A Series of Unfortunate Events – in Travel and Finances

Last week, my sister Shirley and I had a great visit with family in Washington DC. For me, it was a fabulous treat to tour the city. It was only the second air-travel trip I’ve taken since our journey out of debt began five years ago.

Last Friday, we made our trip home. And EVERYTHING went wrong.

The metro pass

After walking to the Foggy Bottom Metro Station (isn’t that a funny name?!) Shirley realized she had lost the metro pass she had purchased to get to DC from the Dulles Airport the day we’d arrived. I went through the stile with my pass and waited for her to get a new one. 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes …. 10 minutes … An infrequent traveler, I was time-stressed, and I counted each minute, wondering what was going on. Eventually my sister got some help from one of the attendants. Nope, still not happening. Finally, the attendant tried another machine. There we go! A 15 minute wait. No big deal.

The metro lines

We live in a city that doesn’t have a metro, so we had to figure things out. We looked at maps and asked for directions and eventually stood on the right platform. Before too long, a train arrived, and we got on board. Right behind us was a student we had met the day before in the line for the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Incredible coincidence! He had completed a congressional work placement (amazing job for a student) and was on his way back to Arkansas. We started chatting, and it soon became clear that he was going to a different airport from us. And then it became clear that we had taken the wrong train! We were on the Blue Line and we needed the Silver Line. Erg!

Off the train, under the platform, onto the next train going the opposite direction. We only had to go one stop to get to a station that had the Silver Line. Good thing that someone pointed out our error before we’d gone too far! So another 20 minutes lost.Β Not the end of the world.

The metro station

Frustrated but on the right track, we waited for the train going towards the Dulles Airport. 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes … 10 minutes … A message came over the metro’s PA system, but I didn’t understand a word of it. People started to move. Firefighters were coming down the escalator. An anxious attendant told us we were to go to the level above. No trains would be coming through on this level. There had been some kind of problem …

The next level up, people waited in confusion. Attendants knew no more than the commuters who wondered what was going on. We got to the right platform, as confirmed by a man from Brazil, holding his sleeping daughter, who was also going to the Dulles Airport and taking the Silver Line. 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes … 10 minutes … Our train just wasn’t coming. Yikes!

The cab

By this point, even my laid-back sister was time-stressed, and we decided it was time to take a cab. Our new friend from Brazil joined us. We lugged our baggage up into the bright light of the sun outside, and passed by firefighters, police, and press who surrounded the station.

Β Β 

A line of cabs was just a block away, and we managed to catch the last one. There! Everyone was settled in and the driver pulled away from the curb. “Aaaaah!” I yelled. He had shut the window on my pinky finger. And it HURT! Definitely a low point – but our trials were far from over.

The flight delay

The good news is we made it to the airport on time to make our flight. But no sooner were we buckled into our seats than the captain announced that we’d have to wait about 20 minutes for a weather system to pass. That 20 minutes turned into 2Β½ hours – on the runway – in a small, prop airplane. We would miss our 4:30 pm connecting flight in Toronto. Ugh!

The long line of passengers needing to re-book

At the Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, a long line of disgruntled passengers who had missed their flights faced the one Porter attendant who had to re-book us all. Eventually, a second attendant helped out, but it took an hour of lining up to book our 10:00 pm flight to Ottawa (home sweet home). Argh!

The weather

A little food, a little conversation with fellow bummed-out, cranky travelers, and we were OK. It was almost 10:00, and we’d be home 50 minutes after take-off. In the plane, off the runway, in the air … And then the announcement. There was weather in Ottawa, and we would have to land in Montreal. Ahhhhhhh!

After a brief visit to the runway of Montreal’s airport, we took off again and landed in Ottawa at 2:00 am – 9 hours late.

Connection to personal finances?

I think that sometimes, people experience a series of unfortunate events in their personal finances much as my sister and I did in our journey home. The car repair followed by the speeding ticket followed by the tax surprise followed by the broken window … And with every mishap, our philosophy runs shorter as aggravation sets in.

Moral of the story? I’m not sure there is one. But perhaps it’s this: We did get home. So if you’re in the midst of financial frustration, I’d like to encourage you to stick it out with the journey – through the mistakes, the miscommunication, the obstacles outside your control, the waiting , the going nowhere … Because sooner or later (or much, much later) you’ll find that you’ve made it home too.


Have you ever experienced a series of unfortunate events in travel? How about in personal finances? Your comments are welcome.


*Featured image courtesy of flickr

28 comments on “A Series of Unfortunate Events – in Travel and Finances

    1. That’s it! I remember even thinking at the time, “Some day, I’ll enjoy telling this story.” But I sure didn’t enjoy living it!

  1. This trip can be filed under Murphy’s Law – same as getting to debt free. Glad you had a great trip otherwise – you have earned it, Ruth.

