What an adventure I was about to have, a trip to America all on my own. I have never flown alone before and to go so far first time is extremely daring for me. I have left nothing to chance. I have been preparing for weeks so that I will be calm and relaxed and enjoy the whole experience. Friends and family have amazed me with their understanding and support. So with just one day to go and everything packed and ready I have planned a perfect day.
I go swimming with Eunice in the morning then wallow in the jacuzzi at Cascades in Tewkesbury. Afterwards Eunice gives me a bottle of Bach’s Rescue Remedy which she says is sure to keep me calm.
In the afternoon I drive to Blunsden for my final session of EFT with Ina. This is very powerful and cathartic and I am sure that it has cured me of my terror of flying. As I leave, Ina gives me a pretty little glass angel to take with me. She reassures me that all will be well and that I am now whole and grounded and surrounded by a bubble of white light. I am not sure how I feel about this but it is a very sweet gesture.
In the evening my sister turns up with a beautiful bottle of frankincense and myrrh anointing oil from Jerusalem. This is intended to open up spiritual channels so my guardian angels and the Holy Spirit will give me strength, comfort, wisdom, and all the other gifts of the Spirit. She also gives me a beautiful black, leather bound journal to record all my adventures in. There is nothing I love more than writing in a new journal so this is a very welcome gift.
Absolutely certain that I am now as prepared as it is possible to be I have an early night. I need to be up at 4am for the drive to Birmingham Airport for a 6am check in.
So what can go wrong?
Got up at 4am no problem, showered, dressed, loaded car for an easy drive to the airport. There is hardly any traffic and the weather is fine; No queues at check in so that is good too. Have a cooked breakfast with hubby at BurgerKing before kissing him goodbye. He has to get back to go on dialysis which is why he can’t travel to Vermont with me, and why we have not had a real holiday for six years!
All is going so well – gate 48 – through security –wait to be called. The posh folk board first – business class, then frequent flyers, platinum etc. etc. The rest of us are gradually called through and by 8.30am I am ON THE PLANE!
I have paid extra for a premium seat with leg room and, as the plane is full to bursting, it was definitely worth it. A lovely young man sits next to me. He is heading to Chicago to work – welding. I settle down and go through my handbag for all the relaxation aids my lovely friends and family have given me. Pop 5 drops of Rescue Remedy under my tongue; rub a few drops of anointing oil on my wrists; unobtrusively massage the EFT points, quick prayer with my Rosary beads; check that Ina’s angel is still close and that I have my cross and chain on! As well as all that I know I am uplifted by my friends’ thoughts and prayers. But just in case all else fails I have taken 2 Diazepam! At last I am ready to settle down with the Guardian – newspaper that is – not angel.
Mm– it is taking an awfully long time to leave the boarding area. I have read the Guardian from cover to cover – even the Sports section! I know all there is to know about welding in Chicago. I have eaten all the complementary pretzels and drunk the water. I have watched the whole safety film and now I am ready to go – please.
But what is this? The door is opening and men in yellow jackets are boarding the plane. More men in yellow jackets are putting orange cones of the traffic variety around the plane’s wheels. Are we being clamped?
No. The captain comes on the tannoy and reports that there is a fault with the air conditioning unit. It will only take about 10 minutes to fix –tut, tut. Another message 30 minutes later tells us that the men in yellow jackets can’t fix the fault. They need a new part from the stores.. Unfortunately ‘the stores’ is in Gatwick and the plane is in Birmingham. No matter, the part is ordered and will be here in a few hours. Then they can fix it and we can take off – but not for a few hours! Oh dear the welder will miss his connection to Chicago and I will miss my lift from New York to Vermont.
Oh Lord I am going to be alone in New York in the middle of the night with nowhere to stay and no way of getting to Vermont! However they will give us a £10 lunch voucher if we disembark (can you do that from a plane?) and go back through the airport to the check in desk.
Everyone stands, gathers all their hand luggage and waits for the bus to take us back tot he terminal, and waits, and waits. At last it arrives and we are taken back. It is now 11am. I have been awake since 4am, checked in since 6am, and sitting on the plane since 8.30am.
We queue up as instructed, and queue, and queue until someone tells us that this queue is only for people with onward flights, others queue somewhere else. I notice that Business Class passengers and Frequent Flyers are taken through into a separate area – no queuing for them then. So off we go to the other end of the airport and queue again. My nerves are starting to fray a bit now, especially as some people don’t understand the concept of taking turns as part of queuing! But eventually I speak to a pleasant young man who tells me I can cancel if I wish and claim my money back. Does he not realise how excited I am about this trip and how much preparation has gone into getting this far? Actually I would prefer to wait – not to CANCEL. Ok I can have my £10 voucher for lunch and listen out for further information; but we are aiming for a 9pm take off – 12 hours late!!
Well, I suppose I could sit down quietly, compose myself and text all my friends to hold off on the prayers for a bit. But what is this – a red flashing thing where the battery symbol should be? Oops– phone is dying and all my numbers are in it. Now where is my charger? Oh yes, in my case on the plane. It is at this point that the glass angel from Ina hides in my bag, the gifts of the Spirit have been taken back, the Rescue Remedy has reached my bladder and the Diazepam is wearing off. But hey, it’s an airport,there must be someone with a charger – a business centre, Virgin store or somewhere to charge up a phone. So I ask at the customer service and get sent to the yellow jacket ‘Help Desk’, then forward to the Business Centre and on to WH Smith. Hooray for a lovely Scottish lady who sells me a gadget which will charge anything – at £21.99! Can I claim that back I wonder, as my charger has effectively been hijacked by the airline? No. I thought not.
