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The Sad Ballad of Thanksgiving (with a silver lining)

My last Thanksgiving at home in 2010

Let me tell you the tale of how my plans to go home for my first Thanksgiving since 2010 were completely flushed down the drain, but it led to a very fortunate meeting.

I was beyond excited to go home. I hadn’t seen my family in about five years, and was eager to spend time with everyone. It was all kinds of chaos getting ready to go, though thankfully I had everything ready for the petsitters, was packed, and out the door before 5 a.m. this morning so I could make my 7:15 a.m. flight.

I could only give up four days from my work schedule, but we had a plan to fit everything in. Dad was going to pick me up in OKC at 2 p.m., and then we would drive up to Springfield, MO, (four hours) to spend the holiday with my mom’s side of the family and go back down to Oklahoma on Friday and spend the remainder of my time with my grandparents before my flight out on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Fate (or perhaps the weather?), however, had other plans.

I won’t lie, I had a weird feeling this morning that I wasn’t going to Oklahoma. Or at least that something was going to go wrong. (I was super worried about my layover - I blame it on that.) You could call it premonition. A friend of mine would say I manifested it with my negative thoughts.

I call it bad weather and Spirit Airlines being the absolute worst. Lesson learned - will never fly with them again.

Oh, and my unfortunate choice to book flights through Hopper (which I will never do again). If I had gone directly through one airline (not Spirit), I wouldn’t have had the same issues and would currently be on my way back home.

Anyway, there was incredibly bad fog this morning. Which meant that planes could take off from Fort Lauderdale, but they couldn’t land. This delayed my flight because the plane that was supposed to take us to Houston was diverted to Miami. I was already nervous about my three-hour layover, since I had to get my suitcase, go to a different terminal, check in again, and go through security again. When it became obvious that I wasn’t going to make my connecting flight, I tried to book a new connection through the Hopper app since I had missed connection insurance.

That didn’t work. Because I didn’t realize when I paid extra for it that it was only for flights of the same or lesser value. Also, I couldn’t get any help from the support staff at the app. At all. Cue me starting to freak out. I quickly got myself under control and called United directly. I was able to book a new connecting flight that gave me two hours between flights. It cost me another $150, but it’s not like I had another choice. I started breathing a bit easier. I then went back up to the front to check the status of my flight, only to find the desk staff telling us to go somewhere else. I started following the crowd of other passengers, not knowing what was going on, but thinking that we were being sent to another gate as it was nearly time for our flight to board.

Another woman on the flight filled me in. It seems that after being delayed three times (for a total of four hours), my flight had been canceled.

At this point, I was pretty much over it. I had been up since 3 a.m. and was seriously losing my battle with my tears (though let’s be real - it’s a losing battle in most cases and I had been fighting it for two hours). I then lost the crowd I had been following and realized that I didn’t actually know where I was supposed to go. Headed to the Spirit ticketing desk, only to find out I was supposed to go downstairs to a different desk by baggage claim. I had no idea where my suitcase was because they hadn’t mentioned that either. When I got to the right place, I saw a line longer than a tapeworm after an all-you-can-eat buffet.

I had two options. I could wait in line in the hopes that there was another flight to Houston today. Then pray that I hadn’t already missed my flight from Houston to OKC by the time I booked the new flight, so I could re-book that (hopefully without paying more). Again.

Or… I could cancel the whole thing.

It was a difficult decision. After everything I went through to get a new connecting flight, I didn’t want to give up. Plus, I was really excited to see my family and I didn’t want to leave my dad alone during the holiday. But at the same time, I was just… over it.

Definitely deserved wine after today.

I called Dad, now fully in tears. (Yes, I know - I’m the world’s biggest crybaby. It’s annoying.) I wasn’t sure I could get refunds on the three United tickets and wanted to ask him what to do since he paid for my trip home. He told me to take a deep breath… and cancel the trip. It was too much stress and honestly, there wasn’t much of a point to try and get flights for the next day since I had so limited time to be there anyway. He said I could use the credit to come visit another time when it wasn’t crazy.

So, I figured out where to get my suitcase. On my way back to the line (two very lovely people were holding my space so I could grab it) I ran into a woman working with Spirit and asked if there was a different line to get a refund. She took me upstairs and I got that settled in about five minutes tops. After that, I caught a Lyft home.

Now, all that was stressful. I’m still upset that I couldn’t get home to see my family. I haven’t seen anyone in my family (outside of my sister) since 2017. I was really looking forward to this trip. But… life happens. Fort Lauderdale has super strict fog guidelines but only gets fog maybe once a year. And it happened to be the day I chose to fly to Oklahoma.

But… something pretty cool also happened.

While I was waiting on my flight, I ended up sitting next to a man who was very chatty, and honestly, I felt like I had met a kindred spirit. Both of our flights were delayed and we had nothing better to do than make friends. Turns out he’s a retired homicide detective from the Bronx, which I thought was incredibly fascinating. He asked me about what I do and we got off talking about my job among other things. I told him about “Something Wicked” and how I self-published it. He perks up and tells me he has a buddy that published a forensics textbook on drowning.

“He was looking into these drowning cases of young college men-”

I sat up at that, with my eyes wide - because of course, I know what he’s about to say.

“Ah, so you’ve heard of the Smiley Face Killers.”

My little true crime heart nearly died. What followed was an amazing conversation about his friend’s work (which led to the making of the docu-series “Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice” - which this guy is actually in), his work, our lives, my writing, so much stuff. He told me that I should really try writing screenplays, so I could turn my novels into movies. Which is something I was already thinking about, considering I want to move up to Atlanta and hopefully attempt to break into film writing.

He then tried to give me his leftover credit on United so I could book a new ticket from Houston to OKC. It didn’t work (which was a blessing in disguise), but I really appreciated it. He took a photo of the cover of my book (always keep a copy of your stuff in your Kindle library, folks. You never know when it’ll come in handy) and promised to buy it and read it. We didn’t exchange any contact information before we parted ways, but that’s okay. That whole interaction was the breath of fresh air that I think I needed.

If anything, it was a really great experience to have in the middle of all that stress and chaos. Yes, I’m not going home to see my family, but I at least got to meet a really cool person.

And who knows? Maybe someday our paths will cross again.

At least Pip is happy I'm not going out of town.

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