  2. Oh man! Sorry about those travel woes! It’s enough to make you crawl into bed and pretend the day never happened lol. I think the connection here is that you need to be prepared for the worst. I’m sick of people saying that you shouldn’t pursue FIRE because it’s pointless. FIRE has enabled us to weather a lot of storms that would have otherwise taken us down. It’s a journey worth taking. πŸ™‚

    1. “FIRE has enabled us to weather a lot of storms that would have otherwise taken us down.” Bingo! It’s not a guarantee of happiness, but it is a cushion to absorb what can otherwise be very rough traveling.

    1. I love the way you get involved in a story, Kay. (And I’m intrigued by the title of your new site. You’d be proud of me. I’ve de-cluttered two drawers and a desk top this month … Well, maybe that’s not quite enough to make you proud of me. Much more to come though!)

        1. I have a theory about that, Kay. I am sure that planking had a connection to my growing enthusiasm for savings (balance, patience), and I believe I know how de-cluttering and organizing will impact my finances. I just won’t say it now because I’m not sure. (But you will be the first to know!)

  3. Oh, I’m so glad you finally made it home! It can be frustrating, but most of all it’s exhausting to spend an entire day stressed and traveling. All you want is your bed! Several years ago we were traveling to a wedding about 800 miles away and decided to fly, rather than drive to get there and back faster. Ha! Our family members who drove beat us there by several hours!

    I love the connection you made to personal finance. I think we all have those times when everything seems to be costing money and we can’t seem to get ahead. But, that perseverance is so important. It won’t last forever and if you stick with it, you’ll make it home!

    1. I enjoyed our trip to Washington DC so much that my husband and I are making plans to go together in August. (We have a niece and nephew-in-law living there for 9 months, so this is definitely the season to go.) But we’re planning to DRIVE. By car we’ll get there in 9 hours. By plane on the way home from last week’s trip, what was to be 3.5 hours (including the stop in Toronto) ended up being 12. 14 if you add the metro fiasco. Yes, here’s to road trips! And to perseverance : )

  4. So glad you finally got home in one piece!! How stressful! This post REALLY encouraged me. I kind of feel like much of our journey out of debt has been like this. One step forward, two steps back kind of a thing. Your lastish line: “Moral of the story? I’m not sure there is one. But perhaps it’s this: We did get home. ” was SO uplifting to me. Thank you, my friend. πŸ™‚

  5. When I saw travel issues I had assumed it would have to do with our abysmal traffic problems. Seems like that was the only thing that wasn’t an issue! Sorry for your travel problems, but glad you made it home safely. Hopefully the next trip will be better!

    1. Our trip via cab to the Dulles airport was the smoothest part of the journey – minus the crushed finger! If it had been during rush hour, it might have been a different story. Next trip will be by car, and I’m looking forward to it. DC is a great place to visit!

  6. Oh man I’m exhausted just reading that! It doesn’t sound THAT bad on paper, but I’ve been there and you are just so tired and cranky and not feeling it at all. Plus 2 am! But yes, sometimes life DOES not go according to plan and you either course correct, or just try to learn patience if there is nothing really that you can do about it!

    1. It could definitely have been worse – but it was certainly enough to make me “cranky and not feeling it at all.” When you’re sitting in an airplane on the runway, there really isn’t anything you can do. So this was a forced lesson in patience. Hopefully I passed so that I won’t have to do it again.

  7. Wow, that was some day of travel. We’ve had our share of mishaps, but not sure anything close to this. I always just remind myself that I’d much rather be safe when traveling then be on time. Glad you made it back okay.

    1. Yes, that’s a good outlook, Brian. I maintained my philosophical outlook … up to a point. By about mishap #5, “seeing the bright side of things” became a strain. By mishap #7 – I’d lost all capacity. A reminder that patience is still something I have to work on : )

  8. Oh my gosh! I mean reading about all those mishaps in ONE day… you poor thing. I am glad you and your sister arrived home safe and sound and that is awesome that you are planning to go back! πŸ™‚

    1. I was definitely feeling sorry for myself that day! I’m glad you do too. I really, really liked Washington DC though. It’s definitely worth going back to – perhaps especially in a car : )

  9. It was ten years ago and to this day I still don’t fly without a change of clothes in my carryon!: http://agaishanlife.com/2007/03/did-you-know/

    It also means that generally not a lot fazes me when it comes to travel delays, and I no longer cut arrival times close like I used to πŸ˜‰

    This summer, though, our series of unfortunate things is all in our new place. So literally, we will, when this is done, be home for the first time!

    1. OK, your trip was way worse than mine! And your series of unfortunate events this summer is also more stressful than both trips combined. For you, it’s a matter of weeks/months – not hours. I will be glad to see your post about finally being home : )

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