actually gone back in time now and it’s 7:50am when I get off the plane. So, lets fast forward five hours of sitting, standing, stretching, eating, and walking in Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. Check-in with Finnair for my flight back to Helsinki now – another uneventful hour goes by in the air, and we touch down well early again. I know Anna is flying out to Iceland in less than twenty minutes, I make a dash for her gate to see if I can catch her. Briskly walking, someone taps me on the shoulder from behind – CUTE – Anna found me somehow among the masses at HEL.
So… 12 hours down, 36 more to go. Seriously? It had gotten to the point where I just really couldn’t see or feel the end anywhere within reach, pretty discouraging when all I want is to be tucked into a warm, comfy bed surrounded with love. Back to reality, as I created it. I get into my window seat, and was already one of the last ones to board… the one seat next to me is still empty. Thinking softly to myself – wouldn’t it be nice if I caught a break here & it was empty for the 8 hours & 10 minutes to JFK. She must’ve been the last person boarded – makes a b-line down the aisle and stops beside me. I hear her talking to herself, or to her 4 carry on bags she’s trying to jam into the full overhead bins without much success. I turn my head and press my face against the window because the last thing I want is to talk to this lady who clearly needed a little attention in more ways than one. She finally crashes into her seat, I feel her turn to me… “And how are you today?”. Before I could answer she’s neck deep in conversation about where she’s come from & how tired she is… Ohh, you don’t know the half of it, lady. 8 hours later, we’re about to land and she’s now cursing to herself about the (quiet) people behind us, and how they’re kicking her seat. Really? Ohh, this is after she’s pressed the call button three times accidentally on her armrest.
Arrival at New York’s JFK. It’s just past 7pm local time, I know my flight with Virgin to Los Angeles isn’t until the next morning but maybe if I hurry to check-in, I could go stand-by for their last flight tonight! Wouldn’t that be great! Spend the night travelling instead of on the floor at JFK. Anyway, rush for customs & get made fun of (lovingly) for writing on my form that I’d be staying ‘Inside JFK’ as my accommodation while visiting the US, and get told not even he would attempt to spend the night in the airport here – I carry on, collect my bags, find my way to the Airtrain to eventually take me to Terminal 4 where Virgin America check-in is and… pitch black. No one at check-in, all signs taken down, lights off… I was going to be spending the next 13 hours waiting to come back here tomorrow morning.
Any of you who have travelled through JFK Terminal 4 know there is NO seating pre-security. None. Maybe 2 benches wrapped around a pole in the middle of the shops downstairs. How the hell am I going to spend the night here? Did I mention there are automated announcements booming through the terminal every 4 minutes for Air Inda, Qatar, El El… the list goes on. So upstairs, away from the check-in counters near employee access points – I find a darker corner with a power socket for my laptop. It’ll do, for now. I plug in the laptop, ohh, and I’ve broke the power cord so it’s really touchy and every time I move, the battery starts wearing down and I’ve done this so many times now that the battery life on here is now about… 15 minutes. It’s like a time bomb before the computer dies. So here I am, lying on the concrete floor at JFK with my laptop out & my backpack supporting my head against some disgusting old wall paying $8.95 for 24 hours of WIFI. After about an hour of this & my belt digging into my hip, and even a little bead of sweat running down my forehead because it’s so hot I decide ENOUGH! Maybe. Get the backpack back onto my baggage cart, and ask a couple of police officers for their advise on staying the night in here… “Ohh man, you’re not serious? Chain your stuff to ya man, or people will steal it for sure. Go get a hotel, just spend the money.” I’ve been travelling for 24 something hours… “Okay, you’re right.” $181 later, I find myself on the Airtrain again headed outside the terminals to some dark parking lot where this shuttle bus will pick me up. There are about 75 other people waiting – I didn’t think much of it. Only a few get on my hotels bus, but I decide to get on last so I can be the first one off and just waltz straight up to reception, check-in, get to my room & slumber away for the night.
