Nineteen Heinous Hours in L.A., Courtesy of Fate

Posted on
Nov 21, 2011

Rand thinks I’m overly superstitious. I, in turn, think that he’s constantly tempting fate into screwing with us.

Take the following scenario, which happens at least once a month:

Rand and I are driving to the airport. We are almost running late, but not quite. If we are able to keep up the miraculous average speed which we’ve attained, we’ll be fine. If not, we’ll have to engage in that awful sport, long forsaken by the Olympics:  The panicked running-to-the-gate dash (in this race THERE ARE NO WINNERS). As the surprisingly light traffic rushes along, Rand will often say something like,

“Man, I can’t believe how light traffic is.”

At which point I will scream like mad woman, because really, WHY WOULD YOU EVER SAY THAT?

He has to know how physics and the universe works, right? The second you say something like that, the exact opposite will happen. Comment on light traffic, and you will find yourself in a parking lot in the middle of I-5. Make a crack about how you can’t believe that the dress you wore to last year’s holiday party still miraculously fits, and you will instantly gain 15 pounds (I’ve seen it happen. TO ME) It’s not luck. It’s science.

If you need more proof, ask Jodi Ettenberg about how many times she’s been pooped on by birds (current tally: 11 birds, 1 bat). Rumor has it that every time she begins to tell the story, another winged animal drops a bomb on her. SCIENCE.

It’s simple: tempt fate, and you will pay for it. This phenomenon is why the disastrous events of last weekend are utterly and completely my fault.

Rand and I were headed to Los Angeles for the weekend. He was going to be speaking at the Foodista food bloggers conference, and I, rather eagerly, was tagging along. Because Rand also had business in San Francisco, he was going to fly into SFO, spend the day there, and then meet me in LAX (I’d be taking a direct flight there from Seattle) that night. Multiple steps were involved, but it would be easy, right?

No. Of course not. Had it been easy, the story wouldn’t be worth telling.

At some point, as I was driving towards SeaTac airport, I quietly thought to myself how smoothly things were going. Even though traffic that day was heinous, I’d managed to miss a lot of it. My semi-unreliable car was driving quickly down the street. I realized how lucky Rand and I were when it came to travel. We never rarely miss a flight. We never get delayed, never have to sit on the tarmac for hours, watching our youth pass us by. And even with my delicate (read: wimpy) constitution, I’d managed to not get sick on the road in ages. It was really and truly a miracle!

No sooner had these words entered my mind that I realized: I’d doomed us. Doomed us good.

And I’d brought it on myself. I’d tempted fate. Hung my bare butt in front of her and screamed, “GO AHEAD, FATE. TAKE A BIG JUICY BITE.”

And she did. The next nineteen hours were … well … here’s how the next nineteen hours went:

5:00 pm: Because veggies are scarce on planes, I decide that it’s a good idea to eat a salad from the airport. You know the part where Romeo takes the poison, and you find yourself screaming “NO!” even though it’s inevitable? When I recall that salad, it’s kind of like that.

6:00-9:00 pm: Flight is incredibly bumpy as a result of storms up and down the coast. Inflight service is cancelled, and the little light indicating you may now make a rush for the lavatory never goes off. The “salad” is not sitting well.

9:30 pm: Land in L.A., motion sickness clouding my mind like the smog does the city. Stumble into a cab. Instruct driver to take me to a supposedly nearby restaurant, where my brother and sister-in-law were hanging out with some friends, including my pal Katie, who I’ve known since the fifth grade.

9:45 pm: Riding in cab, Rand calls. His delayed Delta flight has now been cancelled. He must get a hotel out of pocket (the airline won’t pay for weather-related cancellations) and fly out on an American Airlines flight early tomorrow.

10:00 pm: I finally arrive at the restaurant and find that I have been ripped off by the driver. He’d taken me the long route – the very long route, and my fare is $30 pricier than it should have been. Plus, I spent another 15 minutes in a moving car. I regret not barfing in his vehicle.

10:15 pm: In a shocking lack of critical thinking, I decide that nachos are the best way to soothe my stomach.

10:30 pm: They are not.

10:45 pm: I discover that no one bats an eye when they hear someone retching in a toilet in L.A.

11:00 pm: Katie loads me into her car to take me to my hotel.

11:05 pm: En route to the hotel, I calmly insist that Katie pull over immediately or face having her lovely Mercedes defiled.

11:05 pm and 30 seconds: Like, IMMEDIATELY, Katie.

11:05 pm and 50 seconds: Think about how Katie is a rather skilled driver (safely crossing three lanes of traffic in Los Angeles) as I deposit what little contents of my stomach remain onto a Santa Monica sidewalk.

11:06 pm: Ewwwwwwwwwwwwwwww. I’m lucky Katie is a middle school science teacher. She doesn’t seem that grossed out.

