An Op-ed piece in yesterday’s paper suggested that it was only the wealthy and congressmen eager to be out of Washington who were benefited by the exception to the sequester voted in and signed by Obama to end the Air Traffic Controller furloughs. But I beg to differ. It was my misfortune to have a ticket to fly from Jacksonville Florida to JFK in New York three days after the furloughs began. I knew there were delays expected and checked my flight before I left home but at that moment, it was still ON TIME. Two hours later, as I got off the shuttle from extended parking, it was half an hour delay. At first this seemed like it might be good, because I’d never seen security lines as long at JAX before. It took me nearly 45 minutes to clear security, get my shoes back on, my water bottle filled and get to my gate. By then the expected departure time had been extended an additional hour. I settled in to read, thankful that I had only myself to worry about.
The woman on one side of me had an active one-year-old, who was eager to explore which meant his mom had to schlepp all her gear and his to keep up with him during our extended wait. On the other side of me was an obviously ill young woman in a wheel chair. She was already tired. Two sailors headed home after a long deployment waited patiently though I’m sure they were eager to see their families as soon as possible. Businessmen glanced anxiously at their watches, probably concerned about being late for meetings. There were older couples, other families with young children. None of us looked like the well-to-do who were supposed to be most affected by the actions of congress to exempt air traffic controllers.
After several more delays the flight was eventually cancelled more than three hours after it should have taken off. A single clerk at the counter began the thankless task of rebooking a long line of angry, frustrated, tired travelers who now had to find somewhere to spend the night before returning to the airport on the following day, where they would have to face the gauntlet of checking bags and security clearance yet again. I was fortunate that I have a dear friend with a guest room who lives just minutes from the airport. In spite of the upheaval of packing for a long cross country trip, she welcomed me into her home and fed me breakfast before sending me off again. But I wondered about that woman with the little boy – they both arrived back at the airport in the same clothes they’d worn the day before. And what about the ill young woman who was probably aching for a chance to rest in peace and privacy? Or the sailors who had to wait yet another day to get home? There had to be at least some businessmen who missed meetings. And everyone had to find some place to stay if they didn’t happen to live in Jacksonville.
The following morning my flight was delayed again, but did finally get off the ground. For me this created yet more travel issues to deal with. Originally my daughter was to pick me up when my flight landed in the early evening, but now I’d arrive in the middle of her workday. She works in Manhattan so picking me up was out of the question. She offered to send a car, but the Scots in me balked at this expense and I opted for the Airtrain which stops at all JFK terminals and connects with the Long Island Rail Road in Jamaica. I asked a young man if he knew which train we were to catch. He thought he knew, but we both ended up getting on the wrong train and were fortunate that another rider told us where to get off to board the right one. We pulled into Jamaica 2 minutes too late to catch the next train that would have taken me to my destination so had to wait nearly another hour. Finally, I stepped off that train in East Williston and walked to my daughter’s house dragging my wheeled bag behind me. The UP side of this adventure? I now know how to get to my daughter’s home without relying on anyone to come fetch me from the airport. The downside? It took me 28 hours to get there – a journey that should have been 6 max!
Now, if only congress could work together to solve some of the other messes they’ve made!