Ok back to the business centre with dead phone and new charger. Do they have a socket I could use? Yep at £1 for 15 minutes. Since my phone takes hours to charge, I reckon this is not the “friendly, helpful service” advertised, and leave. A yellow jacket man points out a socket on a wall in a public area that I can use for nothing. Hooray!
So here I am, sitting behind a pillar in no man’s land between Arrivals and Departures with phone plugged in charging away and getting very strange looks from airport security and occasional passing policemen. When it is fully charged I will go and spend my voucher on a healthy lunch. Better not have wine as the diazepam has not completely worn off. Then I will have a wander round the airport shops and look forward to a night flight, a hotel in Newark, and a drive through NewYork State to Vermont tomorrow. I think that sounds ok. Maybe the prayers, the love, the support, the rescue remedy, the angel, the tapping, the oils and the tablets are working after all. But then it is only 1 o clock.
There followed silence for hours. I wandered the hell that is the neon lit, air conditioned, glitzy shopping parade that passes for an airport terminal. Any seating is dedicated to fast food outlets. There is nowhere comfy to just sit and wait. I read the whole of On Chesil Beach while sitting/squatting on a metal grid over a heating pipe (off thank goodness). I relieved the boredom by eating a pizza in Frankie and Benny’s although I really was not hungry. One of the people who lightened up the day was the lovely young waitress, Rachel I think, who was bubbly and ridiculously sweet. She happily went off to get me a cup of green tea from another outlet. I think I was buzzing quite enough and could not risk drinking coffee or alcohol!
After that I wandered round aimlessly again looking for clues as to what was happening and when, if ever, my plane would take off. 9pm came and went and the information board just switched from delayed – departure 21.00, to, delayed – departure 22.00 without any reason or apology. By this time I was getting very upset and tired. My hand luggage which had been so tidy when I arrived was now heavy and messy. I went into the ladies loo and sat and cried.
Here the next angel in disguise comforted me. She was cleaning the loos and asked me what was wrong. Bless her, she was wonderful and took me to find someone who could help. Here were two more angels working on the airline’s desk. One of them, it was her first day, had been working since 5am and should have gone home hours ago. Apparently they are not allowed to leave until the flight leaves so she was almost as tired as I was. These girls got me a cup of tea, sat me in a comfy chair and chatted away merrily as I sobbed about how much I had looked forward to this trip and how desperate I was to get to Vermont to see my daughter who lives there. All my lovely positive thoughts are slipping away like sand through my fingers and being replaced by sheer exhaustion and old fears.
Just then the information board tells us that we can go through for boarding in 5 minutes. But that message stays there for another 30 minutes by which time other passengers are starting to get distressed. Stories of longed for breaks, years of planning, husbands dying, come pouring out onto these two tired girls on the customer care desk. They soak them all up and try hard to stay positive and reassuring.
Then at last we go through to the departure lounge. But this is not relaxing. Here are loud young people who are obviously drunk: There are the Captain and crew surrounded by men in yellow jackets: And, by the door, two armed police officers, one male and one female. In their new combat style uniforms they look nothing like comforting ‘British Bobbies’. I know we are in a new world situation now but it seems really odd to see a lovely young woman in combat gear toting a huge rifle in a British airport. Is that sexist? It just made me feel really uncomfortable and not a bit reassured. I felt they were there to protect the captain and crew from the passengers!
More waiting then at last buses turn up to take us top the plane. Numbers have reduced dramatically as so many passengers took other flights or cancelled altogether. It is dark, it is raining, we are tired, we board. I paid extra for a premium seat with leg room. I find a very large man who did not pay extra has plonked himself down next to me. I feel sick and I feel cross. At the door the bored, tired and harassed cabin crew stand around while men in yellow jackets still seem to be working on the plane. No-one tells us anything. Throughout the day rumours have spread. Was it the air conditioning? Was it the fuel pump? Was it the engine? Was it suspicious luggage? Is it all fixed? Who knows? The doors stay open – we are not apparently ready to take off. I later found out that the repairs had been completed but Houston (home of the airline) would not sign them off.
It is 11.30pm now. I have been up for 19½ hours. I checked in 17½ hours ago. The plane has been delayed 14½ hours. The huge man next to me smells. I have had enough. If we leave now I will get to New York at 3am US time. I am so tired I can’t think straight anymore, I just want to go to sleep. So I stood up, got my hand luggage out of the rack and told the crew I was getting off the plane. Not one member of the cabin crew tried to reassure me that we would be going soon and all was fixed. A woman in a yellow jacket just rang up for a bus to take me back to the terminal. A man in a yellow jacket asked me for my final destination so he could locate my luggage. Then the bus took me back to the terminal along with a young woman who was exhausted and traumatised too.
After getting my luggage I wandered out into the cold night and found an airport hotel for what was left of the night. I don’t think I slept at all. I tried to make sense of it. Why had it all gone so wrong even though I had all that physical, mental and spiritual support? Only time would tell.
And it did! In no time at all my husband was rushed off to hospital with Pneumonia. If I had not been there to call a doctor who knows what would have happened? Thank goodness I did not get to America after all!