Not. So. Much. I round the corner for the entrance and what should appear to my exhausted little eyes? About 300 bags piled high between all the doors, and a reception/lobby/restaurant area full of about.. Ohh, 100 people? All waiting to be checked into a room. Every. Single. One. It’s 10 o’clock in the evening. I have to be up in 8 hours for my flight tomorrow morning, and now I have to climb through suitcases & people to find the back of the line? Do I ever. Get to the back of the line – backpack down, tripod down, shoulder bag down. I ask the lady ahead of me what’s going on… “Ohh, you didn’t know? There was bad weather all day today at JFK, hardly any flights left & hundreds were canceled…” Mhmm. This is perfect. 1 hour & 45 minutes goes by, I’m now at the reception desk and am given my room, which I paid full price for – not spoiled with an airline voucher. Room 314. Elevator up, and at last I can just put my head to rest on a nice bed. I see my door… Hmm, there’s a do not disturb sign on my door, that’s a little odd – but maybe housekeeping just did it to keep the room for me – who knows. Put the key in the lock, unlocks – I turn the handle, and CLANK – the door is locked with that silly bar thing. Clearly, there are other people already in this room. Loovvvely. Backpack on one more time. I return downstairs, stand patiently first in line once again & ask for a room without other people in it this time. “I’m sorry about that sir, and all we have left now is a smoking room…” Fine, I don’t care… just… a room without other people in it, please. Room 354 this time. Upstairs I go, key in the lock – unlocked. Ever been knocked off your feet by a smell before? No? An overpowering smell of cigarette smoke in a hotel room ought to do it – believe me. Whatever, I open all the windows and within 15 minutes crawl into my sticky smoke infested sheets and cut the lights. Good night.
7:00am. My alarm calls me once again. Turn on the laptop to make sure my flight is on time – ohh, no WIFI in this fine hotel. Whatever. Get to the airport very uneventfully & check-in for my flight to Seattle via Los Angeles. After spending no less than an hour waiting in the security line up, I get to my gate – flight is delayed an hour. Really? Seriously? I could’ve slept another hour this morning instead of spending it waiting in line at security? Thanks. Not to mention that it’s still fairly early to departure so our plane could be… god knows where. Thankfully, it’s only a crew rest issue because of the weather yesterday and it will go just the hour late. Okay, fine. Breakfast… there is ONE place open inside Terminal 4 that has food – Wayne’s Coffee. The line up is about 20 people long. I get to the front of the line, pay my $9 for a cookie & a chai latte and what’s that off in the distance I hear? My flight is boarding. Apparently I spent 40 minutes in line at Wayne’s Coffee.
JFK-LAX – the most pleasant of my flying experiences on the way home. Nice people sitting all around me, gorgeous scenery out the window, good service & a little turbulence (which I love!). Arrive LAX – exactly three hours to kill before flight to Seattle. There’s nothing to do. Nothing. The terminal is like a fishbowl and I walked around the edge of the fishbowl maybe a dozen times. And it’s dirty, like worse than JFK. Time comes to board – get on my last flight – LAX-SEA. Again, uneventful & pleasant. Arrive Seattle – my brother is supposed to pick me up at 6:45pm. It’s now 7:15 and he texts.. “Yeah, I’m stuck in heavy traffic… just starting to see signs for the airport now.” Excellent. Just what I wanted – a little more waiting around before the three hour drive back to Vancouver to complete the journey. He arrives, I get in the car – and proceed to tell him this exact story.
If you actually read through all that, I don’t believe you. Just kidding, I love you all the more for it if you have, and if you haven’t – I don’t really blame you. How many cups of tea & coffee did you need to get through that anyway? Seriously, thanks for reading & thank you for all the blog love you’ve been leaving for me throughout the entire trip. Sure does feel good! Ohh, and we arrived home around 10:45pm after making stops for dinner, candy, gas etc. and I left the next afternoon for a six hour drive into the interior of British Columbia for a wedding! Pffft, jet lag is overblown anyway.