Needless to say, the day my husband booked his ticket was the very same day that the “storm” the weather forecasters were predicting for the East Coast suddenly metamorphosed into a novel weather term, aka a far-more-menacing-sounding “bomb cyclone.” Yup, seemingly as soon as his reservation was complete, the dire weather predictions simultaneously began to bombard the airwaves, to the exclusion of pretty much anything else.
I phoned my in-laws to inform them that my better half would, be’ezras Hashem, be attending this final bar mitzvah of all the grandsons on my husband’s side of the family. They were genuinely thrilled, but tempered their enthusiasm somewhat with a sobering reality check, “You know he’s flying right into a winter blizzard, right?”
Well, if we didn’t already, we sure were about to find out.
My husband threw a few items into his suitcase and hand luggage, and dug up his award winning sub-zero full-length coat (more like a navy spacesuit or insulated burqa), his warmest gloves, scarf and hat. Then he set his alarm for 4:30 a.m., to be ready in time for his scheduled flight at 7:30 a.m.
I awoke a few minutes before the alarm was set to go off, and, sure enough, my husband had an SMS alerting him to the fact that his continuing flight from Paris to JFK had been cancelled – and that the airline would do its utmost to reschedule him.
What to do? We weren’t exactly thinking at top capacity at that hour, to say the least. Upon determining that the airline would not reimburse the cost of his ticket AND that the snow in New York was expected to taper off after several hours, hubby decided to take his chances, and the flight to Paris.
Thus began a 48-hour marathon for both of us. His involving flights, car rentals, negotiations, luggage, freezing temps and cliff-hangers galore. And mine consisting almost entirely of staying at home and worrying. (And like the story of the bank heist on the “You Don’t Have to be Jewish” tape: He got the easy job, and I got the hard job!)
B’H, he made it to France safely and on time. So far so good.
However, the major snowstorm on the East Coast resulted in the cancellation of thousands of flights, leaving tens of thousands of passengers stranded and scrambling for alternate arrangements. The good news was that the airline provided overnight hotel accommodations for my husband in Paris, as well as overnight storage for his suitcase at the airport.
The bad news was that the following day was erev Shabbos! The bar mitzvah in New York was his secondary concern at that point. Spending Shabbos alone in Paris really held no appeal for him. Particularly after the most recent anti-Semitic incidents, regarding which we attempted (unsuccessfully) to see the lighter side, “At least it’s easy to identify the kosher establishments; they’re the ones with the swastikas!”
Our son-in-law, the lawyer, spent upwards of five hours speaking by phone to airline representatives, and after much trial and error, b”H, managed to get him a flight into JFK the following morning.
B’chasdei Hashem the New York area airports reopened at 7 a.m. on Friday, and my husband left Paris at 10:25 a.m. for his hard-won flight to JFK – sans his luggage, which could not be located and rerouted in the chaos that resulted from the multiple cancellations.
I was assigned the task of calling the rental car agency in New York, to make sure that they had not cancelled his pre-paid car rental reservation. After numerous calls that failed to connect, I finally reached their voice message which enlightened me that they were officially open for business from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m., which for me, in Eretz Yisrael erev Shabbos hours, translated into 3 p.m. at the earliest. Considering that licht bentching time was around 4:30, I was hyperventilating before I even started.
Sure enough, I had difficulty connecting once again, and on the rare occasions that I somehow managed to get through to their call menu, I spent some time on hold before unceremoniously being transferred to their voicemail!
I only ultimately managed to speak to a real live person after 4 p.m.! And that was the only positive aspect of the conversation! He explained to me that no-show reservations are automatically cancelled by their computer system, regardless of whether they were already paid for and/or weather-related extenuating circumstances. To add fuel to the fire, they were booked solid, with absolutely no cars available…
Definitely not the response I was hoping for, especially mere minutes before Shabbos. My son left a message on my husband’s phone, and I scrambled to wash the floors and load the hotplate before welcoming Shabbos.
After havdallah, we checked our phone and email, and were truly disappointed to find no updates whatsoever. But a flight arrival status lookup assured me that, b”H, my husband’s flight had landed in JFK, albeit some forty minutes behind schedule at nearly 2 p.m. We reluctantly went to bed hours later, when Shabbos was not yet over in New York, while we were effectively still very much in the dark.
Early Sunday morning, my e-mail shed some light on the mystery: He had, b”H, made it to the bar mitzvah, with a mere 20 minutes to spare until Shabbos commenced. So there were none of the usual S’s for him: No suitcase, no shower, no shave – Just SHABBOS, which despite all his hardships and inconveniences, he proclaimed to be absolutely beautiful.
He also mentioned that he had literally “never been so cold” in his life! It obviously helped that his sub-zero coat was still keeping his suitcase warm in Paris rather than performing that very necessary service for him in New York!
His brother loaned him some basic clothes (not sure whether that was before or after he quipped that the bacteria were keeping him warm), and he schlepped around, without his expected rental car, but always in good spirits.
Despite the snow and ice, not to mention the frigid temperatures, he somehow managed to get together with his beloved mother and stepfather and his wonderful siblings. He also arranged a get-together with most of our children and grandchildren on the East Coast, aka a true nachas fest.
His luggage was finally delivered to his brother’s home a few hours before he was scheduled to depart from JFK to Paris en route back to the Promised Land. That gave him just enough time to hang his bulky coat in his mother’s closet for future winter visits, to dig out the little gifts we had bought for our kids (that hopefully they can retrieve from Bubby’s house someday soon), and to stash the purchases that he was bringing back to Israel with him. In retrospect, as ironic and annoying as it was to pack and schlep all that clothing that was never worn, he was extremely grateful that his luggage was not among those damaged by a weather-related water main break in a terminal at JFK.
I am still counting down the hours until he, be’ezras Hashem, arrives back home, safe and sound, around midnight tonight.
But, like everything else in life, I already found a silver lining in his tumultuous roller coaster of a trip: From the sound of it, he will hardly be bringing home any dirty laundry!