My worst trip ever
(Apologies in advance for the length of this post – but in order to truly do justice to the story it had to be told in full).
Usually my travel fumblings are just harmless entertainment to those around me, resulting only in a bit of sweat and frustration. However, on one trip they really screwed me; I ended up in the airport in Austin, Texas starving and with absolutely no money.
But first the back story (since it serves as my long-winded excuse): I was travelling to a conference in Mexico City. It was September of
2008 2007 (losing track of time) and not a particularly good time in my life. A few months earlier my mom, after living in Canada for 16 years, made the difficult decision to move back to Finland. Her one-way flight left the same day as mine to Mexico.
In summary, I was a bit of a mess.
I arrived in Mexico City without trouble, but after standing at the luggage carousel for about an hour and seeing everyone else on my flight pick up their bags and leave, I finally had to concede that something was wrong. And it was – my bag was still in Austin where my flight had connected.
I could feel myself starting to fall apart at the luggage counter, the tears pushing their way out. The airport seemed insane, they were scribbling my info onto a little scrap of paper – how would they ever get me my bag? The employee seemed confident enough and sent me off with a number to call if my bag didn’t arrive the next day. I left the airport feeling completely helpless.
Right outside, a man – presumable an airport employee – hailed me a cab and then held out his hand for a tip. I hastily dug into my pocket and handed over a couple of unfamiliar coins without really seeing what they were through my tear-blurred eyes. Apparently they were not adequate – he yelled at me as the cab drove off. The tears escaped and started to roll down my cheeks.
I checked into my hotel and then set out to scavenge some basics. I managed to find contact solution, deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a cheese sandwich for dinner – literally a one-inch thick piece of cheese inside some bread. Vegetarianism is not a familiar concept in Mexico City.
My bag didn’t arrive the next day so I was forced to wander the streets again in search of supplies; the conference was starting that afternoon and I was wearing the grubbiest of pants and shoes that would not be helpful in advancing my career.
I found an H&M and bought some pants – they were wide-legged so would mostly cover my hideous shoes. I washed out my now disgustingly stinky socks and put them on the air conditioning unit to dry in some attempt to be presentable. It would have to do.
I couldn’t keep this up much longer though – my student budget could not afford to buy a new wardrobe.
Luckily I was reunited with my bag the next day. I did a pathetic little dance of joy and then hugged it for a long time. I’ve never been happier to see socks and underwear in my life.
Mexico City is an attack on the senses for anyone, let alone an emotionally distraught Canadian used to order and lots of space. This single city contains practically the entire population of Canada. I honestly tried to make the best of it but I still barely slept, ate poorly, and remained on the verge of tears at all times during my five-day stay.
To fully finish off my mental capacities, on the last night we had a conference dinner at this amazing old stone courtyard turned ballroom – and as it was Mexico, they brought around trays of tequila shots. Lots of trays with lots of shots. I was smart enough to take it easy – but it really doesn’t take a lot of tequila does it?
When I got to the airport the next morning, I had the brain power of a grapefruit. I had a several-hour layover in Austin, and immediately went in search of non-cheese based food. Unfortunately Texans also do not understand the concept of vegetarianism. After buying a magazine at a news-stand, I finally found myself a decent salad. With my mouth salivating at the checkout, I reached for my wallet – it wasn’t there. Cue panic.
Now while I do regularly forget my wallet/keys/cell phone at home, I actually rarely leave these things just lying around out in the world. My purse had been open with my wallet near the top, so it could have been stolen – in my weakened state, anything was possible.
I immediately traced my steps to the little news-stand where I last had my wallet. When I asked the clerks about it, they seemed baffled by the very idea of a “wallet” but eventually turned their heads around a couple of times to scan their immediate surroundings. I convinced them to check the back room as well, but I assume the glance was about as cursory as in the front.
No surprise, they didn’t find it. I don’t think they would have found their own feet to be honest.
Next, I hunted down the airport Lost and Found (which ironically was very hard to find), who were about as helpful as the news-stand and told me it might be turned in the next day. Thanks.
The only items of any value in my possession at this point were: a passport (thank god), a quarter of a Mars bar, and a barely functioning brain.
With that brain, I called John collect to get the number to cancel my Visa. Then I felt sorry for myself. I nibbled on my mushed Mars bar remnant, very aware that I had to ration it for at least the next eight hours. I scraped every bit of caramel off the wrapper.
Then my flight got delayed by three hours. Then another hour. I prayed that it wouldn’t get canceled, as many other flights were – if it did, I would have no choice but to sleep in the airport, starving. I thought I had felt helpless in Mexico without my things, but having no access to money felt far more vulnerable.
About 12 hours later I made it home.
At the airport John was there to pick me up, piece by piece, as I was finally allowed to fall apart.
The next day my mom called me from Finland to say my wallet had been found. Go ahead and read that again, I’ll wait.
Apparently it had been at the news-stand the whole time and eventually made it to the lost and found. The kindly ladies there had searched through my wallet and apparently the only thing they found with contact information was my mom’s business card. They called the company where she no longer worked who then called my mom in Finland who then called me in Vancouver.
They mailed me my wallet back.
I was happy not to travel for a while after that.