Worth every minute

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Tailgating!, originally uploaded by Aubs.

I’m a frequent flier. And by that I mean that I probably spend more time in a plane than I do in my apartment, and not only because it has a much better air conditioning system (then again, it’s competing against the lack of one entirely, so that’s not really saying a lot.) What is true, however, is that I travel a LOT.

Statistically, I’ve been lucky. With the frequency that I travel, you’d expect me to experience a lot more delays or cancellations than I do. Instead, I’m a high-status level brat whose main complaints include the "snack pack" on Delta flights (raisins and faux cheese is NOT enough sustenance for a 5 1/2 hour flight) and not getting upgraded to First Class every time. (Brat. I told you.) I know how lucky I am – any time I see the ominous red "Delayed" (or worse yet, "Cancelled") status message on the screen I give thanks that it’s not my flight. Brat, perhaps, but lucky brat at that.

Until this weekend. I was throwing a baby shower for one of my dearest friends in Raleigh, North Carolina, and I knew that getting there was going to be precarious. I had a 7am flight out of LAX, meaning that I had at least an hour drive ahead of me from the OC (no Seth Cohen sightings…yet) so a 3:45am wake-up time (wasn’t sure about traffic) was necessary. WHICH WAS FINE. The flight routed me through Cincinnati, got me to Raleigh at 4:15 with plenty of time to cook and clean and generally do all that needed to be done to prepare for the BEST BABY SHOWER EVER (TM). Only that’s not exactly what occurred.

For the first time in, um, ever, I was EARLY to the airport. I found parking relatively easily (!!) and was at the check-in by 5:30am, leaving me plenty of time to enjoy a greasy breakfast and buy a book or two.  Though when I checked in, it seems that my Cincinnati flight was delayed for two hours, thus getting me into Raleigh around 10pm at night. Which, frankly for this aforementioned frequent flier brat, was COMPLETELY UNACCEPTABLE. Which I kindly explained to the helpful agent who, pulling some strings, re-routed me through New York so I could arrive at 7pm instead.

First mistake. Don’t tempt fate.

Boarding the flight to JFK, I was a bit saddened to see that I missed the first class upgrade by one person (hey, asshole – whoever checked in instead of me? You suck.) but wasn’t that big of a deal since I basically slept the entire way. (3:45am wakeups make for a very sleepy Aubrey, especially when she’s sick as a dog and hasn’t been sleeping due to the worst cough in the universe.) I had just enough time to grab some food (see aforementioned comment on craptastic Snack Packs, with narsty PEPPERCORN faux-cheese to boot – grody), a glass of Pinot and make it to my gate to board my flight.

Second mistake: Don’t get complacent.

I got to the over-crowded gate, only to see that ALL of the flights out of JFK were either delayed or cancelled. Thankfully, mine fell into the "Delayed" category, a statement I never thought I’d make, but regardless of the time, I HAD to get to Raleigh that evening. What type of person throws a baby shower, has 25 people come in for it and then doesn’t show up herself? (Don’t answer that. Please.) So, 2 hours later, we finally board the plane only to hear that we would be on the tarmac for at least an hour since there were so many planes trying to fly out at once. Apparently, rain is not something JFK enjoys.

So we sit. And I read. And I call my friends (who can’t really understand me due to aforementioned cough/cold/laryingitis) but get the gist that I’ll be late. REALLY late. Better late than never, though.

Two hours later, the pilot announces that we had to go back to the gate to get more fuel – we were being routed around the storm and had waited there so long that we needed more. FINE. Fuel me up, baby, just get me the hell outta here. We head back to the gate, start to get fuel and then get the announcement that they apparently said "Fuck it" to our plane and alas, we were cancelled.

Cue hysterics…Aubrey is NOT in a good place right now. Sobbing, I call the prego friend (who was currently hosting my three other friends in town for dinner) and sob through the fact that not only do I not get to arrive on Friday evening and I had no idea when I *WOULD* be showing up. A tired, sick, grouchy, hungry Aubrey isn’t exactly emotionally stable, you know. In a surprising moment of clarity, I decided to call Delta directly from the plane instead of standing in the 100+ person line; they were able to get me on an 8am flight from LaGuardia the next morning, getting me into Raleigh at 10am, just in time to rush and get myself together for the shower. This, however, posed two problems: 1) I was in JFK. As were my bags. The flight on Saturday was from LGA. Just HOW I would obtain said bags was questionable. 2) Where the hell was I going to stay?

Cue hysterical Aubrey #2 when the gate agent tells me that my bags would arrive in Raleigh sometime within the next 48 hours. That’s well and good, I suppose, except I would only be in Raleigh for a grand total of 22 hours before I had to fly back here to the OC. Cue ANGRY, HYSTERICAL Aubrey (with a cold, so I’m basically just blubbering, making incomprehensible guttural sounds and shaking and crying. Let’s just say it wasn’t my finest moment.) Somehow, though, it worked…perhaps they were scared, but regardless, I was able to get someone to try and locate my bag. Granted, this took four attempts to find my RED bag from the cart labeled "RDU" and nearly two hours, but after all was said and done, they succeeded. I had clothes! And makeup! And a hairdryer! HURRAH!

What I *DIDN’T* have, at this point, was a place to stay. My cell phone was dying (though I kept charging it at random outlets around baggage claim) and being 9:30pm in NYC, most people were already out for the night. FINALLY, my amazing friends Harry and Alice were kind enough to offer me the floor of their new place, which – seriously – was heaven. I bartered with a gypsy cab driver, and with bags in tow, made it to the bar they were at for a quick drink before bed. I even got to see Denis (!!) who promptly fake-tattooed my arm (love ya, baby!) and two Stellas later, I was nearly able to realize that one day, this would eventually turn out to be a humorous story.

Fast forward to the next day. The flight was delayed (surprise, surprise), I dried my hair in the cab by sticking my head out the window en route to La Guardia then primped in the airport bathroom; changed in the car as I raced to the baby shower (only an hour late) and – Southern fashion propriety be damned – was bra-less and jean-clad for the shower (I won’t begin to discuss Self Tanning Disaster 2006, but suffice it to say that jeans have been the uniform for the past few days.)

It was a blast.

All the girls were there, Kelly looks amazing for 8 months pregnant, and the day was perfect. We went to the UNC game afterwards, even setting up the Tailgate of the Century; our team won, and we adopted a post-game tailgate to complete the evening. The best part, though, was getting to catch up with my girls; these women have been the sisters I’ve never had for the past 11 years. Some of them I’m lucky enough to talk to every day; others I get to catch up with a few times a year. And through all the things that have been going on with me lately – the indecision, the questioning of all that I know to be true, the fear of change and paralyzing anxiety that has plagued me as of late – I know that the 31 hour journey to No
rth Carolina was worth every minute to remind me of just what I’ve seem to have forgotten: Who I am, and what really matters. And – most importantly – WHO really matters.

You’re looking at ’em. I love you girls.

(More pics – and videos  for your viewing pleasure.)

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