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Escape from the Planet of the Airlines

International travel, Stephen King style

By Barry Rubin

With four suitcases, a guitar, three carry-ons and three cats (snarling at each other, well, Josie wasn't snarling but the other two were) we were about to set off for Reagan Airport on the way back to Israel. The taxi was already outside.

Suddenly our wonderful travel agent, Ruth Sopher--if there is a travel agent medal of honor she earned it-- called to warn us that our flight had been cancelled to NY. She pondered sending us through Atlanta to Tel Aviv but finally I asked about Baltimore airport and she found a flight leaving from there to NY.

So after a two-hour delay we set off--being sure to leave early--and went the 30 miles or so to the airport in a hard rain and heavy traffic. We got three trolleys (cost $15), packed everyone and everything aboard, stood in a long line (one woman who had apparently been on the same original flight flipped out and started screaming at the poor employee who was trying to explain to her that he'd moved her ahead of 30 other people). We got to the front--one of our bags was too heavy and we had to move stuff around and then pay $70 extra and got our ticket and advanced.

Coming to the security we took off shoes, belts, and jackets, and I made a deal with the TSA employee to follow this procedure:

1. I went through the metal detector

2. I returned back through it.

3. I took cat 1 (Maisie) out of her case and put the case on the belt.

4. I walked through the metal detector with her. (Fortunately, they didn't profile her because she was a tabby.)

5. Our son Daniel walked through the metal detector.

6. The case came through and I put Maisie back into it, to be guarded by Daniel.

7. I again returned through the metal detector.

8. I took out Charley (white cat) from case 2 and put that case on the belt. Judy held onto Josie (black cat).

9. I took Charley through the metal detector and handed him to Daniel.

10. I returned through the metal detector and got Josie.

11. I went back through the metal detector with Josie and when case 2 came through the xray machine Daniel and I put them in their overcrowded case.

12. Judy came through the metal detector.

13. We unloaded the trays of shoes, belts, jackets, computers, etc.

We got all of our stuff and triumphantly went on toward the gate.

We arrived at the gate and waited. And after about thirty minutes or so....they cancelled the flight to JFK! (And cancelled our El Al tickets without our knowledge or permission.)

So they told us to go back and they would have a place to help us. No person was there, just four telephones and a long line of people. At this point here's the probem:

It's 1:30AM in Israel. Our cell phones won't call internationally. My computer won't work because I can't get the pay site going. My Ipad won't work because it has chosen that moment to ask me a series of questions. What to do? NY? Atlanta? Back to the house? Hotel in Baltimore?

After trying several times we got through to our travel agent who had been soundly sleeping and promised to help. We then went back, got all our bags back from the carousel in the baggage pickup section, found a cab, and went all the way back to DC

Total cost of this excursion: Around $325.

We got back to the house after about five hours of travelling, let the cats out, and one of them said: "What the heck was that all about!"

Next day: We're trying the whole thing over again in one hour. Wish us luck.

PS: Flight DC-NY delayed 90 minutes but we are currently at JFK airport