My Weekend With Family (Including My Most Pitiful Moment Ever)
A few months ago, I was taking a trip with my uncle Mike, Aunt Fran, cousin Ryan, and my parents. We have all been having a really hard time with life lately and really needed this weekend away. Our destination was Toronto, Canada. Niagra falls. Or, if we're being honest, an italian buffet called Frankie Tomattoes that my dad hasn't stopped obsessing over for the last 5 years.
My family flies standby since my mom is a flight attendent. So we don't ever get to the airport very long before the flight because we know we'll be the last people on the plane. Friday morning they were all driving to JFK together and I was going to take the trains from Brooklyn and meet them there around 8AM which is an hour and ten minutes before our international flight. I get up on time, my roller backpack was packed the night before, every time I get to a platform the train is just showing up. It was perfect. I get to Jamaica where i just have to buy an airtrain ticket and take the five minute ride to the airport. it's 7:55. I try my first ticket machine and nothing. It can't read my card. I go to the next one. Same thing. I try about two more and start to freak out. I look around and everyone else is having the same problem. The difference is, they all have cash that they can use. I do not. I try the ATM for shits and giggles. "Insufficient funds". I knew that. I talk to the person working the the airtrain entrance. She says " oh yeah. they haven't taken cards all morning". Great and no one thinks to fix it? Now, I start to cry. I usually dont cry in public places but I'd been such a mess lately and crying constantly. Once you open that gate, you can not close it. Anyway, I call my dad and tell him my problem. He passes the phone to my mom and he sits down to chat with God. He likes to try and diplomatically negotiate with God in situations like these. My mom starts to freak out, which doesn't help me at all. My uncle Mike takes the phone as my mom starts to cry. My uncle is a conductor on the railroad and he tells me just to find a conductor and ask him or her to talk to him. Of course, there are no conductors anywhere. I don't know if any of you have been to Jamaica station but it's a major train station. Most LIRR trains go through it. I'm wandering around the whole station, crying. I go down to the platform and the one train that was there was parked with all the doors shut. Everyone is looking at me like I'm crazy. I go to the LIRR ticket office and of course no conductors. WHYYYY. I go to the window and ask to speak to a supervisor like my uncle is telling me. The guy behind the counter is telling me the supervisor wouldn't be able to help me and refuses to listen. I go outside to find a transit cop. I see a cop but cant read his badge to see if he's a regular cop or a transit cop. I start circling him trying to read his badge and he sees me, this pathetic girl on the phone crying, and he WALKS AWAY. That's how ridiculous I must have looked. I tell my uncle to just forget it and I'll go home and he's patiently telling me that's not going to happen.
I'm waiting for the elevator to go back to the airtrain area and I spot a conductor on his way out. Without thinking I run after him. "Excuse me, are you a conductor? I'm the niece of a conductor and he's on the phone can you talk to him?" he looks at me skeptically and asks "you're the niece of a conductor?" "yes. he's right there on the phone just talk to him." I say as I shove the tear stained phone at him. He takes the phone and talks to my uncle. Turns out they knew each other. I'm trying to stop crying and wipe my tears away. He gets off the phone and gives me five dollars. As I'm rushing towards the elevator he offers to buy me coffee. Any other time and I would have taken him up on it. I mean any guy who gives a pathetic stranger money has got to be a keeper right? Unfortunately I did not have time. It's now 8:25. I thank him profusely and jump on the elevator. The people in the elevator are eyeing me curiously. I just took five dollars from a conductor and ran onto an elevator with tears all over my face.
I run across the station, buy my ticket, and wait for the train after, of course, someone had to help me swipe my ticket. I call my mom and she gives me specific instructions about where to get off the train and where to walk once I get to the airport. My dad, aunt, uncle, and cousin were at the gate waiting. My mom had been crying and a ticket agent felt sorry for her. So she was waiting for me with my mom and not taking other customers. I walk into the airport and hear "RUN". That would be my mom and 3 ticket agents. I practically throw my passport at her and she checks me in. Then she has to fight with the gate agent, cause he doesn't want to list me on the flight. Eventually she wins. and walks myself and my mother to the front of the security line to the angst of a very disgruntled man who should have been next on line if we hadn't cut him. We walk right through and RUN through the entire airport. You should know that I've probably never run in my life. It's against my beliefs. My family jokes that they want to see the security tapes from the airport just to see what it looked like.
We arrive at the gate about ten minutes before the flight. They had held the bus for us. As it turned out, I was the first person on the plane. I sit in my seat and burst out laughing, as does the rest of my family. And we didn't stop for the rest of the weekend. To top it all off, the plane ended up sitting on the runway for an hour before taking off......For the rest of the weekend my uncle would ask " hey kid, need five dollars?"
We finally made it to Toronto. All of us. Together. We pick up our van and a GPS and head to the hotel. We get there and my mom checks in. We then drive around the building because my dad insisted that we should park "closer to our room". We enter the building and are in the lobby, just on the other side. Dad got mocked a little for that.