11:07 pm: Seeing me vomit for the second time in less than an hour, Katie decides to spend the night with me so I won’t be alone. Old friends have terrible logic. It’s wonderful, really.

Katie and I the next night. Despite feeling better, I continue to make the "barfy face." I shouldn't do that in L.A. - I might get discovered. -

11:20 pm: Katie and I arrive at the hotel. Miraculously, they allow us to check in, despite the fact that neither of us appears to be Rand Fishkin (the name on the reservation).

11:21 pm: In what would normally be a gracious gesture, the clerk at the front desk hands me a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie. I am disgusted. WHAT HAS BECOME OF ME?

11:27 pm:  I stumble (and Katie walks) to our hotel room. As I press my cheek to against the cool seat of the hotel toilet and reflect upon my life (which I assume is about to end), I think of all the mistakes I’ve made. Most notably, eating that goddamn airport salad.

2:00 am: Katie can’t sleep because (I’m postulating) she consumes roughly 3 gallons of coffee a day. I can’t sleep because my body is full of poison. She begins to tell me ghost stories. I politely inform her that I am never sleeping again.

3:00 am: I manage to fall asleep. No one is more surprised than I.

6:00 am: Rand heads to SFO (while I am still asleep in L.A.)

6:30 am: My husband is informed that the seat that Delta secured him on an American Airlines flight (after they delayed and then cancelled his first flight) has been given to someone else. They cannot get him on another flight until that evening.

7:00 am: Rand runs over to the Virgin Atlantic counter, and manages to get on a flight headed out that morning.

7:30 am: He barely boards in time.

7:45 am: It doesn’t matter anyway, because the plane can’t take off. It was originally destined for Newark, and has too much fuel to safely land in Los Angeles.

8:00 am: Rand and his fellow passengers disembark, and wait for another plane.

8:15 am: I wake up in Los Angeles and read my husband’s tweets. I wonder if we will ever see eachother again.

8:30 am: Rand sends me a text. Virgin was able to secure another plane and they’re getting ready to leave! He’s going to make it to L.A.! We are both in a subtle state of disbelief.

8:40 pm: … Aaaand with good reason. Rand’s plane makes it to the runway before they are forced to head back to the gate. The plane has a sewage problem.

8:45 pm: Quietly accept that Rand is just going to have to live in San Francisco International Airport forever. I wonder how much money I can get from selling his clothes.

8:50 pm: Apparently Virgin is able to fix the sewage problem, but they need to shut off power to the plane first. Rand tweets the following photo. It does not instill me with confidence.

"This is your captain speaking ... through a bullhorn." Since the power was off, they couldn't use the PA.

11:00 am: Rand lands in L.A. No, seriously. He makes it to L.A. safe and sound. Katie and I pick him up from the airport, and I don’t throw up. Not even a little bit.

11:30 am: We head to breakfast with my brother and sister-in-law. I am feeling so much better than the night before, I order two servings of pancakes. The waitress stares blankly at me, as though no one in Los Angeles has ever done this before BECAUSE THEY PROBABLY HAVEN’T. But I’ll be damned if I’m eating another salad.

12 noon: I look lovingly around the table at my friends and family, and slightly more lovingly at my second order of pancakes. All is right in the world, and I can’t believe how much better things are at that moment than they have been in hours. But there is no way I am saying that out loud. In fact, I’m going to try to not even think it. I’ve learned my lesson.

So, that’s my tale of nineteen heinous hours, courtesy of the twisted hand of fate. Fortunately, since we just went through an ordeal like that, odds are we won’t have to deal with anything like that again for absolutely ages and …

Crap. I just did it again, huh? I’m going to contemplate what exactly is wrong with me over another pile of pancakes.

Leave a Comment

  • Janet T

    Oh baby, I feel for you. After living thru hours of food poisoning hell, I had to fly back from the Virgin Islands to Portland (OR)- it was like a 37 hour trip (ok, maybe it just seemed that way)

    Fate- damn that bitch! Can’t she get a life of her own?? I never ask “ what else can happen?”- She has a way of showing you exactly how bad things can get. No, I tend to be humble and keep my head down (hopefully not in a toilet)

    I’m glad you have awesome friends all over to take care of you. I think the lesson I take away from this is………..pancakes can solve all problems. (and salads are evil)

    • Everywhereist

      Yup. Lesson learned. Never eating salad again. 🙂

  • this reminds my of my friend erika, who keeps a stick in her car so she can knock on wood. Every time I’m in her car and try to look in the visor mirror the stick falls in my face.

  • I’m not superstitious either, but the “announcer jinx” in football is indisputable. For example, if your team has to make a critical field goal, the last thing you want the announcer to say is “This guy never misses from this distance.” My reaction is essentially identical to yours.

    • Everywhereist

      Asher – it is SO weird that you bring that up, because not only do I have that same reaction before every single field goal, it’s actually what prompted this post. I realized that like Al Michaels has jinxed so many kickers, I’d jinxed myself. 🙂

  • Holy cow, what a set of hours!

