Thursday, June 13, 2024

The Nightmarish Experience I Had on The 4th of July

It made me promise never to travel on that day

Photo by Marissa Grootes on Unsplash

A few years ago, we planned a trip to the USA from Amsterdam to meet my sister and her family. By us I mean, my husband, I, and our five-year-old daughter.

On the 3rd of July, we hopped on the train from Amsterdam to Berlin. But before I go on to elaborate on the nightmare, let me give you a bit of history about the planning.

For those who don’t know what’s so special about July 4th — it’s America’s independence day.

Last-minute travel deal

It was a last-minute plan right before the summer vacation started, so we had a hard time finding a good deal. But luckily, I found a great deal offered by Delta airlines.

It was too good to be true — just 400 Euros per head for a return trip. Except, it wasn’t from Amsterdam. It was from Berlin. It was also not to Detroit, which was supposed to be our final destination, but it was to Chicago.

We calculated the cost of a direct flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, and it was going to be at least four times higher.

Now with such a great last-minute deal, we thought we could just buy a train ticket from Amsterdam to Berlin, stay in a hotel overnight and catch the flight the next morning.

Our final destination was a small town in Michigan, which is around 2 hours from Detroit and 5 hours from Chicago by car.

My brother-in-law decided to pick us up from the Chicago airport.

Now, the flight was not directly from Berlin to Chicago. With 400 Euros, Delta kind of gave us a world tour — it was Berlin to Paris, to Atlanta, and then finally to Chicago.

The 3rd of July

So, on the 3rd of July, after our daughter’s school ended, we walked to the station with all our big suitcases in tow, all excited that it was finally happening, and hopped on the train from Amsterdam.

Now, it sounded strange that we would have to go to Berlin to come back to Paris next week. But trust me, I have searched high and low to find a deal directly from Paris itself, so that we didn’t have to go all the way to the opposite direction, with no luck.

After the initial excitement and the jolly mood that we had, we settled down to order food, and then suddenly the train stopped, for no apparent reason, and didn’t move for at least 30 minutes.

Then we heard the announcement that the air conditioning in some of the compartments was not working and hence this delay. The windows can’t be opened, and without air conditioning, and in that heat, it was almost suffocating.

But because it was a German train, so only the German engineers can handle it and that has to happen on the German side.

So we crossed the German border and stopped at the first stop, called Bad Bentheim. The train station seemed to be in the middle of nowhere and the train just stopped this time without any sign of further movement.

Panic had started to set in.

We heard announcements of the train not going any further and all the passengers started creating a raucous — because, well, everything was so doubtful. We didn’t know now if there was any possibility to find a place to stay for the night, let aside catching the flight the following day.

The passenger in front of us got down with his luggage but forgot to take his suit. It’s funny now that I think about it, that amidst all this panic, I was also worried about his suit.

After an hour or two he suddenly came back and went back to his seat as if nothing had happened. I felt relieved to see him.

After a lot of debate on what was going to happen and what felt like an eternity, we heard the announcement that the train will move to at least Hannover, which is a bigger place, and we could find more options.

At Hannover, again the train stopped for inspection and further repair. But this time we heard the announcement that the train will perhaps continue to its destination Berlin after all.

After many hours of waiting, the train started moving again and we finally reached Berlin in the middle of the night.

The 4th of July

The flight from the Berlin international airport to Paris was right on time. We felt so relieved that finally the small hiccup with the train journey was over and now things are moving fine.

However, our flight from Paris started getting delayed and delayed. We had a three-hour-long layover in Atlanta for our connecting flight to Chicago. Now it seemed difficult.

We had also booked a hotel for the night in Chicago because my brother-in-law would drive all the way from Michigan and we would have a long journey too. So we wanted to rest for the night.

After a five-hour delay, we finally boarded the flight. Now it seemed impossible to catch the connecting flight to Chicago. But we didn’t have the time to cancel that hotel anymore.

The nightmare continued

We arrived at Atlanta airport without any more incidences. Unfortunately, two Boeing 747 (or was it an Airbus A330?) by Delta arrived late, and both were around the same time.

It took us a hell lot of time to get our luggage. When we arrived at baggage checking, I just remembered we had a couple of apples left over from the airplane and right now there’s no way to throw them.

So we had to go back to the agriculture check.

After all these hurdles, when we arrived at the immigration counters, there were thousands of people ahead of us in the queue (it seemed like a million people).

After we got through the immigration and customs, there was another huge line for accommodation and change in connecting flights for all those who missed their connecting flights.

The airport had already closed by now, the airport personnel left us sandwiches and water for free.

It took us a few hours (yes, you read it right) to reach the front, but right before it was our turn, our daughter had to pee.

I rushed to the toilet with her and came back to hear the bad news that there was no more room left and we were on our own. At this point in time, I felt like strangling anyone who came near me.

I argued and fought with my husband that why he couldn’t insist that if they can’t find a room for us, what are we going to do with a small child in tow.

We were already jetlagged. And at this point time, our daughter, who has shown enough patience after enduring such a terrible journey, since the day before, started shedding tears quietly, wondering if we were stuck in a closed airport.

We had a friend living in Atlanta, but we didn’t inform them before coming and it was the 4th of July night, didn’t think it would be right to give them a call out of a blue.

And please understand, I am talking about 2015 when a smartphone was not yet common household stuff. We managed to contact my sister and requested her to book a room for us in Atlanta.

The night is still young

Our nightmare didn’t stop at that. I was about to realize soon what lay ahead of us. But for today, I plan to stop so as not to make this story overwhelming, as I was feeling at that time.

Please come back to the next part, if you liked it so far.

To be continued…

And what about you? Do you have any similar experiences? I would love to know. Please leave your experiences in the comments section, or if you wish to write a new article, please tag me as well so that I don’t miss out on your experience.

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