Florida Won't Let Me Go

Northeast Florida was having its first rain in weeks as I drove northbound on US-1. It was a much anticipated Wednesday because of a flight to New York scheduled to depart at 8p.m. This flight would eventually be followed by a route to Lyon, France - where I'd spend a month learning LSF (French Sign Language), and participating in an invitation campaign focused on the deaf community.

Booking an evening flight proved to be a snare. I left myself a mountain of errands to run that would leave me exhausted by dusk. I popped by Target, did a brief work assignment, went to the gym and the Post Office, showered, finished packing, tried to vegetate on the couch for half an hour...

The rain kept up through all of this, making the mood more cinematic than usual. St. Augustine rain tends to come and go so quickly that previously laid plans are not derailed.  This day was an exception. The last thing left to care for was the most daunting. There was a four gallon tub of paint that needed to be taken to Sherwin Williams and mixed with one more gallon. Then it needed to be taken back to my house before I finally drove to the airport.  The thing is, Sherwin Williams is north of my house - so is the airport. It was a tease to head north, south, and then finally north again.  I didn't know it yet, but that "finally north again" thing wasn't even going to happen. At least not on the originally planned evening. Before leaving, I got a flight status alert on my phone that my flight was delayed an hour.  This at least assuaged the time pressure that had started overtaking me.

The plot thickened further when I returned with the now five gallons of paint. Setting it down on the white tile kitchen floor was a relief after awkwardly waddling it up my driveway and through the front door.  I sat down for a minute on a chaise lounge in the den and propped my feet up when another alert appeared on my phone's screen: FLIGHT CANCELLED. This announcement brought both relief and disappointment: relief that suddenly there was nothing to do but go to bed...disappointment that I would now have to reschedule a special New York museum tour I had booked months in advance. I was placed on a flight the next morning.

*     *     *

Thursday's morning was a cloudless blue.  The JetBlue terminal was full of tinted daylight.  I didn't know it then, but I would spend 12 hours within a small radius of the place where I sat. JFK wasn't granting runway space to our perpetually delayed flight. We boarded and deplaned twice.  After leaving the plane for the second time, a flight attendant wheeled the snack and beverage carts off the plane and parked them at the gate. Open season on chips, cookies, and soda.

This ordeal acquainted me with two women: a local web designer from Jacksonville and an Australian eager to meet her husband in Manhattan. The three of us commiserated and laughed for hours on end.

In the midst of all this, some good news came my way via an e-mail. In the fall, I reached out to a local magazine about becoming a contributor. One of their reps invited me on-board and I heartily accepted. Later, I'd be assigned two pieces for their August/September issue.


Around 11p.m., we boarded for the third time and wait for it...we took off! To say we were exhausted by the time we landed at JFK would be an understatement. While I waited at baggage claim, the face of a stranger speaking to a beautiful, glamorously dressed woman seemed familiar to me.  Within minutes, I realized I was looking at an 'actor' named Bob Costas. I will admit that I only recognized him because of a cameo he made in a movie my friends and I quote constantly.  I know now that he is better known as a renowned National Sportscaster. I didn't grow up watching sports at all.  When I would force myself to do it, it would bore me to no end.  Meanwhile, the summer Olympics can keep me entertained once every four years.

Eventually, my baggage arrived and I hailed a Brooklyn-bound Lyft around 2a.m. Maybe five minutes into the ride, the young Russian driver says to me: "My app says you cancelled the ride..."

"What do you mean?!" I asked. "I'm sitting right here. That doesn't make sense."

"I have to take you back to the airport," the driver said to me. I'll spare you the rest of the dialogue. Though I will say that having the fare in cash was advantageous.  I talked the driver into taking me to my family. One might say an app glitch became a win-win.

I love to travel. Or I should say I love to ARRIVE. Ordeals like the ones recounted here have made me sick with anxiety on several travel days. In the end, I'm glad Florida released me from its tenacious clutches for six weeks or so.  It's not like I wasn't coming back, for crying out loud. *Insert eye roll emoji.*