We really wore ourselves out yesterday, but I deliberately booked our return flight for late in the day so we could leisurely make our way back out to Newark Airport without rushing and going crazy. It took us quite awhile to pack all our stuff plus all the souvenirs and gifts we bought into our already-full carryons, but somehow we managed. And we still had one more thing to buy!

After checking out from Howard Johnson’s, we had to buy one last ride on our Metro cards because our unlimited passes had expired at midnight like Cinderella’s coach. Then we headed for the Fifth Avenue stop, so we could take pictures of the library’s main branch and its two cats.

Steven and the Lion
Steven and the Lion
David and the Lion
David and the Lion

That done, we had one last mission: find a NYC Starbucks cup for Heidi. And once more, thanks to technology, we located a Starbucks only half a block away. I reasoned that if any Starbucks was going to have a souvenir cup, it would be one on 42nd Street, and I was right! They also had bottled water, which would help save us from budget-induced dehydration at the airport.

Then we got on the convenient air-conditioned express bus to Newark Airport. So far, so good.

I had this app from United Airlines that had promised to keep me up to date in real time about any changes to our flights, so I was quite surprised when, after lolling around at our gate for a flight that was leaving at 5:30 PM, I suddenly noticed a monitor saying something like “Next flight from this gate leaves tonight at 10 PM for Morocco”. Not a peep from the app, but our flight had switched gates! Fortunately, the new gate was only across the food court.

Unfortunately, 20 minutes or so after we got there, they announced that the incoming flight from Cancun had been delayed for an hour or so…just long enough for us to miss our connecting flight in Houston (I had carefully planned to make only sub-4 hour flights to avoid problems with leg clots and such). So I went to the customer service desk to see what they could do.

After a bit of a nerve-racking wait, the representative said she could put us on a plane to LAX with a transfer to Sacramento. I warned her I was old and couldn’t run; she acknowledged that and handed me a slip showing the gate, the flight info, and the time the plane was leaving, which was 5:03 PM. I went back to pick up Steven, who informed me that it was 5:03 PM.

So we lugged all our heavy stuff directly to the gate as fast as we could without triggering a new heart attack, and when we got there they told us we had missed it by 30 seconds 🙁

But luckily, the gate agent was able to switch us to another flight for LAX…and wonder of wonders, it was at the adjoining gate! The only problems were…it didn’t leave for another hour or so…we’d have to make it to the same flight to Sacramento…and now instead of 2 hours between flights, it was only going to be 30 minutes…and the gate was somewhere else in LAX (which is kinda large).

But at least we were on an airplane…and the same one, even if we weren’t sitting together at this point. The real problem was that this was one of the newer planes with “optimized seating”, which meant that seatbacks don’t recline at all, they’re much closer together, and they’re set bolt upright. For the first time in my life, I developed panic on an airplane…I literally was having problems breathing, just because of the posture the seat held me in. So I spent most of my time in the back of the plane talking to a flight attendant about her cats.

The friendly flight attendant even called the pilot for flight updates, and somehow we managed to land half an hour early due to favorable winds. Ironically (and this will be familiar to anyone who’s done much air travel), we got there so early that there was no gate for us, so we sat on the ground and used up that half hour. So we again had to carefully rush to the gate.

And once again, the outbound plane was delayed, so there was no rush necessary, but just enough time to get some quesadillas to tide ourselves over (we had been surviving on Datrex and granola bars for most of the flights). So we finally dragged ourselves out to the sidewalk at Sacramento Airport, where luckily Scott was waiting patiently to meet us.

So that takes us to the end of our journey. Special thanks to Scott for driving us both ways to the airport, to Billy and Henry and Lenny for their extreme generosity, and everyone else for taking the time to meet with us on short notice. And one special thing for Steven:

He's earned it.
He’s earned it.

But wait…there’s more!

Posted in NYC