    And I totally agree with the science of “I can’t believe this dress fits!” BOOM. 10 pounds. Total cause and effect.

    • Everywhereist

      Right? I asked for it. 🙂

  • Christine

    Hooray for Katie! She is awesome.

    On another note, your reference to the cool comfort of the toilet bowl reminded me of Bill Cosby’s take on drunk people throwing up after a weekend evening partying. “I love you toilet bowl. Nobody understands me but you.”

    • Everywhereist

      You totally came up when we started reminiscing about dissecting fetal pigs in 7th grade (you were Katie’s lab partner).

  • Dena

    Every day, driving to work, I f*ck myself. Can’t help the thought that creeps in, “I bet I catch every damn light again today”… And I catch every damn light *and* get stuck in construction traffic. Science? Telepathy? Sorry you had to love on the public toilet. That just gave me an uncomfortable shiver!

  • Nida

    I guess its most probably the THEORY OF RELATIVITY working its magic here rather than in space :). Like the moment u switch lanes on road thinking the other ones are faster, U manage to land yourself in the slowest lane. Awaiting your favorite show on t.v with nothing else to do..and the moment that show starts on your screen, you get caught in the most unimaginable INEVITABLE urgent errands from nowhere. That’s relativity at the hands of fate!

  • Thank you for making me pee my pants. I love reading your ramblings!

  • Oh lady, I’m so sorry about your 19 hours of hell. I’m also a big proponent of STFU about traffic/weather/anything until we actually arrive unscathed and you don’t tempt fate into doing a 180 with your OH SO CASUAL mention of how things are going well. While driving through Morocco on a curiously terrifying 1-lane highway w/ a friend, he said “so great that there’s no incoming traffic” and I was like NNOOOOOOOO! And sure enough, moments later, several huge trucks were barrelling toward us. For the record, it’s now 12 birds and a bat, but I have not updated the crap counter. However, I did make it through Essaouria’s seagull gauntlet unscathed, which only means that I’m going to get crapped on imminently. Hope you’re fully recovered!

  • Petra

    I didn’t know the meaning of the word “Heinous” when I read the title of your story. After reading it I will never ever forget it ;-).
    I guess you did recover (hopefully), because you can report us the whole desaster with your great humor!

  • Just so you know. Things could have been worse. You could have gone to LA safe and sound, and we could have missed such a great post.

  • Oh God, this story. I’m torn between laughing at your sarcasm throughout telling it and cringing because I know EXACTLY how you feel! I made the mistake of eating a chicken sandwich at 3am from some sketchy airport place and just hours later embarked on a 5 hour plane ride (FROM HELL) where I proceeded to be food poisoned the entire time. Needless to say I was dragged through Mexican customs (somehow) and slept through my entire first day there. Girl, I feel your pain. Just thank your lucky stars it’s OVER and warn every person you know to never eat before getting on a plane. Serious.

  • Vivianne

    Poor thing! I can commiserate because I’ve been sick all over the world — fainted in Morocco (missed Casablanca because of it), threw up copiously in beautiful castle gardens in the Loire, caught some horrific bug somewhere between Milan and Venice that left me barfing over the Alps and sick back in the USA for four months straight (almost failed my first semester of college because of it!)…etc. There’s no rhyme or reason; strangely, I sailed on a dirty sailboat up the Nile for a week one July, passing by the floating bodies of dead farm animals along the way, and came through unscathed!

  • Dan

    I gotta say,,, this reminds me of a BOS-MSP-PHX trip that I had to take for work,, this was a couple years ago when Northwest was still their own airline,, but also a part of delta.

    I had never ever flown NW before,, but since I could now get my Delta medallion upgrades and such,, I headed off to PHX on NW. They served a mexican chicken fajita in first on the BOS-MSP leg,,, all was good,, and it was actually a pretty tasty meal.

    All is well,, I get through MSP,, but started to feel slightly sick when I got on my connecting flight.

    OMG little did I know i’d have a 3.5 hour flight from hell. Thank god I was seated in 1C,, and without anyone next to me,, needless to say,, I was the only one who used the F bathroom the entire flight,, the first class flight attendant that was on that flight,, and I are still friends to this day.,, then the poor super shuttle driver was worried i’d hurl all over his van,, and actually pulled over on the side of a busy PHX highway to let me empty some more contents..

    I definitely know your feeling

    • Everywhereist

      The only thing that would have made that story better? “I married that flight attendant.”

      • I suppose that would have been an amazing travel love story huh?

        On a side note,, I stumbled upon your blog over the weekend,, and damn,, you are hilarious. A few of my coworkers and I just LOVED the “Open Letter” story from the other day.

        • Everywhereist

          Aw, thanks, Dan. 🙂 I’m so glad you like the site. I will try to maintain higher levels of hilarity for you guys. 🙂

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