We pile into the elevator and my uncle starts jumping up and down to shake the elevator. We reach our floor and the doors won't open. We all stood very still and hit buttons til the doors opened. The next time we rode the elevator we noticed a sign on the wall saying not to jump in the elevator and doing so will result in the doors not opening until someone can pry us out.
We finally go to the italian buffet my dad has been raving about for 5 years and it's super tacky. Like, a few steps down from vegas. It has a giant leaning tower of pisa outside and a big cartoon face of Frankie. Inside mom and dad have to tell everyone that they brought family all the way from long island to go to that place for dinner. Is that really neccessary? I will admit though, the food was really good. My dad was like a kid in a candy store. We left satisfied.
Saturday, we get up a little early and go downstairs for the complimentary breakfast. That was pretty normal except for the fact that among all the typical breakfast foods like eggs, sausage, cereal, etc., there was a vat of baked beans.....I still don't get it.
We get in the car and go to Niagra Falls. The falls were beautiful. The weather was perfect. We got pretty wet from the mist. Mid afternoon we are starving so we walk to town to find food. Into the rainforest cafe we go. While we wait for our food my uncle is telling a story and I take a sip from my drink and interrupt him with "oh man! bendy straws??!" This simply would have been another personally stupid moment if my mom and aunt didn't then look at their straws and excitedly exclaim "I love bendy straws!".....Our food comes and we eat soooo much. Way too much. That doesn't stop us from getting dessert though. Dad and I each got an apple cobbler. The other four got this thing called a volcano. It's brought to the table with waiters yelling volcano over and over again and a sparkler is in it. When we left the restaurant we were in such pain. Our food babies were bigger than ever before. Lucky us, we had like a mile walk back to the car. On the way back we noticed a giant rainbow across the falls. It was beautiful. A good sign we said. Then we noticed that we could only see the two ends and not the middle part. Wonder what that symbolizes.
Sunday morning we check our flights and there are 15 seats available on two flights out of Toronto and several flights out of Buffalo. Wonderful. We take the five minute drive to the airport. As we're checking in the ticket agent tells us all the flights are booked now and the one we were checking in for was delayed on top of having no available seats. *sigh* We go through customs and security and walk across this giant airport to our gate. I had been randomly selected for a full search. Lucky me. That took up a good ten minutes. I get to the gate and we sit and sit. We're there for 3 hours before the plane shows up. They start boarding and the gate agent tells us that they have 3 seats available. Only 3 and none on any other flights anywhere. We decide that me, dad and mom will take the flight and my aunt, uncle and cousin would rent a car and drive back. We go outside, gate check our bags, and get on the plane. Dad in the front row, mom a few rows back and me in the very last row.
I just get settled and I see mom get up. She comes back to me and rambles something about calling my aunt. Then she gets off the plane. I'm trying to call my aunt but her phone isn't on. I see my dad get up and go to the door. I watch him get something out of the over head bin and then sit down again. Mom hasn't come back. The flight attendent comes to the back to do her seatbelt check and I ask her if my mom left. "Yes." I ask if she took her bag. She doesn't know. I tell her that my apartment keys are in my mom's bag so if she took her bag I need to get off too. So I get up and walk to the front of the plane, tell dad "mom has my keys. I gotta go" and get off the plane. Poor dad. I didn't even tell him if I was coming back. And I didn't get my gate checked bag.
As soon as I got back into the airport I started to panic. It occurred to me that I was now in Canada alone and it was very possible I wouldn't catch any of my family before they left. I started running through the airport crying again. Like before, I'm getting strange looks from everyone because I'm running through the airport in the wrong direction crying and looking panicked. I see my mom way up head and for some reason she glances back and sees me. It turns out she had been freaking out just like I was that we got off this plane and we wouldn't catch up with our relatives before they left. She had had to get off the plane because of a broken seat. When I catch up to her I just start sobbing. We're both pathetically crying except when I start sobbing she starts hysterically laughing. We rush through the airport together still trying to call my aunt. FINALLY, she picks up the phone. I tell her what happened and she says she'll wait for us. When she sees us walking towards her holding hands and heads ducked down with tearstained faces, she practically falls on the floor laughing.
When we finish laughing, we get the car and start the ten ish hour drive back to Long Island. This, of course had some entertaining moments, like when uncle Mike saw the cracker barrel sign. "There it is! there it is! look look! cracker barrel!" Of course we found it and had dinner there. Then there was mom and myself excitedly playing war. For the most part though, we just laughed everytime we thought about any part of this crazy weekend. I had my uncle beg for $5 for me so I could run through the airport to get there, we left the country, and we had to drive back just to go to an italian buffet.....that is why my family is the most absurd but also entertaining family ever. This is also why flying standby isn't always the best option.