Look, I’m not above some T Swizzle. Despite its being described as the worst NYC anthem of all time, Welcome to New York has been the (kinda guilty) figurehead of my NYC playlist since I first began gearing up for this kid-free break.
It’s been months in the making. It’s been the light at the end of the tunnel: a chance to get away from Palo Alto, let my hair down, and hang out with girlfriends I’d not seen in a horrendously long time. ‘Excited’ doesn’t even get close to explaining how I was feeling about this trip.
Did I mention it was kid-free? Yessssss.
So… who are these ladies? Well, I’m proud to be keeping up a gorgeous friendship circle I formed while living in London. I’ve known these girls for years, and I promise you, our nights out are truly something to behold. Ha!
Given my recent musings, I had an idea.
Hey, girls. I’m turning 40. Care for a trip to NYC?
Bam! And just like that, my beautiful lady friends were set to fly in direct from London and South Africa for a long weekend of girly indulgence. We booked an ace Airbnb near Union Square, nabbed tables at excellent restaurants, planned a bunch of incredible activities, and above all, looked forward to hanging out again (…kid-free).
Cam and I were 100% prepared. I mean, get this: my mother-in-law was even flying in from Australia to help Cam with the kids. Incredible, right? Everything was organised. Even I was organised. The flight was leaving SFO on 2 March at 8am. I’d be in NYC that afternoon. Cocktails and dinner were booked in. Heaven was waiting.
And then, at 2.18pm on 1 March, this:
My blood ran cold. I picked up the phone and called American Airlines. Two hours later, their automated system called me back. I got through to a human and asked what my options were.
Could I fly from San Jose?
Could I fly with a partner airline?
Could I fly via a connection somewhere else?
The human suggested that I fly on 3 March instead. Ummm, no. One word: cocktails. So I pulled out the big guns: I made up an elaborate story about how I had to be in NYC because I was meeting an unaccompanied minor, my (fictional) eight-year-old niece.
She’s flying from Australia and her parents are counting on me to pick her up from JFK.
…No, I can’t get in touch with her. She’s already in the air.
… No, I can’t get someone else to pick her up. I’m all she has.
What is she supposed to do when she lands and someone familiar isn’t there to greet her?
What array of legal liabilities would that cause for the airline and airport staff?
All this seemed to spur the human into action. I was booked on the next available AA flight, departing 2 March at 11.42am. I’d be late for cocktails, but I’d make it for dinner. Crisis averted.
I packed my bags. We’d leave home at 9am, and I’d be on my way.
And so, at 6.40am, I checked the flight status online: ON TIME.
Phew. I yelled out to Cam: The flight’s’ scheduled to leave as planned, thank god! I’ll get in the shower now.
6.42am. Message beep.
Ignore it. Get in the shower.
But I can’t help myself, of course:
I get straight on the phone to AA. Their machine tells me that ‘…due to high call volumes (no s**t!) we’ll get back to you in greater than four hours’. I’m supposed to be boarding a plane then, motherf*ckers.
I walk out into the kitchen to see Cam.
‘I thought you were getting in the shower?’
Cue big, ugly tears and a tantrum of epic proportions. I have friends flying internationally to meet me there! We’ve paid for non-refundable accommodation! I’ve been planning this for ages! It’s the first time I’ve been able to go away somewhere without kids! I can’t drive. It’ll take 43 hours!
Thankfully, Cam managed to calm me down. Seriously, bless that man. He helped me see what solutions we could find online if we couldn’t speak to someone. There were no more AA flights I could take (their automated suggestion was to re-book me on a flight on 4 March, even though I was returning on the 5th). And so, even though we most definitely couldn’t afford it, we booked me new tickets with a different airline, leaving at the same time, but flying into Newark instead.
With a racing heart and more heaving sobs, I finally got into the shower and got ready to leave for the airport. But I was obviously checking the flight status every two minutes or so. Who could blame me?
End of drama, you’d expect.
The flight actually left as scheduled. Great. But an hour later, headphones in and attempting to finish my last blog post, the Captain made an announcement:
Due to extreme weather in New York, there’s a high chance we may have to divert this flight to a nearby airport. We may land in Washington DC or Pittsburgh. I will keep you updated.
Cue frantic Googling.
Pittsburgh to NYC: 6 hours drive. I guess I can hire a car and drive overnight? Washington DC to NYC: 4 hours. That’s better!
Anyway, as the flight progressed, there was no announcement. Fab, we’ll make it, I thought. Descent begins, and it’s 30 minutes until landing! The turbulence was increasing. Then, finally, another announcement from the Captain:
We’re going to attempt to land in Newark but please be prepared for extreme turbulence. The winds are strong and are at the limit of this plane’s capacity. It will be very unsettling for some passengers.
Oh, boy. I’m not usually a nervous flyer, but I sure as hell was now. WINDS AT THE LIMIT OF THE PLANE’S CAPACITY? WTAF. Thanks for that info, Captain. Maybe leave that part out next time.
And so, for the next 30 minutes, the plane descended. If you can call it that. The plane was all over the place. We were physically lifted from our seats and then thumped back down again. We went forwards, backwards, sideways, and in-and-out of our seats. I was utterly convinced we were going to die. I even texted Cam in the event I didn’t make it. I’d never been in a storm like this. (I’d find out later that on the ground, my friends, who’d arrived safely, were bunkered down in the nearest sheltered places they could find, complete with fully drenched clothes and dismembered umbrellas.)
Since my window seat neighbour had insisted the blind remain down, I had no idea how close to the ground we were. But after a few huge bumps and a skid or two sideways, the plane landed. Pretty safely. Hallelujah!
But the first thing on my mind wasn’t cheating death. It was food. And friends.
It was 7pm. I couldn’t believe it, but I’d actually be making it to dinner for our 9.15pm reservation. I texted the girls to say I’d meet them there. I also texted Cam to let him know that I was, in fact, alive.
When safely upon the ground again, we were told that the winds had been so strong that all flights after ours were forbidden to land. But of course, if no planes could land, no planes were permitted to take off. My mind melted. Of course. There are no gates free for us. So, for the next 1.5 hours, we sat on the tarmac. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.
To cut a long and even more hideous story short, we de-planed (yes, this is what Americans call disembarking), I picked up my suitcase, and headed to the taxi line. Straight to the bar, suitcase and all.
It’s been waiting for you (no s**t, you don’t say?)
Boy, did I need that drink.