There is no journey that I have tempted that did not arise some crisis. I’ve used travel agencies with no avail and utilized insight from seasoned veterans. You must think fast, creative and have great composure. I will give three journeys from different phases of my life as a student, work and family. All three should suffice just well for those stating you don’t know my pain as a traveler. Each one can now be much worse as we now face new airport security issues and the declining service in travel.
The Student Trip
Domestic travel finest a group of bright-eyed high school students on a weekend trip. Chaperoned of course, rest assure my first taste of freedom. Our destination for education well that’s what we told our parents but they knew better it is an education especially when things go badly. A late fall trip to our national club headquarters for a three-day conference and educational certification awards challenge in Washington, DC. The school appropriated us to travel by rental cars all driven by chaperones as the safer bet. This was the challenge you see the school systems did not have credit cards so everything was pre-paid and scheduled. They did not reserve the vehicles we need yes six economy two door sedans we were packed like sardines. The war for shotgun and the girls fits on breaking up their cutesy travel sets. I went with my dad’s old Air Force Duffle bag that’s it, and fought to keep it for one girls’ trunk of cosmetics.
Now this is before cell phones a few chaperones had never ventured to Washington it was a matter of follow the leader. We had a game of cat and mouse finding everyone in the group fun. Did I mention these were rental cars and new people who just met so our group of six vehicles got lost some following the wrong little red car. Woops did not mean to go to the Marine base not entirely bad for a teenage girl .Our team was the top winners doing the prep-set up so we were there for a week. The hotel relief no it lost power in a freak storm. No heat, no lights, no hot water for two days! Six chaperones, one male student and twenty girls are in this group. I’m the fifth wheel in the room on the rollaway bed can we say I was a taco most evenings. The girls’ rooms had issues from clogged showers and blown light bulbs for when we had hot water. Pulling broken glass out of your feet and wear mandatory uniform black pumps for presentation events not fun.
I learned to wake up at 4 am to be first showered, dressed and out the door. The hairspray fumes in the morning a major fire hazard, the hairstyle then high bangs. We worked on set up events and spent the whole time eating nothing but pizza once a day cause of time issues someone took too long getting pretty to go to meals on a schedule. I learned to run across the highway at 6am with the only guy on our team for old chilidogs at the gas station for breakfast. On the first conference event night tragedy happened despite efforts to book the entire hotel for the school event the hotel rented the spare vacant rooms to an outsiders of our event. A student suffering smoke inhalation with asthma the outside occupants were drunk and committed arson at the hotel. We were all on lock down away from the hotel for hours this parlayed event schedules to be shifted. Some went home early it was chaos. Everything planned went crazy and we all had sleep deprivation as efforts were made to evict the outside occupants, deal with the hotel, deal with first responders, students wanting to know what went on then complain and proceed with everything without any sleep. I was so tired I even forgot why I walked downstairs during the conference the next day to return to group upstairs and realized, oh yeah I meant to go to the ladies room.
Our return was fun if you call it that. The one who knew the way back was a speed demon we got pulled over twice by police in two states. Maryland and Virginia our group leader was experienced how to talk his way out of a tickets. Now two of the cars had no heat one had a window problem and wet seats. The others pristine no we had an engine trouble with two leaking oil, one the seatbelt alarm would not quit and the other a flat tire. The male student his dad was a mechanic and me an automotive student to dealing with the issues constantly. Four hours with a dinging noise was insane. By the time we returned to the school no one knew to pick us up an hour early since we skipped a scheduled fun side trip cause of incidents on the road. It was a walk with luggage to a pay phone three blocks away, as our chaperones took their kids home and return the vehicles. Just think the Red-Cross club done now I go back to DC with a vocational club the next following week. Yeah I get to do it again!
The Business Trip
The trip scheduled by a travel agency with 24-hour phone assistance and I had an international capable phone all numbers pre-entered. I was prepared for this, all I had to do was check in and enjoy my flight. Well not placed in coach next to a precocious two-year old girl. She screamed, kicked, bounced, squirmed and fussed the whole trip. I had to go to the restroom during the flight it was barred by carts in the aisle, occupied “sorry maim you can’t stand here and wait please return to your seat” and finally air-turbulence seat belt signs on till landing. We are delayed in departure cause a passenger is removed with sever injuries from the turbulence. We are told to remain in our seats till the person is removed and the bathroom is blocked. We are stuck on the concourse and extra 35 minutes and I have a connecting flight.
