Friday, March 27, 2015

My first airplane trip

Summer of 1985, my sister, Denise, was 12 and I was 15.  Not quite a kid, but hardly a savvy world traveller.  My brother Tim lived in St. Croix, USVI and my sister Theresa lived in NYC. My mom decided Denise and I should visit (how exactly they came up with the money I don’t know, but it was bargain basement air travel…). My only experience of airports had been picking up visiting relatives.

Denise, getting ready to board
One-way from LA to NYC on People’s Express for $100.  Uneventful. Theresa and her friends met us in NYC, we took our first subway ride, had a blast. The next day she delivered us to JFK for our flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico then onward to St. Croix.

When Denise and I arrived in San Juan, we had to change airlines to a small puddle jumper. Though PR is a US territory, it’s definitely a Latin American place and, despite growing up in a very Hispanic area of Los Angeles, seemed foreign. So, dragging our bags, we searched the airport for the airline counter and couldn’t find it.  Eventually we noticed the sign for that airline, but no one was at the counter. I asked the people in the counter next to it and was told “Oh, they went out of business.”  

Now would have been a good time to freak out, but I guess when you’re clueless, you don’t realize you should be freaking out.  

So what did that mean? The folks there had no idea, except, the airline no longer existed.
Tim and Denise at Grassy Point, East End, St Croix 

Somehow, I found a pay phone and called my brother. He had been notified of the airline’s situation and managed to arrange an alternative flight. So we trudged over to the new airline and made our way to St Croix.

First crisis over.

On the way back, our flight into JFK was delayed. We arrived in the international terminal (not sure why as we came via PR) to a crush of people pushing on the barricades. That was overwhelming, having never seen such a sight.

Again we had to change airlines for our onward flight to Ohio, where we’d meet the rest of our family and drive back to California.  Knowing we had very little time to make our connection and having no idea how these things worked, I told my 12 year old sister to get our luggage while I ran over to the ticket counter to tell them we had arrived and told her to meet me there.

At 12 years old.  In JFK. In the International Arrivals area (having since spent many hours in this area, WHAT WAS I THINKING?!)

And then Denise didn’t show up.

I waited. No Denise.

Finally the agent said they had to let the plane go, meanwhile I’m thinking “Holy crap! I sent my 12 yr old sister into the bowels of a crowded airport and I am responsible for her and what if something happened?”

Now’s an ok time to freak out.

And then she showed up, dragging our bags. I had never been so happy to see my sister in all my life.  Denise wasn’t the least bit scared, or worried.

Just pissed off. And calm, in her very-Denise way that involved looks of shooting daggers deep into my body.   

The US Airways agent, nicest man ever, then spent the next 2 hours trying to figure out how to get us to Cleveland, Ohio, where my other sister, Michele, would meet us.  My sister wasn’t in NYC at that time, so we couldn’t go to her place. There were no more flights out of JFK to anywhere in Ohio.

Finally, he found a flight out of La Guardia, leaving in less than 3 hours, but that required getting there. We had little money, no credit cards, no cell phones (it was 1985).

So we took a bus. In NYC.  The kindly agent said “HURRY!” So we rushed, and got on the wrong bus.

My brother Chris with Malinda and Ronnie's son, Scott.
Finally got on the right bus. Somehow made it to La Guardia in time, checked in, and got on our flight, arrived safely in Columbus, Ohio where our cousins Malinda and Ronnie picked us up and eventually delivered us to the rest of the Rohr Clan.

A lake in Holmes County. Buckhorn?

That was our first every trip via airplane.


gloriap said...

Back then, things were different. Today your parents would be charged with child endangerment. That being said, I know people who send youngish children to Europe frequently to visit relatives for the summer without incident.

Cherise said...

At 15, I'm not so sure. Anyone under 14 would have an FA escort through the whole process.

Our friends send their kids to Spain from CH every summer. Direct flight, the kids are used to it now and never hesitate. I don't like the idea of my kids traveling without me though.

Tim said...

I don't remember reading this. So glad you wrote it. Wish we could go back to 1985 and do life again ❤️

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