On December 20th, 2012, at around 7:30 PM, I landed in Chicago from New York and met my Dad, who told me that we were not going to South America after all, as was planned. “Why?” I asked. I assumed something happened, like my brother was being punished or my parents were in a fight.
“The flight was cancelled due to bad weather… I’ll tell you about it later,” he said. Now, I looked outside, and it was hardly raining. Not bad weather as far as I know, and definitely not plane-grounding weather. He went on to tell me that our flight was the only one that was cancelled: the one before and after were both delayed, but still flying. Ours was cancelled, and there wasn’t another flight we could get on for the next 8 days; well after all of the things we had planned on the islands had expired. So my Dad and I took a solemn ride home from the airport, discussing what we were going to do next.
We got home, and I grabbed some dinner. It was possible we could finagle another flight somewhere else in South America, directly, and then go to the Galapagos. But there had been a freak volcano eruption and no planes were going in or out. The Universe, it seemed, was giving us a very strong nudge toward a vacation at home.
But just because the Universe gives an opinion doesn’t mean we have to abide by it.
So we threw around some other ideas. My dad had racked up a ridiculous amount of frequent-flier miles so literally anywhere in the world was a possibility. France was definitely on the table for a bit, as was Italy and London. My mom suggested, we could just fly to a really nice spa somewhere. But none of us could agree, and the idea of South America and the Galapagos Islands, especially now that it was forbidden fruit, was enticing.
My alternative bid was for France, since we have family and friends there and I’ve wanted to go back for a little while now. But a few minutes later I heard my Dad on the phone with some representative from American Airlines, saying something about extra tickets.
Turns out, there were four extra tickets to Miami but there were two catches. The first was that it flew out of Detroit, not Chicago, about four hours away by a car going an average of 70 mph. The second was that the flight was in about 6 hours. My dad hung up the phone and gave the instructions: pack your bags, we leave at half past midnight. By the time we left, it would be December 21st, 2012.
Here’s the third catch I forgot about: we have an all-electric car that can only go about 100 miles max before conking out. Detroit is about 260 miles away, so we need to rent a car. The only place we could get a car on such short notice, and abandon at short notice, was at the airport, 45 minutes away. So my dad, of course, gets in a taxi, and returns about an hour later with a rental car.
On the ride back he realizes the fourth catch: Detroit is an hour ahead. So we actually have about twenty minutes to leave, instead of an hour and twenty.
Oh, and catch five: my clothes are still in the washing machine, soaking wet.
What happened next was done in a style that would suggest we were running from someone with carceral power like the FBI: I jammed my soaking wet shirts, underwear, socks, pants, etc. into a small suitcase, not checking to see whether I packed enough of any one particular article of clothing, (I guess I gave my trust over to the universe for this one). We ran to the car at 11:30 PM, and drove through the dark, windy roads at a sustained 70 MPH and got to Detroit by 5:00AM, my dad driving the whole way. Upon arrival, my dad saw an airport worker and yelled “The car! Where do I park the car! I have to get to a plane! Where do I park the car!” The surprisingly patient man directed us and we swiftly ditched the car, grabbed our stuff, and hopped on a shuttle to the airport. We got our tickets and sat down on the plane, thanking whatever force that got us to Detroit on time.
The last thing I remember is my delirious father attempting to do a Google search for a nearby hotel in Miami we could sleep in during out 6 hour layover there. He typed in, “where is an airport in miami airport.” We took a picture of it.
I don’t remember the flight at all, but we landed in Miami around 9:30AM, and went straight to the hotel. While my parents were getting into bed, I was blow drying the soaking wet underwear in the bathroom. Eventually we all went to sleep.
We woke up at 3:30PM to get ready for our flight out to Quito, Ecuador. We’d spend a few days there and then head out to the Galapagos Islands.
We landed in Quito at 11:02 exactly, about five minutes ahead of schedule, and got to our hotel. We were staying in an old mansion where wealthy Spaniards once lived in the 1600s.
We went upstairs to our respective rooms, feeling the pull of the high altitude, and slept a good nights sleep.
Turns out, the end of the world didn’t happen (shocker), but there was certainly a change in sensibility with regard to my family’s collective consciousness: we now knew that when the universe pushes us in one direction, we have the power to push back if we so choose.