All I wanted for Christmas was my two front seats.

By Chere B. Estrin

Flightmare. If you got caught up in it, my sympathies! With thousands and thousands of weary travelers serious victims of the blizzard, ice or even Southwest, the holidays were dreadful.

Can I vent for just a moment? For those of you still stuck at airports, in cities you know nothing about, sleeping in the airport, staying in hotels you can’t afford, or trying to take a train, plane or automobile, hang in there.

My wonderful husband and I headed out for a fantastic holiday vacation with our kids. But getting there required patience, humor and yes, lots of extra dollars we didn’t need to spend. What happened?

Here’s the story (as I remember it). We arrived at the airport on time. I braced myself. First of all, I always have a problem getting through TSA’s metal detectors. No matter what I do, I have no idea why I set the alarm off. This, mind you, takes an extra 15 minutes of precious “getting to the gate” time. I get patted down in front of hundreds of people and pretend I really don’t mind that the TSA agent is lightly but definitely, touching private parts. Hey, I’m cool. I asked the agent why on earth do I set this dang alarm off each and every time. Here’s a revelation: too much wire in my minimizing, uplifting, guaranteed to make you look thinner, bra. Who knew?

The flight is delayed for hours because of mechanical problems. We asked the airline to hold our connecting flight for us but it seems like we just were not important enough customers. Hello? Did we say paying customers? We managed to make it to San Francisco but missed the connecting flight to our dream vacation in exotic land. Although, our luggage seemed to have no problem making it there before us and was sitting somewhere in the depths of mishandled luggage in a city we were not in. 

Looking around at the chaotic scene at the airport, we decided that sleeping on the cold, tile floor in the middle of one of the busiest airports in the country was just not that appealing. Besides, sleeping with my head on my carry-on bag without my jammies just didn’t seem like the way I wanted to kick off our vacation. And no, the airline did not offer to put us up in a crummy hotel, give us a teeny- white plastic toothbrush good for brushing just your uppers, (it falls apart if you want to include the lowers), along with a comb right out of 1953 and a meal voucher for two for $25.00. At least, not at that time. 

Getting a hotel room at the last minute in the middle of a blizzard took an act of the travel gods. Finally, we find a hotel room for thousands of dollars (ok, that’s an exaggeration). Clearly, someone was taking advantage of us. But, being the troopers we are, we bit the bullet. Of course, that was a bit difficult given we had no luggage, no extra clothes and the most important thing of all, no makeup. God forbid, I should be out in public without makeup. (It’s a woman thing.)

We made the best of it. We discovered at the hotel, we had no room service, so Dash something brought us a pizza. There went my weight control issue. And there were other concerns.  I kept worrying. What about all my email? How could I be out of touch for this long? My new iPhone xx with the fancy doodads kept running out of power. When are they going to give up on batteries? Certainly, the battery industry has us by our toenails. (I oughta invent something and go on Shark Tank.)

Finally, we get on the hereto previously connecting flight the next day and have the most turbulent ride the airline has ever seen. So much for the meal they don’t serve. Not even a pretzel. We don’t land at our destination. We land hundreds of miles away. Ok, we think, at least we are in proximity. Yet, another night spent in nowheresville and we are good to go. Now, we have lost 3 days of our vacation. Plus, I am again worried about our clients. When the heck am I going to read all my emails? More importantly, when am I going to learn to relax? Surely, not on this trip.

And then it happens. We get to our final destination, tired, grumpy, grossly in need of a shower, wearing yesterday’s clothes (and underwear – TMI, I know). We have the most fantastic vacation with the kids. And then, groundhog day. 

Five hour layovers. Delayed flights. This time, I am determined not to set off the metal detector. Won’t have it. So, I go into the women’s room, take off my bra and shove it in my purse. That way, I thought, I’ll have cleverly put the purse on the conveyer belt and it will sail right through. Only, that’s not what happened. Instead, it goes through the scanner alerting security and the TSA agent says, “Do you mind if I open your purse?” What? Of course, I mind if he opens my purse. I say sure, go ahead and he opens my purse. He pulls out my minimizing, uplifting, guaranteed to make you thinner, size 44D bra and says, “What’s this?” “What’s this???”  What the heck do you think it is? Actually, this was more embarrassing than getting patted down in front of hundreds of people. I tell him it’s a gift for my mother and oddly enough, he seems to accept that and waives me through. 

In the meantime, there are lines and lines of passengers everywhere.  Didn’t we see this before?. We had reserved the first two seats behind the bulkhead and the airline coldly tells us our seats have been bumped. Yep. Don’t think for one moment that they bumped us up to first class. Oh, no. These are the economy seats that are 13” wide. 13 inches???? You can’t be serious. My toochee missed 13” as it rapidly spread out over the years. We paid extra money to upgrade only to find out we are getting put back in the storage compartment – the one right next to the bathroom, last seats in the back of the plane.  We figure, (again, the good troopers we are), at least we’re going home. Or, are we?

Another turbulent ride. We’re the lucky ones who get the substitute pilot who gets on the PA system and announces to 363 uncomfortably seated passengers squeezed into seats made for babies that he is really not a regular pilot, he is the supervisor in charge of safety. He’s just sitting in for another pilot who had the flu. Oh, yeah. Safety. Great. He tells the flight attendants not to serve meals because of upcoming, anticipated turbulence and to stay in their jump seats the entire flight. Of course, just at that moment, my hunger button goes off. I dig into my purse and find old saltines, an Altoid and a cough drop. I offer to share with my husband who gives me, you know, one of “those looks”. Fine. I’ll enjoy my meal myself. Don’t say I didn’t offer. 

Another six hours slowly inch by and the captain announces, “buckle your seatbelts” (like, I took mine off), we were landing in 20 minutes. Ah. Home! Never again will I complain about taking the trash out, mowing the lawn, getting the mail or my neighbor’s barking, crazy-making dog digging up my roses in a desperate attempt to find the bone he buried two years ago. Never. 

We get off the plane and hurry down to baggage claim. I have no idea why we hurried because our luggage was lost again. Best to follow convention, I guess. Oh, geez. Then, we realize the ticket taker thought we said send the luggage to Austin when we said send it to Boston. At this point, I just don’t care. I decide I needed a new wardrobe, anyway.

We don’t get angry. We are resigned to the situation. Along about 2 am in pitch black, we pull up in our driveway. Nothing ever looked so good. Not the bald spots in the grass, the motion light that never worked nor the latex floors supposed to look like wood. We were home. I got out of the car and kissed the asphalt. We’ll never have to do this again. Unless, of course, until the next time. 


Chere Estrin is the CEO of Estrin Legal Staffing, a top nationwide staffing organization and has been in the field for over 20 years. She was recently interviewed by Fortune Magazine (www.estrinreport.comThe Wall Street Journal and  was named “One of the Top Women Leaders in Los Angeles.” She has written 10 booksabout legal careers, hundreds of articles and has been written up in publications such as the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Trib, Newsweek, Entrepreneur and others. Chere is a recipient of LAPA’s Lifetime Achievement Award, Los Angeles/Century City Women of Achievement Award and a finalist for the Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year award. She gives numerous webinars including those for Lawline and LawPractice. Chere is a former administrator at an AmLaw 100 firm and Sr. Vice President in a $5 billion staffing company. She is happy to hear from you regarding anything at all. Reach out at: chere@estrinlegalstaffing.com.

One Reply to “All I wanted for Christmas was my two front seats.

  1. Sympathies and laughing. I hate flying and ask for the row by the bathrooms so: 1) I can go when I want; and 2) no one behind me can see me using the barf bag!!

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