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2012 Winter Issue 4 (February 3, 2012)

From tears to triumph: reflections of a stranded traveler

February 3, 2012
By Maddy Crowell

We hadn’t slept for more than two hours. We’d spent the wee hours of the morning on a poorly heated bus back to Dublin, shivering cold and searching for some position comfortable enough to last the four-hour bus ride across misty green patches of grass. At four in the morning we arrived at the equally chilly airport.

Exhausted, hungry, and very dirty, we were anxious to arrive in Glasgow where fresh beds and showers and company awaited us. We had carefully saved for this part of the trip, and had been looking forward to it all week. Half-asleep, I handed the Ryanair man my boarding ticket and proudly showed him that yes, indeed, my bag fit properly into the little metal cage, and yes, I had followed all of Ryanair’s unnecessarily complicated directions.

After examining our boarding passes for a while, he informed us that we hadn’t gotten our boarding passes “stamped”.

I proudly displayed my “Ireland” stamp in my otherwise nearly-bare passport.

“No, you must get your boarding passes stamped because you are not a part of the European Union,” he said sternly.

Of the dozens of warnings given to us about following Ryanair procedures, this had not been mentioned.

“Can’t you just look at our passports?”

No.


“Can you make an exception? We’re clearly not doing any harm.”

No.

“Can you hold the plane for us?”

No.


Despite being tucked away in the smallest, most forgotten terminal of a huge, international airport, the Ryanair man told us that if we ran we might be able to make it. I realize now that he was just trying to get rid of us.

It was one of those situations where I found myself wishing I knew how to manipulate arbitrary authority or creatively keep the line stalled until our return. But I knew that no one wants to spend extra time waiting in an airport.

So we ran. Perhaps we knew it was a futile run, but needed to feel like we were accomplishing something. It felt a little like a movie, pushing past people and screaming, “Excuse me!” unnecessarily; we were the ex-convicts, the spies, the heroines. Or maybe we were just the naïve American girls who got pushed over by Ryanair

By the time we had exited security and frantically made it back to the front of the check-in line, even with the help of generous or perhaps terrified people who let us pass them, the plane had already taken off, our money that had been so carefully saved gone with it, and my hopes of seeing my friends living in Scotland gone too.

Anger boiling inside, we patiently stood in the Ryanair line to fix the problem. We would simply board the next plane; they would surely understand that it hadn’t been our fault.

An unsmiling woman sporting a tight Ryanair uniform stared at us. They must be trained to deal with confused Americans. “You missed your flight. There is nothing we can do. There’s another flight out later tonight, but it’s not to Glasgow, and it will cost you 100 Euros each.”

“But—“

“There is nothing we can do. You missed your flight.”
In line, I had told Alissa, who was more visibly angry than I, that I would do the talking, that we should not yell, that it wasn’t this woman’s fault.

But I had not anticipated such severity. I had not anticipated a final sentencing. I had not anticipated an it’s-your-fault-completely, there’s-nothing-we-can-do situation. I had never felt so helpless.

Seized by our anger, we slipped in a few curse words and some nationalistic pride at the Ryanair lady before it fully hit us that there was nothing we could do to change the situation. Finally we just walked away, dazed.
We went to the corner of the airport and sat down. I cried. We stared hopelessly at the ground. We both thought: we are not telling our parents about this.

As we sat, staring blankly at people rushing to catch flights, I noticed a large electronic screen above us, announcing times and flights to Chicago, New York, Seattle. I could just give up now, buy a ticket home, cut the trip short a week. The thought of a clean bed, free food, a comfortable home suddenly felt too enticing.
But somehow I knew, doing that would be admitting defeat, allowing the circumstances the world had thrust upon us to win. It was that thought, that lack of control I had in that moment that suddenly had morphed itself into an unexpected, uncovered, unsolicited freedom.

Or, a disguised freedom. It was hidden from us for a while, as we sat sulking over the impossibility of our situation, the terribleness of our lives at that moment, and how awfully foreign unfairness felt.

But gradually, the tears went away and an unforeseen gratification for the alternative appeared in their place. And so it became that nothing felt impossible anymore, and I began to wonder, what’s the worst that can happen?

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