If you missed Part I, find it HERE.
I was HOMELESS for a night!
… In an airport terminal. With several hundred people. I needed to cope. I’d never been in this situation before by myself, but here I was. It was real. I needed to rally my spirit and persevere!
I decided to find a plug to recharge my phone and try to pick a spot for the night. And eat my deconstructed self-ascribed charcuterie snack supper. Seated in the same section I chose was the flight attendant that was at the gate when I was asking questions.(Part I) I asked her if she could confirm that I was booked through the App for the morning. She graciously and kindly looked at my phone and felt I was indeed booked for the 10 am flight! Woot! No four hour line for me!!
She and four other attendants with her had just worked a flight from Greece. Which I know is a very long workday. (I’ve flown it before.) Their connecting flight was cancelled, and they were stuck too! No hotel, no car to rent, no flight, nothing, just like me! And they worked for the airlines!! She was kind enough later to give me best wishes home. I asked if they’d found a flight. She said, “No, we are headed to the employee lounge. Not sure we’ll even find a seat there, but we’re going to look.”
Nice people help difficult situations!
Of course, I was on the phone with my husband and daughter. He left the airport in DC, not being able to retrieve me, and went to my daughter’s house, which is a much shorter drive in the morning. So, we were all on the phone together.
We finally hung up, ending with me making promises of perceived issues and promising to call if I was scared during the night.
I was sitting on the floor by this time, wanting to put my legs out straight. I was still charging my phone and ear buds. Another lady, Kim, came to the other end of the seating row, using another wall plug. We chatted about this crazy situation. I found out she was not on my flight, but another to VA. We shared some info back and forth about our predicament. She said she was going to pull an “all nighter”. I didn’t even pull “all nighters” as a teen. I knew I’d succumb and shut my eyes.
Question was when, where and for how long!
I watched YouTube to relax and distract me.
Somewhere around 12:30 am, Kim came over and said she was going to look for a more comfortable sleeping option. I asked if I could tag along. The floor was concrete. I knew stretching out and getting any sleep there was impossible. She said she’d eyed some couches down the terminal. Knowing they were probably occupied by now, we set out. We saw a few couches here and there: No vacancy.
Nearing the end of the terminal, there was a large oval couch!
We saw people there, but it looked like some empty spots might be possible. Indeed, there were two spots big enough, but not encroaching too close to the occupants, who were already sleeping. I immediately felt this option was for me! Kim didn’t want to stay there. She encouraged me to stay, if I wanted. We parted.
ELAINE SLEPT HERE ⬇️
Let me just say. I felt safe! All the lights were on all night!!
(Which made sleeping difficult.)
Around 1:30 am, I laid down with my back to the outside of the couch with my duffel as my hard lumpy pillow. My checked luggage would have made this entire process much easier, but goodness knows where it was by now. My duffel had only one piece of fabric in it. Fortunately, though, it had all of my most important items.
My one piece of fabric, other than the clothes and light linen jacket already on my body, was a pair of black shorts. I had ear plugs and even melatonin. The black shorts went over my face to block the light and hung over my shoulders for warmth.
I wasn’t laying long before my teeth started to chatter. I mean, chatter uncontrollably. My legs, too, were constantly shivering. I had on long jeans and a linen jacket with a shirt under, but it wasn’t enough. I was COLD! I am never cold! Ask my family!! I can’t remember my teeth chattering ever!!
It was apparent I would not fall asleep this way!
I turned my back to the sofa, hoping my back would warm next to the sofa fabric/plastic, warming the rest of me.
I took the melatonin and began to warm some. Somewhere about 2:30 am, I fell asleep. Yes, I heard all the loudspeaker announcements, muted by earplugs, which happened at least every half hour. And I switched sides about 3 times, but I found some sleep. I counted it a victory!
I crushed my solo homeless night in a NY Terminal!!!
About 5:20 am, gates filled up for 6 am flights. Once they started boarding, I gave up and got up. Too many announcements and people noise.
I did a little sprucing in the bathroom, meaning… tried to fix my smashed sleep hair and made sure yesterday’s make-up wasn’t running down my face.
I rejoiced to find HOT coffee and an egg bowl breakfast.
I found out the 6 am flight to DC took off, the 8 am cancelled. Argh, I was praying my 10 am flight would take off. Flights the rest of the day were full.
I ran into Kim. She sat up all night and froze too! We exchanged info to check on each other. We came up with some great ideas for the airlines/airport to show some hospitality to all those stranded and homeless in their terminals. Nobody asked us! Her flight left at 8:30. I said goodbye at her gate.
