The day I finally learned to say ‘Oh, well’

In The Art of Travel Fall 2015, Madrid, Misadventure by Daniel McElroy2 Comments

Travelling has almost always gone smoothly for me. More than smoothly, in fact. I’ve been away from home for nearly 11 months now, and rarely has anything not gone as planned, or even as scheduled. That being said… everyone has some travel horror story and I certainly have mine. I won’t lie, this one time was stressful and really upsetting at the time, but in retrospect it actually taught me a lot about keeping an even temperament on the road and has definitely helped in the long run to make the rest of my travel more relaxing and because of that, much more fun.

A few months ago, my best friend and I were going to Amsterdam for a long weekend and flying Ryanair, as you do. The thing is, though, Ryanair does not fly to Amsterdam proper—that would just be too simple—so we had to fly to a small city about two hours from Amsterdam by train called Eindhoven. Alright, easy enough. And in fact, I’d done it once before, so I couldn’t imagine anything not going smoothly. The flight cost about €40 return and we decided to go for it. Only catch? Monday night we needed to be back at school for a lecture at 7.00pm. That’s fine, we thought! We’ll certainly make it.

Arriving on Friday morning, everything went as smoothly as I remembered getting into Amsterdam. We had a wonderful weekend full of canals and pancakes and on our final morning, Monday, we woke up and decided it was only right to treat ourselves to another banana-bacon-chili pancake because, well… duh. Our flight didn’t leave Eindhoven until 3.10pm and there was a train leaving for Eindhoven at 11.30am. We enjoyed our breakfast, which included a memorably wonderful conversation, and were walking on air on our way to the train station. It had been a great weekend.

Now a quick minute-by-minute rundown for you, so you can see how things went very wrong, very fast:

11.05: We buy train tickets to Eindhoven at the station. We begin looking for our train.

11.10: Still haven’t found the train, so we approach the information desk. The man says “Oh… Eindhoven. Well, you see, the 11.30 train was just cancelled a moment ago. There are no more to Eindhoven today. Get on that train there, leaving in one minute, and change in Rotterdam to the train to Eindhoven. Have a good day!” We run to the train and get on as the doors are closing.

11.30: Now solidly on the train (which by some stroke of luck has wifi), we discover that there is literally no possible combination of trains that can get us to Eindhoven before 2.07. Eindhoven Airport is a 15 minute drive from the station.

12.45: Finally on the train from Rotterdam to Eindhoven, I start freaking out. We are not going to make our flight. There’s no way. I start to obsessively talk about to maybe get to the airport faster. Ridiculous, stress-induced options include calling the airline and begging them to wait. Olivia, my friend, is visibly over my emotions.

2.11: We specifically choose a taxi that has the little Mastercard/Visa sticker in the window, knowing we have hardly any cash. We might make this, I’m feeling good.

2.33: We arrive at the airport. Cab fee: €22. We have €10 and £5 between us. Driver insists that one of us runs into the terminal to try to get cash even though, in his words, “sometimes the ATM just doesn’t work.” It doesn’t. I come sprinting back out, basically hyperventilating.

2.37: We beg him to take our card. He makes a deal, taking €10 and £5 in addition to charging €10 to my card. We hate this man.

2.40: We beg random Ryanair employee (who certainly does not have authorization) to sign our boarding passes. She also calls the gate for us. I have a bit of hope.

2.47: We beg the 100+ people in the security line to let us cut to the front, announcing our situation loudly. They graciously do.

2.53: Man in front of me is caught with a pocket knife. We wait.

2.55: We finally get through security. Time to run. Olivia drops her scarf. Oops. Bye, scarf.

2.56: We arrive at the gate: “Sorry, they waited for you as long as they could but they closed the doors one minute ago.” I think I might cry.

3.00: We retrieve Olivia’s sacrificed scarf, walking back though the terminal dejectedly. We book another flight home out of Rotterdam airport. Yes, that is all the way back across the country. And we get right back on a train…

7.30: We’re on a plane home. We’ve missed our lecture. Oh, well.

Until this day, I had never missed a flight in my life. I didn’t understand how one could miss a flight. And I was angry and upset at the world when the situation (as I hope you can see) was completely out of our control. It was a day of ups and downs, hopefulness followed by crippling stress, and yes, we lost €110 each on new plane tickets. It was upsetting, but we got home. It was frustrating, but I laugh now at how comical traversing the entirety of the Netherlands in one day really was. And I learned to go with the flow. I learned that missing a flight is not the end of the world, and it’s more fun to enjoy the disaster than to let it get you down.

Comments

  1. The way you wrote this kept me on my toes — a truly exciting misadventure for the reader! And, banana-bacon-chili pancakes? Looks like I’ll be booking the next flight to Amsterdam. It’s a shame you missed your flight but it warms me to know that this served as a learning experience for you, and at the end of the day all you missed was one lecture. This is the kind of event you will look back on — it seems you already are — and laugh about. Also, I love the timestamp format you used for the end part of this piece, it really added a sense of urgency to your story that kept me on the edge of my seat.

  2. Daniel, reading this made me anxious for you! I have been in similar situations and they are definitely scenarios that i do not want to repeat. I really enjoyed the format you took for this post giving us a minute by minute break down of everything that happened. It lets the reader feel like they too are experiencing what happened! I am glad you were finally able to make it back safe and sound.

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