PREPARE TO EXPLORE
Choose your own adventure travel blog
HAVANA, CUBA -- We were returning home from Cuba when it all started to go wrong. What was supposed to be a quick flight from Fort Lauderdale to Baltimore turned into a 48-hour ordeal that involved food poisoning, vomiting, a road trip with strangers and sleeping in an airport lobby.
Our week-long exploration of Havana was incredible. Everything seemed to just work out. We landed in Fort Lauderdale and were waiting for our Spirit flight back to Baltimore. We see the crew line up, but no one was allowed to board. As it turned out, the First Officer was late. Really late. Like 3 hours late. Then a very nervous woman made the announcement, our flight was cancelled. If we wanted to book another flight we would have to go to the ticket counters in the lobby -- about 100 yards away.
I looked at my wife and, without saying a word, we began sprinting. We got inthe line behind about 15 people on our flight but behind another hundred already waiting. We found out that HUNDREDS of Spirit flight were cancelled. Everyone was stranded. Within an hour, flights leaving were booked, hotels were full and there were few options.
Turning strangers into trip companions
When we made it to the counter, the Spirit employee said they didn't have any flights for us. An older woman -- maybe in her late 50s or early 60s -- and her 20-something son at the next counter were in the same situation. They were booking a flight into New Jersey for early the next morning and were going to rent a car and drive down to Baltimore.
I’m from New Jersey and my family still lives there. We decided to make it a foursome to split the costs of a car rental. We exchanged numbers and booked our plane tickets. Spirit was virtually no help. We found out later that there WERE flights out available, but they were on other airlines. So, not wanting to lose money, didn’t let us know of our options. Class acts.
And so the nightmare begins
Since all the hotels were booked and we weren’t allowed in the terminal, we had to sleep on chairs or the floor in the Fort Lauderdale Airport lobby. We received 1 free food voucher each. Only one shitty cafe was available to us. I got a sandwich. Abby got a chicken caesar salad.
It turned out that something was off about the salad. Abby -- my awesome, understanding wife -- was going to have to deal with this mess with food poisoning.
Abby was in rough shape. Her stomach was tumbling, she got the sweats, she was very weak and had to go to the bathroom constantly. We slept for maybe an hour in the airport lobby. When the time came we went through security and checked in for our early flight.
Her flight to New Jersey wasn’t much better. No sleep, bad stomach pains and the need to throw up were ever present.
We rent a Jeep. It had no working seat belts in the back and the fuel economy was garbage. Just the perfect vehicle for a 3 hour drive to Baltimore. Abby tried to rest. Me and the mom and son duo tried to make conversation. Talking about our Cuban trips -- and how none of us got sick from Cuban street food but my wife got sick from a salad.
About an hour from BWI, Abby springs awake and yells “Pull over right now!” I cross two lanes of traffic and pull over in front of a very busy interchange. Abby pulls her hair back and vomits. She goes to town. She vomits for a solid 20 seconds. I mean it is a lot.
The mom in the backseat cant help to flash her motherly instincts and sees if there’s anyway to help by struggling wife. There isn’t. She’s just got to get it out.
After she settles back in, we get back on the road. We drop off the mother and son in some place in Baltimore. And we head to BWI to pick up our car.
Dickhead bus driver
I hand in the keys to the rental car and head to where the buses are. We see that a BWI Long Term Parking bus is approaching. I waive him down. At this point Abby is barely hanging on. She is weak. She’s tired. She’s sick and she just wants everything to be over. The bus driver points to the bus stop about 30 yards behind us. So I start jogging to the bus stop, my wife not being able to keep up.
The bus driver stops at the bus stop and then just keeps going. He saw us about 10 yards behind the stop but he didn’t wait. I lose it. I start screaming. Cursing. I hadn’t slept in two days. I hadn’t had a real meal in 36 hours. My awesome trip was being ruined. I HATED that bus driver. And then I looked behind at Abby.
She was crying. Just a puddle. She could barely carry her luggage. She saw that I was very upset and just felt bad. She couldn’t help. I was carrying her bags at this point and she was just still so sick. Abby couldn’t put on a brave face. She was just so emotionally and physically spent.
Of course, seeing her like this, I got a boost of adrenaline. I ran over to her and hugged her. I put on my normally positive outlook. “Another bus is coming in a couple minutes. It’s no big deal. We’re going to be home soon.”
A few minutes later another bus arrived. We picked up our car and drove 90 minutes back home to Pennsylvania. We dropped our bags at the door and slept for 16 hours.
While it was the worst ending to a trip we’ve ever had, I did learn a few valuable lessons.
Hey! I'm Christian.