I’ve always considered myself a very independent person, but sometimes my stress gets the best of me. From time to time, we all need to be pushed to our limits. Here’s the thing: sometimes stressful situations arise that we aren’t quite prepared for, especially when you are traveling. So how do you handle that? Here’s a hint – I didn’t do so well…
A couple of months ago, I had a flight from DC to Barcelona with a layover at London Heathrow. My company at the time had an office in Barcelona with some coworkers that I had met a number of times. For that reason, I felt completely safe traveling there on my own. My parents would be meeting me in Barcelona 4 days later.
Leading up to the trip, a lot of stressful events piled up including a few rounds of a tough interview process for a new job. Come May 10th, I hopped on a plane to London and unlike usual, I could not sleep on the overnight flight. I got into Heathrow around 6 am exhausted, hungry, and completely unprepared for the gauntlet that lay ahead.
First of all, if you’ve never been to the UK, the security there is about 20 times worse than what you encounter in the states. TIP: Even if you have just a layover, ALL your liquids and gels have to fit in a small Ziploc bag. Needless to say, I had to throw out a few things and endure standing in line for about an hour.
Once I finally got through security, I went to one of the priority pass lounges, got some coffee, water and a much needed pan au chocolate. Two hours later, I boarded the plane and much to my dismay, I did not pay the $18 to reserve a seat ahead of time and was stuck in a middle seat. That was fine, I put on some music and closed my eyes. Next thing I know, I start to feel extremely light-headed and I turn to the man sitting next to me and tell him that I think I might pass out. Five minutes later, I come to as the flight attendants are screaming “Ma’am! Ma’am!” with an oxygen mask shoved in my face. They then tell me that they have to turn the plane around and kick me off. So there I was, looking like hell, walking off the plane with an EMT and an oxygen mask as everyone stared probably thinking “thanks a lot”… or “I bet she had too much Pinot Noir on her overnight flight”…
The next three days were awful. I always knew airline employees didn’t care much for their customers but this just proved it. After I was pulled off the plane, I continued to feel light headed and was taken to the emergency room where there was a seven hour wait just to see a physician. Once I found out my blood work was normal, I asked if I could leave. What I really needed was water, food, and most of all sleep.
I got a hotel next to the airport and finally got some sleep (sort of). I’d wake up every hour or so in a panic thinking “I’m in a foreign country, alone!”. Only to go back to the airport the next day to find out that I needed a doctor’s note in order to be ordained something they called “fit to fly” in their pretentious British accents. By this time, I was at my ropes end. I burst into tears at the ticket counter and said “I need to get to Barcelona. I’m traveling alone. What do I do? Is my only option to go to the ER and wait for 7 hours?” The women behind the counter went to get her supervisor after several eye rolls and they gave me a number to a private physician. Five hours later, doctor’s note in hand, I checked into a second hotel.
Throughout this whole process, I called my husband every two hours and repeatedly told him that I couldn’t do this and he needed to come to London. He was about to do just that when I firmly decided “No. I can do this.” I purchased a first class ticket so that I could confirm I wouldn’t be stuck in a middle seat and that I’d actually get on a plane the next day. Apparently, I could only fly on certain flights because I had booked the trip using miles…
Needless to say, when I reached my final destination, and successfully did not pass out while we were taxying to take-off, I felt like I had just won some sort of medal. I think if I had given up and gone home, I would have felt defeated in some way. The thing is, shit happens (excuse my language), but it’s true. You can curl up in a ball and admit defeat, or pull yourself up by your bootstraps and show those airline employees who’s boss. I had made it and my parents came in the next day finally allowing me to relax.
P.S. Luckily, I was using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card so, I was able to get reimbursed for the food, hotels and doctor’s visit via their complimentary trip interruption insurance. Thank you, Chase!