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. 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!
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.
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 2½ 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!
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