If I could have taken a boat, it would have been faster.
I have a darling friend who works for an air carrier, and she was able to score me a Buddy Pass— this pass is at a reduced rate, but one only gets a seat if there is space available on the plane; one could be stranded for days if the flights are full. More or less, that is what happened. I left one day earlier than I needed in order to compensate for full flights, if any. My route was St. Louis to Atlanta and then Atlanta to Madrid. Saturday, I got to Atlanta just fine, but the flight was oversold to Madrid. Not a problem, since my friend’s family (and wonderful boyfriend!) took care of me on Saturday night— their Southern hospitality was so delightful and inspiring. I ventured to the airport the next day in hopes of flying up to JFK, but for the most part it was safe to stay put. Down to the wire, there was a family who almost missed their connection from Monterrey, Mexico— but because my flight was delayed, they ended up making it. I was one person away from getting a seat.
Monday, I flew to JFK and tried my chances there. There is no direct flight to Madrid from Atlanta on Monday, so why not take a crazy chance? I ended up getting first class on an Airbus A330 (a widebody plane for international travel), and thoroughly enjoyed the product— as soon as I figured out how to use it. There were so many buttons and functions! The only thing lacking was a heated seat, and I never would have left that plane.
It was an anxious seven hours in New York, and long at that; I watched heavy metal roll in, 747, A380, A340— an airliner enthusiast’s dream! Around boarding time, standing with the eight standby passengers, we were told that it was a completely full flight. One by one, we were called to the counter to receive tickets. My name was finally called. Praise Gaga and her holy melodies! An attractive New Zealander, whom I had befriended briefly, made the flight too— except I didn’t know until seeing him getting his luggage in Madrid.
The flight itself was hell on earth. I was so tired, couldn’t get comfortable, and tried valiantly to sleep with no avail. My seat mate was a sweet guy from Sevilla, returning home after visiting his parents, who now live in Florida. As the lights turned into black water, I attempted to salvage some sleep. Only waking to eat dinner and a quick breakfast (airline food in coach is mediocre at best, by the way), I drift in and out of sleep between turbulence. The last hour of the flight, I was awake as we descended into the Madrid area. A blanket of clouds lay below us, and we finally made the plunge. It seemed like the last notch of flaps were in forever, and I was waiting for us to go missed— we had to have gone to minimums.
After deplaning and walking for miles to customs, something I feared for no legitimate reason, the agent merely looked at my passport, raised an eyebrow, stamped it, and I was on my way. After retrieving my luggage, which was very late off the plane, I simply walked through a door, and I had arrived.
More on how I’m adjusting later— but the more important thing is that I am here!