As we are de-boarding I’m trying to listen to the instructions as to which bus to take us to which concourse thats when the mother apologizes for her child and I miss the announcement. So, exiting I ask the steward, “I missed the announcement concourse B is which bus?” She says the bus on the right. I get on it arriving at concourse G. I ask the info booth how to get to concourse B from here he just point it leads to a dead end. My connecting flight leaves in 20 minutes. I ask the one person who should know a man working on an electrical panel. He directs me to the right direction. This is Charles D’Gaul airport a highway runs through a portion of it my second time I had to cross that highway at a dead run and with a carryon bag this time with a full bladder. I make to concourse B with 12 minutes to spare look for a rest room. Would you know it I pick the one with coin operated stalls and none work. I’m in tears a woman god bless her is stepping out of one and holds the door for me. One problem no toilette tissue no problem I use the tissue paper I use to place among my clothes. The toilette automatically flushes splashing the back of my pants great. I make the connecting flight realizing, I left my prescription eye glasses in ladies room at the airport.
Upon arriving at the airport and getting through customs I get pulled aside for luggage check, they tear open my box of tampons are destroy each one by one even letting the dog sniff. Nothing is sacred they tear apart all. My clothes spilling onto the floor as the security pooch walks across everything. The taxi-ride the driver whips around other vehicles with alarming speed only inches to spare. Yes my dashboard confession my fingerprints are imbedded into the passenger armrest in a cab for all to see. I arrive at the hotel and the staff-struggle to find my reservations. I call the travel agent the service is caput it’s experiencing technical difficulties as it tries to get operational in another 24 hours. I present the paper reservation that I was smart enough to request. The staff finds me scheduled for next week and I ask can we make changes for anything available that’s comparable.
Yes, the only thing available is an efficiency room I take it a big mistake. The only window views the back on an apartment with clear view to some one’s shower window. It’s not a pretty sight as there are no curtains in my room. There is a nice shower stall with a handheld water efficient showerhead, which means you let go of the sprayer and the water cuts off. And you have to wait three minutes for the water warm before rinses. The water is very hard so as soon as you get wet your too dry to soap up. There are no shower mats its treacherous footing. The room heater also heats your water on my last day I learned turn down your room thermostat and you have nice hot water but walk into a brisk bedroom. Efficiency rooms do not come with room service, nor any of the amenities promised like laundry service on my three-week stay.
During my stay in there I run into several types of bathrooms: a traditional at the hotel but chain flush and the dreaded Turkish toilette. It looks like a giant sink basin on the floor, trashcan and with a sprayer hose to flush whatever down the drain if it goes down. It’s fun to use this with heels on and try not to accidentally get sprayed if the water force alters on it’s own against you always. If it’s a public restroom with attendant you must pay for toilette tissue and you get only one little square sheet. At one point, the restaurants are not much better as some kitchens also serve as slaughterhouse services on the side match that with a Turkish bath and the smells unforgettable. Especially, when hotel maid service likes to leave windows open and those aromas drift into your room and permeate everything. Once in a while a pigeon manages to enter the room. So, when you return state side people ask you don’t you know what soap is? The twenty four hour service calls me back after trying to reach them for a weeks the whole efficiency room well it’s a con job a lot of foreign hotels do, I should have gotten them on the phone to address the problem. Thank You!
The Family Trip
I wanted to go camping in the mountains would and no one thinks if is ideal they want the beach with amenities like a pool, restaurants, and all that goes with it on a credit card only for reservations. Well, I make the reservations but decide to pay for the rental car in cash. We arrive and there was something wrong with the reservations as they did not process cause my card was not acceptable. They could not tell me this on the phone when I made the reservation. So, we are there what’s available nothing we end up at another motel for cash and it’s sketchy like some guests check-in for the hour. One night there is a college party not good at all. You have to dodge vomit getting to your room and yes there is frisking in the halls I feel like I’m boarding a flight each time I come through. The third and final night we have torrential rains and high winds our room gets flooded with two-feet of water.
The rental car gets flooded we have to wait six hours before driving back home. I wanted to go right back home immediately to find out what was wrong with my credit card no my family wanted to stay they already took the vacation time. Well, our neighbors went on the vacation I wanted all for quarter of the invested money I shelled out and sans repair to a rental car. It was a pleasure for my neighbors since the cabins were built brand new that year with electricity and running water the weather pristine. My card the credit card company renewed my account under the wrong social security number to someone declared legally deceased. The rumors of my death are false of course.
We all returned sick from the experience cause that floodwater in the room a mix of rain, seawater and raw sewage. The other issue not all the college kids were sick from the party we found out later it was the Norwalk virus that hit the area we were staying at affecting some six businesses in the area. No compensation offered, as it’s not known it was exposure to the flood or human sanitation issues. The only one not sick my three-year old sister at the time still eating baby foods but she had a case of heat rash and is cranky the whole time we recovered. Great family memories!
Student Trip & Family Trip 1988, Business Trip 2001