Terrible or Memorable?

Terrible or Memorable? It’s how you want to see it!

I have not written anything for almost nine months now so picking up the pen today is a strange feeling. But as they say, inspiration strikes when it strikes. Earlier this year, I took my first international trip since the pandemic; and although I was expecting things to be different, I wasn’t prepared to see a changed world where crowds aren’t a comfortable feeling even if you aren’t an introvert. Amongst all this, I had the travel day that I am highly unlikely to ever forget. I was booked on an early morning flight with a layover at Dubai International of about two and a half hours; I am aware that it wasn’t very long, but it wasn’t a short transit as well. And this is where the story begins…

The start to my long-awaited holidays was marred by the delay in take-off first by thirty minutes which turned to an hour then two; the plane finally took off after two and a half hours of the scheduled take-off. By some draw of luck, we landed in Dubai with twenty minutes to spare for the next take-off to Istanbul, but the airline decided to rebook all transit passengers onto the next available flights without even trying for them to make it to the plane already standing by. You must be thinking that this happens all the time, so what’s the big deal? The big deal, people, was that the next flight was after four hours and though I love to spend time at airports (weird, I know), I was almost into full-blown panic as my journey was not to end in Istanbul. I was then booked on the last flight of the day to Cappadocia out of Istanbul and had no accommodation in Istanbul for the night. And four hours delay in Dubai meant it was highly probable that I would end up missing that flight. I asked around from my friends and posted on the travel groups that I follow for advice from people who had been in a similar predicament, etc. And herein started my dilemma, should I reschedule that flight for the next day, should I book a room in Istanbul just in case, and should I cancel my early morning hot air balloon ride the next day at Cappadocia? This is when I made the “executive decision” to live a little and take the risk because I had already visualized the worst-case scenario of spending the night at Istanbul airport by myself and I was fine with the idea. So, I did neither of those things and just went with my gut, relaxed, had coffee, ate a sandwich (at the airline’s cost), roamed around, catnapped for a bit, indulged in my favorite activity – people watching and generally chilled at the airport.

I reached Istanbul with approximately 90 minutes to spare between getting off the airplane and the next take-off. Luckily the immigration was quick and painless. But it took me precious twenty minutes to find my way out of the international arrivals after collecting my luggage (yes, I was travelling with checked-in baggage). I started running the minute I had my luggage and ran up to the airport shop to get a Turkish SIM (being a solo female traveller, it was even more important for me than to make the flight, #JustMeThings), the guy who was at the shop installed my SIM in record time & then showed me the way up to the domestic departures. I ran to the airline counter where I was the last passenger on that flight, by this time my stomach was growling and my feet were numb (I was already on 18,500 steps). Anyhow, got the boarding pass and thought to take a breather (crossed my mind for fraction of a second) when the lady at the counter asked me to run to the gate to make it on time. I did just that, ran to the entrance of the boarding gate, swiped my pass and as you might have guessed, it didn’t work because, Murphy’s law, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time”. Anyhow, I ran back to the counter and explained the issue to the counter lady, she asked me to go back and ask the personnel at the gate to sort it. Since there was no time to argue, I did just that, but the boarding pass didn’t work and the gate personnel asked me to hurry up and get it changed as if it was my doing! So, I ran back again to the counter, almost sure that the flight will leave without me. The counter lady this time was sorting someone’s pet carrier’s issue, I requested her a bit forcefully to issue me a new boarding pass and by some miracle, she proceeded to do just that. Once I had it in my hands, I sprinted back to the gate where on the third attempt the new pass finally worked. I ran to the gate where I was treated like royalty because I was the last one to board. I generally hate middle seats on airplanes but this time around the middle seat felt like home as I was finally able to rest my feet for a couple of hours. I just got the time to text my mother that I had made it when the plane took off. And the cold sandwich I had as a snack with orange juice on the flight was the yummiest thing ever.

What I learned from this fiasco is what I will always carry with me. Situations always get resolved, one way or the other, we just have to coach ourselves to not be fixated on the way things happen. We might not have control over our environment or the situation, but we always have control over our reactions. The way we react to a situation makes a day terrible or memorable.

Until next time!

Tooba Tanveer