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A Wonderous 80th Birthday in California, Amid Travel Nightmares 
From:
The Georgetowner Newspaper -- Local Georgetown News The Georgetowner Newspaper -- Local Georgetown News
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Georgetown, DC
Monday, July 19, 2021

 

I don’t usually write about myself, but for this story please allow an exception to share two extraordinary experiences I had in early July that many Georgetowners may face themselves. One was celebrating a very special birthday — my 80th with my identical twin in our hometown Santa Barbara, CA where I lived for 55 years and she still lives – that was an unexpected experience in joy, wonder and utter gratitude.

But I also experienced an unexpected travelogue of frustration, incompetence and just plain unpreparedness by airlines and major airports that found all four of my flights from Reagan National to SB and back again, delayed for mechanical reasons. That resulted in long lines of frustrated passengers seeking rebooking, begging for vouchers for hotels over a half an hour away from the airport, being dumped in middle seats after having booked window seats six months ago, and enduring trips that took over 28 hours to get there and over 32 to return.

Our pending birthday was planned for almost a year with some trepidation and disbelief! HOW could we be 80 years old! Should we host a garden tea party with 20 of our oldest gal friends many of whom were just beginning to emerge from isolated homes, masks and fears of Covid? Would they come –- with canes and wheelchairs, gray and aged and sad from all the losses of the past year? Would they even eat the luscious cakes (chocolate for me, vanilla for my twin as was our tradition) and sandwiches we were preparing for the tea and the stacks of barbequed ribs afterwards?

Now I am still glowing from the party. The ladies came in hats and dresses, looking good with some fancy walking sticks and all with big smiles, hugs, kisses and utter joy to be there. “Isn’t it incredible!” they all said.  “Here we are!  We made it! To 80!  Still recognizable, full of lessons learned, blocks gone ‘round many times, interested in life and love and eager to see what is next.  Aren’t we lucky? Isn’t it amazing to be together again? To remember our long lives still going on. Looking ahead to what life brings next whatever it may be.  To be joyful in our friendships and long connections.” And, they all happily gobbled down the cake and sandwiches.

The overall attitude was gratitude! The mantra for troubled times: “This too shall pass. Everything changes. Be flexible in mind and as much as possible in body.”

That means being flexible about travel. It’s frustrating. Valets at a major Georgetown hotel told me that so many of their arriving guests are upset and angry about lost luggage and delays causing them to miss travel connections and long-reserved days and special events at their destinations. Dallas airport seemed utterly unprepared for hundreds of delayed passengers desperate to rebook and find accommodations for the night. Only one agent manned the American Airlines service desk at 8 p.m. when our flight finally arrived from D.C.  It appeared that planes had not been maintained; and there were few replacements for the many that were found to be un-flyable just as they were being loaded (the one in Dallas to SB had a broken galley door.)

Articles in The Washington Post on July 19 cited increasing instances of violence in airports and on flights from “unruly passengers” in “an unprecedented proliferation of misbehavior.” But the articles never mention the frustrations almost all passengers were experiencing from airline and airport inefficiencies and long hours waiting without any updates in crowded airports while constantly masked under a federal mandate. Last December on my Christmas trip to CA, Dallas/Fort Worth airport had a voluntary mask rule. Now masks are required at all times by the Biden administration. There were constant public announcements that those who refused to wear masks could be arrested and prohibited from traveling at all.

Most frustrating to me — who always wants to sit by a window to read a book with daylight and look out on the incredible sky scenes passing by — was being stuck in a middle seat in a totally darkened plane. Nowadays almost everyone at the precious window seats closes the window blinds to be better transfixed by the blue glow of mobile device screens.

Hopefully “this too will pass.”

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Name: Sonya Bernhardt
Group: The Georgetowner Newspaper
Dateline: Georgetown, DC United States
Direct Phone: 202-338-4833
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