Last time I saw Nick (which was last evening), he said he was taking a bus to Akron! I admire his tenacity to show up, in-person, to meet his boss. A cancelled flight was not enough reason for him! Best wishes Nick. It was a pleasure talking; making time pass. I admire your work ethic!!
By the time I finished breakfast, the terminal was buzzing with people! The couch I slept on, crawling with bodies.
I went to my gate around 8:30 am, praying our crew and airplane would show up. I watched the board like a hawk eyeing prey. Nothing changed, no delays.
We started to board… Thank you, God🙌🙌🙌👏👏👏
I was in zone 7 out of 9, so I boarded almost last. While the plane was boarding, I watched two pilots run into the gate, check in and proceed down the ramp. I suppose they began boarding because they knew the pilots were in the airport, but they weren’t on the plane when boarding started. Thankfully, they made it!!!
The flight went off without a hitch. Of course, I slept my way to Washington DC. I needed rest for what was ahead.
The next hurdle to cross… my luggage!
There was a slight possibility it made it onto this flight. I seriously doubted it, but wanted to check before I started luggage retrieval. I knew that would be a process!!
Like I thought, my luggage was not on the turnstile.
Off I went to the American office in baggage claim!!
There was luggage everywhere!!! And frustrated people. And a LINE!! Always a line!!
I scanned the luggage I could see and didn’t spot mine. I have unique luggage, pretty easy to spot! The baggage claim assistant who was hauling unclaimed luggage from the conveyor belts to the baggage sea, was kind enough to help me. We weren’t allowed beyond the ropes, but she walked through the aisles looking for me. She said this was all luggage that came in last night and wasn’t claimed 😳😳. It wasn’t her job to assist me but she did! It wasn’t there!
She instructed me to go wait by the baggage claim carousel because sometimes the luggage comes in stages. Reluctantly, I listened and waited ten more minutes. Nothing happened. So, I entered the luggage claim line which didn’t appear to be moving and was long!!
Again, I stood next to a pleasant woman. We recounted our woes and experiences. Her’s was far more complex and long compared to mine. She flew in from Florida after cancellations and was now stuck in DC for two days because she couldn’t get on a flight to her destination… all booked up! She was pleasant to converse with while moving slower than snails. Jim, my husband, was in the cell lot waiting for my call to pick me up.
One hour later, I made it to the person behind the desk. I thanked him for working so hard. Everyone was not nice in this line!! Some were told their luggage was here in a warehouse. “It will take us 2-4 hours to bring it out to you!” They had a whole warehouse of luggage besides the mass sitting in baggage claim!! These people weren’t too happy.
The airline employee took my tag, put the numbers into his computer and said your luggage is at La Guardia, NY. No surprise! I replied they could deliver it to me. He said it could take up to 72 hours. I did not care. I was not coming back to the airport after I left. (We live 1 1/2 hours from this airport) I filled out the form, got all my printed materials and called my husband!
“COME GET ME!!!”
A few minutes later, about 1:30 PM, I was in my car and headed home. My homeless day was over. I would soon lay in my bed comforted by the pillow I longed for.
What did I learn?
1. Use the Airline App!
2. I will never wear shorts, skirts, or dresses on a plane! I wore jeans and froze. (Reminder: I am rarely cold!)
3. Put some sort of fabric in your duffel. I usually travel with a large scarf that can serve as a little blanket, especially on overseas flights. I won’t forget it again.
4. Keep your cell phone charged at the airport. You don’t know how much you may need it.
5. Buy a water bottle in the gate area. Normally, I do. I didn’t realize how it would be used if an overnight stay in the terminal happened. I could refill it when every business in the airport closed.
6. Sometimes, you end up homeless when you did NOT contribute to it!! It is beyond any decision you can/could make.
7. Kindness to others around you goes a long way in difficult circumstances. The flight attendant, Nick, and Kim made the process easier and, in a new way, combined to be an in-terminal support system for me.
8. Check out the options, then make the best logical decision for you. It can’t be predetermined, the components are unknown.
9. Don’t panic. Gather information.
10. Do what makes you comfortable. Everyone has different perimeters.
11. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS!! It’s uncomfortable, but it could be worse. I had a roof over my head, I wasn’t alone (that’s for sure), I made some friends and I had hope for the morning!
How about you… ever been homeless?
What did you learn?
Any airport woes for you this summer?
I have two more flights this summer. I have acquired some skills from this go round. Hopefully, I won’t have to use them! I am NOT flying the same airline!
No Longer Homeless,