Guest Blogger: Robert Karl on Holiday Travel

My nephew Robert has had the amazing opportunity to spend a high school semester in Washington DC. Since the fall he has served Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle as a Senate Page. His lifestyle sure has changed. From a teenager attending a high school where the first period bell rings at about 8am to waking before the sunrises to be in school at 5am in Washington. By 10am he is in the Senate Chambers in our nations capitol serving the needs of Senate leaders. I was very excited when he called to tell me that he would visit and spend the holidays with me in California. With temperatures sub-freezing perhaps the incentive had more to do with good weather than anything else. But I’m sure a couple weeks with Uncle Allan would serve him well.

But when he called me on the way to the airport I was a bit concerned that he didn’t remember his flight information nor did he have a printed copy of his itinerary. There are pros and cons to e-tickets. But for this young man perhaps e-tickes are just a bit too convenient.

His holiday travel story could rival many top ten lists of any 16 year old — or anyone for that matter. I fielded no less than a dozen calls from Robert as he made his way across our great country. And with each ring of my phone the story got more bizarre, unbelievable and frankly, funny.

I’ll let Robert my guest blogger share it in his own words. ANd if you have other stories, leave a comment at the bottom of this post and we’ll post a follow up!


Guest Blogger: Robert Karl

Home: Rapid City, SD

Age: 16

December 18 started off as a great day for traveling. My trip started out from McLean, VA at my Uncle Jon s house. When Jon dropped me off at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., my other uncle, Allan Karl, was on the phone telling me about my flight plan.

“Your first flight is number 617 to Chicago. That s the area code for Boston.”

What? What is this crazy man talking about?

“The planes that hit the World Trade Center left from Boston.” His voice had an oddly jovial tone to it. “Your second flight is number 1109 to Orange County. That s 9/11 backwards.”

What an omen. “Have a good trip!” I shrugged off the conversation and went on with my journey.

My plane ride from Reagan to Chicago was uneventful. Flight 617 landed on time at Chicago O’Hare; the time was about 2:00. I had a few hours to kill. As it turned out, I spent about 6 hours in Illinois. Our plane was having “mechanical difficulties,” so they suspended our flight indefinitely. I heard the attendants talking about a plane being diverted. What was the real problem? The world may never know. At this point I found a comfortable seat and bought some magazines.

Our plane finally left at 8:30. This presented another problem because of the curfew John Wayne Airport has at 11 PM. The flight from Chicago to Orange County takes about 3 hours.

One lady who boarded the plane in front of me was pregnant and on medication for contractions; she was shivering and covered with blankets. Her husband was desperately trying to convince the flight attendants to open John Wayne Airport, just as long as they needed until we could land. I realized I really couldn t feel too bad for myself. The pilot came on the intercom after we had been sitting at the gate for about half an hour, which is quite a long time for a plane trying to make a curfew. He informed us that the flight crew was trying to get a curfew extension until 11:20. If we couldn t make that, we would be diverted to Los Angeles and bussed down to Orange County.

At 11:45 PM we landed at LAX and the crew of flight 1109 told us to go to baggage claim 7-2, grab our luggage, and head to the curb where the bus would be waiting for us. I found baggage carousel 2 in an area vaguely marked 7. I saw people from my plane, so I settled down for a minute to wait for our baggage. After an hour, a short Hispanic looking man appeared and spoke to us.

“There was no baggage on the plane. We are sorry, you can fill out paperwork here or in Orange County.”

That s great. A choice! Nobody is in Orange County, it s past curfew. And our luggage isn t even at LAX. At this point, I was feeling pretty tired. I just got on the bus after that announcement. When I got to Orange County, surely somebody else would be able to think for me.

Our bus left LAX at 1:30 AM. Finally, I was on the last leg home. I curled up on the back seat of the bus and tried to sleep. What a day I had been through. Weird flight numbers, lost luggage, diverted flights, 6 hour delays. What else could go wrong?

At about this point our driver slammed on the brakes. I felt a collision and was thrown against the seat in front of me. When I fully came back to reality, I looked out the window and saw a black BMW sitting in the middle of the highway, completely demolished. I remember seeing that the rear wheel was gone and the front was bent at a strange angle. A car streaked by and slammed into the car again. It looked like this second car was going about 40 or 50 miles per hour, that’s not a fun collision. A few seconds later more cars sped by faster, maybe at 60 or 70 mph. They barely missed or just scraped the wreck that I could see. After a few minutes, cars stopped colliding and traffic was proceding past my vantage point in a slower, more orderly fashion.

As you can imagine, this was a huge hassle. I could see a helicopter with a searchlight circling. Cops took over the scene, fire trucks and ambulances arrived. The driver kept us updated with our situation. At 2:00, he told us the new bus would be at the scene in ten minutes. A police officer came onto the bus to take down the addresses of everyone who was on board. By 2:40, we were on our way in a second, more cramped, bus from the airport. Eventually I did arrive at John Wayne Airport. After dealing with major mechanical delays, lost luggage, bus accidents and curfews, little could have made for a worse day.

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