Sue and I have been privileged over the years to enjoy great travel to interesting places. As much as we enjoy the destinations, the “getting there” part can present issues. It’s either a change in the schedule or something forgotten in the packing process or another flight delay but the transportation alone is often as much the adventure as is the final destination.
This particular year we selected Iceland. It promised rugged beauty, large colonies of those adorable puffins, volcanoes and an interesting culture. But first, we have to get there.
Our morning began early at Fort Wayne International Airport and it stayed there a while because the crew didn’t show up for the flight. We had allowed ample time for normal connections but now we already know we won’t make the connection at JFK. The travel agent is working the system but tells us we’ll be delayed a day in getting to Iceland and we’ll spend the day in New York City ahead of the next available flight tomorrow night.
While it wasn’t part of the original itinerary – travel is about adapting and going with the flow and now we have a full day in NYC although our hearts want to be in Iceland. Not being that familiar with the Big Apple we hired a guide for a day trip to the main attractions to kill the time. Before long Brother Andre, a part-time Baptist minister, showed up in his Ford Econoline van and picked up about six of us stranded travelers for a day in the city. We took in Battery Park, Times Square, and other signature venues plus a stop at the deli of a friend of Brother Andre billed in the brochure as a “well-known NYC hotspot” – my coke was warm.
By late afternoon we’re at JFK for our evening flight to Reykjavik but now we need to negotiate the airport reservation system. Sue’s a great traveler but she’s frustrated and tired from the travel diversion. As I approach the ticket counter she says, “Tell the clerk about our situation and maybe we’ll get bumped to first class.”
As the clerk begins to unravel our saga, I put on my good game face and comment to him about the genius of computers and flight and scheduling and my amazement at how it all comes together at his fingertips. After his hunting and pecking at the keyboard I worked in a comment about our struggles to get to this point. “It’s been quite a day and what a set back to plan this long for our week in Iceland only to see a full day of it just flit away like this. I’ll tell you, if you ever needed candidates for a bump to fill some first class seats – we’re your team.” I winked and added, “I’m just saying, we’re available” and I left it at that.
After more taps on the keyboard and the whir of the printer he tags our bags and hands over our tickets and says with a smile, “And here are your luggage receipts.” I thanked him for working through the changes, looked down at the cattle class seats we’d been assigned and paused momentarily to consider the coming marvel of traveling across the frigid Atlantic in hours with modern comforts when my forebears risked their lives to do the same in tiny ships.
Sue had been standing about five feet away during this booking process and when the clerk said “and here are your luggage receipts” at her distance she heard “Here are your luxury seats!” And she lit up. After all, we’re deserving and it’s such a simple thing to flip a switch and move these weary travelers from last class to first class . . . Icelandic Air is now my airline of choice.
I let her savor it a few more moments as I reached for the shoulder bags and headed to the gate. She grabbed an extra bag with her new-found energy and nearly skipped to the corridor. I softly mentioned what the clerk had actually said about “luggage receipts” and she wasn’t convinced – she wanted to see the tickets – I’m the one that heard it wrong. Now she shifted a bag to me and the two of us shuffled toward the gate. Moments later it was a joke to share about the misunderstanding and how we were so close and could almost feel the real metal flatware of first class in our hands.
Now, in the gangway to the plane the ticket exchange still brings a smile to our faces and Sue says, “wouldn’t it be something if they came down the tunnel right now and changed our seats?” I kick the bag further along in front of me . . . “It’s only a five-hour flight – we’ll be fine.”
About ten feet from the door to the plane I hear a rustling behind us and turn to see a ticket clerk with a clipboard full of documents making his way to the plane with the final manifest of passengers. I step aside to let him pass and after talking to the flight attendant he turns to those of us in the gangway and announces “Tidball, Mr. and Mrs. Tidball? Please raise your hand.” As I acknowledge our presence thinking I must have left my passport at the desk, he steps towards us and hands us our “luxury seats”. In almost a whisper so other passengers can’t hear he says to the two of us, “Mr. Tidball, we appreciate what you’ve been through these past 24 hours and hope this will help you enjoy your trip.”
Now Sue takes an extra bag and we enter the plane and turn to the left rather than the right and soon find ourselves in the wide open spaces of first class. We were so excited with the extras we couldn’t sleep that night. We enjoyed real food, our own individual movie libraries and our recliners. Iceland can wait just a bit longer, thank you very much.
Iceland proved to be a fascinating land with beautiful vistas set among the unusual landscape of volcanic rock but with no trees. The guides offered this word of advice that if you are ever lost in an Icelandic forest – just stand up. I’ve included a few photos from the trip and would encourage you to consider Iceland when you have the opportunity to travel for adventure and wonder. Oh, and take the luxury seats.
I’ve included a video on travel from one of my favorites: Brian Regan. It’s about 8 minutes.