I sat in the passenger seat with my hands folded to preserve my freshly manicured nails. Usually they are a mess from house cleaning and craft projects and general neglect, but my mom had taken me for a much needed manicure just the day before.
All morning I’d fidgeted and packed and repacked and removed things all while carefully preserving my nails, and now I was finally on my way. My dear husband sat beside me calmly smiling as I went through my list making sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.
“You’re going to be great,” he said for the millionth time.
I smiled and nodded, acknowledging his words even as my mind rehearsed the worries and fears that had cramped my stomach into knots for the last week. I was going on my very first writers conference. Just me and twenty other very gifted ladies. It was the first step in a dream, and I couldn’t seem to get peaceful in my own skin as I stepped out on this new adventure. I was so used to having my husband with me, my three children to take care of, taking care of everyone else. It was a completely different experience to be going on a trip by myself… for my dream… for me.
We arrived at the airport in good time where I bravely kissed my husband by the curb and sent him on his way to work. I marched into the terminal, manicure intact, makeup done, suitcase bulging with it’s tetris puzzle of clothes and asundries, tickets, computer, notebook, fruit roll-ups (because nothing cuts motion sickness quite like strawberry fruit rollups). I was ready. I was prepared… or so I thought.
I got to the kiosk and swiped my AA card which failed to bring up my ticket. A little confused but still confident, I pulled out my travel notebook and the print out and entered my ticket code: FHQCBH
At this point I was joined by a very nice helper who had his own go at the ticket code.
“Uh-oh…” he said ominously.
“What?” I asked now in full panic mode. It’s always bad news when anybody at the airport says those two little words.
“Well, your ticket leaves on the 23rd and arrives home on the 1st. Today is the 17th.”
What?!? No. This couldn’t be happening. I grabbed my sheet back from the very kind man and…
NO! He was right. How in the world had I done this?
I joined the very long line for the counter because I was beyond the help of the kiosk man. I stood there with my mind spinning as to how in the world I’d made that mistake? I was so careful when I booked the tickets to look at the conference dates and then make sure they matched. There must have been a glitch in the internet or the website.
I called my husband, who being a wise man who knows his wife, promptly returned to the airport. He was there by the time I reached the front of the line.
“Oh, you bought this with American Airlines miles. Those tickets can only be changed by calling in to the center.” The blonde haired lady at the counter very kindly wrote the number down and I moved to the side to spend twenty minutes on hold on my cellphone.
Finally I reached a human being, a kind one who tried to be helpful. She could get me to Dallas, but she couldn’t get me to Destin.
“How about tomorrow?” I asked desperately.
“There’s one available seat on a flight tomorrow, but I’ll have to get my supervisor.”
The supervisor came on the line and told me, “Sorry, there’s nothing we can do to help you. Every flight from DFW is overbooked and you should have given us 24 hour notice…”
She went on, but it was clear from about ten words in that if someone was going to help me, it wouldn’t be her. I tried the desk again. Nothing. I tried United Airlines… $600! Yikes.
In a last ditch attempt I called AA again and this time a lovely lady came up with a plan. No, she couldn’t get me to Destin, but she could get me to Pensacola this afternoon. It was only an hour drive away and would that be okay?
“Absolutely!” I agreed with glee. My flight left at 2:30pm, so two hours after I arrived at the airport, I headed home with my sweet husband. I was weary, but I was still going. I reserved a rental car, notified the conference people that I wouldn’t be needing a ride from the airport and went home to finish the laundry and clean the bathroom I’d run out of time to clean.
“It’ll be lovely to have a car,” I consoled myself with. I couldn’t believe that I’d been so
silly, but it was all working out…. Or so I thought.
An hour later, I headed back to the airport, this time with my mom so that my husband could finish a large project he was working on. My mom offered to stay, but I kissed her happily goodbye. This time I was confident I had it right.
I’d been flagged (probably for changing my ticket the day of) and had to wait in the line to get my ticket which turned out to be a 45 minute wait due to the lady who’d flown from Mississippi to pick up an adorable puppy. We all “oohed” and “aahed” in line behind her even as the collective line really wished they’d open another counter. I ended up in line behind her at the security check too. She was very sweet, and we chatted as we both had our luggage searched, and were patted down for whatever reason.
And then finally, finally I was at my gate. It had been a long day. I was exhausted and it was only two o’clock, but I would see the ocean by nightfall.
I stood in line, ten people from getting on the plane, when the thought hit me that no one from the conference knew when I would be arriving. I pulled out my cell and texted my friend Rachel, just so someone would know.
“See you tonight!” I texted cheerily at the end of my message.
“Tonight?” she texted back. “Tracy, the conference is only next week.”
Right ticket the first time.
Wrong days in my planner.
My heart pounded, my face flushed, sweat running down my pretty “conferency” shirt.
Oh my goodness.
I called my husband.
I called the Airline people to change my ticket.
I called the rental car place to cancel my car.
I called my mom, who had a fantastic laugh.
So, THIS week Thursday I’m going to a writer’s conference. I have tickets for the same seats on the same flights as my original ticket. My luggage will have to be repacked. My manicure will have failed me by then because I’ve spent the weekend playing lego and painting cabinet doors. I’ve also spent the weekend laughing at myself in disbelief. I still can’t get over how close I came to visiting Florida by myself for no reason. Two round trip car rides to the airport, a total of about five hours at the airport, all to end up in my own home again having gone no-where at all.
The good news is, I’m no longer stressed about going. I’ve already gone and returned home in my mind. It wasn’t that great, and I’m extremely confident that the real trip can only get better from here.
Just showing up on the right day will be a huge improvement. In the mean time, if I see you around, ask me to tell you the story. Yes, you’ve just read it, but I’ll enjoy hearing your laughter in person. Because my mom was right as she hung up after her fourth call from me that day.
“You’ll laugh about this later,” she said as I grumbled at her laughter.
And she was right. I’m laughing now, but laughter (just like my writer’s conference) is so much better when you’re not alone.