Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - Thursday, April 28, 2016.
I plan everything to a fault, I just never plan for the ‘what if’s.’ I left work a half an hour early so I could beat the predicted severe weather that was already popping up on the radar. The National Weather Service was calling for a massive outbreak of strong, long-lived tornadoes and that was nothing I wanted to deal with while I was on the road. I booked a hotel room close to the airport for the night so Brian wouldn’t have to drive me to the airport in severe weather at 3:00 a.m. and frankly I wasn’t going to risk missing my flight, so I kissed my guys goodbye and hit the road. Along the way, I watched as the sky turned black to the southwest of me as I drove as fast as I could to beat the storms. I listened to the radio as they discussed the tornado dropping all around me.
I arrived at the hotel ready to take a bath, grab dinner and relax. I scheduled a driver to take me to the airport before I left to get dinner.
I walked into my hotel room and turned on the TV, no cable. I called the front desk, and the clerk told me it was due to the weather. I also didn’t have wifi, and this massive room was starting to feel very lonely. I called Brian a few times to check the weather in Falls City, but I mostly sat in that quiet room feeling more and more alone by the minute. It was a miserable feeling not to know what is happening at home or outside the door. I hoped that the weather would cooperate and not give us the scare it had promised to provide the last few days.
Once the wifi came back up, several messages came through on my phone. Apparently, the cellphone towers were also down due to the weather. I saw two messages from my airline and thought nothing of it. I checked the radar and Facebook to kill time. I finally came back to my e-mail and opened the first from Southwest Airlines. They were offering me a discount on wifi for my flight. The second was an e-mail I had never gotten from any airline my flight had been canceled. But why and how? I called Southwest, and they let me know that the weather had pushed back so many flights that my flight had to be canceled. I agreed to a flight on Thursday morning through hysterical tears. I knew there would be several events that I was going to miss because of this mess. I dried my tears and went to the front desk of the hotel to check on the cable situation and cancel my driver for the next morning. The lady at the desk couldn’t have been ruder. She tried to tell me it was too late to cancel the driver who wouldn’t arrive for another 10 hours then she said the cable was still out due to the storm though her cable worked fine on her TV. She then proceeded to tell me that it was somewhat unfair that my driver wouldn’t get the tip or money she would have gotten if my flight had not been canceled. I was floored by the entire conversation. After an exchange of words and several angry tears, I decided that no storm was going to keep me from getting my money back and leaving this place. I had 36 hours until my plane left and I wasn’t going to spend one more moment away from my family and in a terrible hotel with no cable and rude staff.
I called Brian and told him that I was headed home he was hesitant because of the weather, but there was nothing that could have stopped me. I packed my car back up and headed back north; the sun hadn’t set, but the sky was a wicked shade of black to the west of me. Lightning startled me as I drove as fast I could trying to beat the storm that I had raced against only a few hours earlier. Lightning and large sporadic raindrops didn’t bother me as I inched closer and closer to the next most significant town. Once I hit the city limits the wind, hail, and rain hit all at once. I pulled off the interstate and into town as I tried to see through the buckets of rain. I parked in a Target parking lot on the north side of town and cried for the next hour. I was tired and defeated. None of this was supposed to happen. I was supposed to be asleep and dreaming of the adventure I was going to have, not crying in a parking lot because I couldn’t see to drive home. An hour later I hit the road again, and two hours after that I pulled into my driveway.
Wednesday, April 27. I went to work. What I assumed would be the longest day of my life ended up going pretty quickly. I got some extra work done and didn’t have a terrible day. That night I sat with my guys at dinner and realized that an extra day with them is great. So I was able to shrug off everything I missed and appreciate the fact that I was still going. Nothing was going to spoil this adventure.
Thursday, April 28. We left town by 3:30 a.m. The drive was quick and smooth as we made our way to the airport. I said goodbye to my fellas yet again and breezed right through security and to my gate. I’m usually a nervous flyer but to be honest, the drive home in the blinding rain, hail, and wind a few days earlier had made flying seem like a piece of cake.
At 9:30 a.m., Pacific time, I stepped off my plane and into an entirely new world. The idea of LAX had terrified me, but I managed to make my way through the airport and to my luggage like an old pro. I grabbed my suitcase that was the size and weight of at least four small children and stepped outside. The air was the same as it was in Nebraska. It was cool and crisp, but unlike Nebraska, the air smelled different. I paced back and forth as I tried to find my shuttle. After a good ten minutes of searching, I found where I was supposed to be and waited.
The shuttle driver pulled up, and I climbed in. I was so ready to get out of this airport and see what L.A. had to offer. An hour later we finally made it out of the cluster of buses, shuttles, and Uber drivers. What I saw was nothing like I had imagined. The landscape was brown, dry and dead. There were oil derricks along the side of the roads and not the beaches or palm trees that television had promised.
After an hour and a half, I got my first glimpse of the Hollywood sign. The lady who sat in front of me assured me that we were almost there, almost to Hollywood. We drove a bit further and then pulled onto a side street and stopped. The driver got out, opened my door and pointed at me. He took my suitcase out of the car, dropped it on the sidewalk and pointed at me again to get out. I didn’t know much, but I knew this was not where I was supposed to be. I knew my apartment was near the Lowes Hotel, and we had passed that a few blocks back. I tried to tell him that this was not my stop, but he got angry and kept pointing at me to get out. Everyone in the shuttle waited for me to get out so they could be on their way. I pleaded with all of them, but they didn’t care, they ignored me as I climbed out on to the corner of Hollywood Boulevard with a heavy backpack, purse, and large suitcase.
I stood and watched my shuttle pull away, not knowing what had just happened, as people swarmed around me. A Spiderman stood near me asking if I wanted a photo of him as I resisted every urge I had to kick him. I started to walk down the side street as I texted my roommate to find me. This trip was nothing like I had imagined it to be. I had daydreamed of pulling in front of a gorgeous apartment building to my friends with open arms. Instead, I was dragging my 47-pound bag down Hollywood Boulevard, sweating and yelling at this Spiderman who wouldn’t stop following me.