Lost and Confused on a Trip from Hell

Airports are where chaos is bred and confusion is born.
Airports are where chaos is bred and confusion is born.

I went to Staunton, Virginia, recently for my 50th college reunion . . . and it was a LOOOONNNNNGGGGG trip home.  There is only one flight out of Staunton to Washington on Sundays (at 7:30 p.m.) so my agent booked me to return from Charlottesville at 8:40 a.m. on Sunday.  Late Saturday afternoon I decided I’d better get on to Charlottesville as I was afraid I would miss the flight so the hotel desk attendant in Staunton called and booked a hotel room for me there.  That’s where the Staunton airport is. In Charlottesville. And there begins the story:

1st leg:  There are five exits to Charlottesville off IH 64….I just randomly picked the middle one.  I called the Hilton and got directions…..wrong directions.  I stayed with it until I was completely lost then stopped at a convenience store to ask for help.  I will skip forward one flipping hour during which time I stopped at three more convenience stores and got wrong information.  (At the first store, he was Indian, and I couldn’t understand a word he said; at the second, he was Indian, and he couldn’t understand a word I said; at the third, I think the girl must have moved to Charlottesville about two hours before my arrival.)  By then I had decided to ask any man I could find filling up his car at the pump….sure ‘nuff, it worked.  When I asked where the Hilton was, he asked, “Which one?”  I just stood there frozen…..yep, there are two Hiltons there, and people had been directing me back and forth between them but not getting any of it right!  I called the hotel, let him talk to them, and heard him say, “Yeah.  Right.  Well, she’s on the wrong side of town, but I’ll tell her how to get there.”

Jan Clayton
Jan Clayton

I guess I must be dumb as dirt, but it was night, and I couldn’t see the street signs (which didn’t matter anyway because everyone used “red light directions” instead, i.e., “at the third red light, turn left.”  I even asked for street names but got “I don’t know but it’s the third light.”)  (Oh, and by the way, Fifth street in Charlottesville just changes its name to Ridge Road at an intersection for no particular reason  – sorry, don’t remember which one.)

By that time, I had passed the Wells Fargo building three times from different directions and considered just pulling into their parking lot and sleeping in the car.  Instead, I started calling the hotel again and four calls later I found it.  (The girls at the desk had decided that if I called one more time they were going to tell me to just stay put, and one of them would come get me and lead me in!)

2nd leg:  Get to the airport in Charlottesville. No problem. I found it easily.  Well, there was one slight problem:  I had stopped to fill up the tank in the rental car.  There was something wrong with the pump handle because when I “squeezed it” to start pumping, gasoline flew out of the car and drenched my jeans!  The attendant moved me to another pump and didn’t charge me for the gas . . . sweet thing.

Needless to say, everyone within twenty feet of me at the airport said, “I think I smell gas.  Do you smell gas?”  I did not feel obligated to raise my hand or explain……to anyone except the poor soul who was seated next to me on the flight to Washington….where, by the way, noses were still twitching as I walked along the concourse.  I wanted to shout, “You think it’s bad from where YOU stand?!”

3rd leg:  After five-hour layover in Washington, I got on the plane to Houston, looking forward to sleeping all the way . . . wrong.  There was a baby across the aisle who cried all the way (perhaps the fumes from my jeans?)

4th leg:  As soon as I got there I learned that my flight to Tyler had been cancelled…..and the only options on the first two flights on Monday morning were standby.  Well, just #!%(#&*(*!  Soooooooo, call a hotel for a shuttle and rent a car to drive home.  Finally, I can just go to bed and get some sleep . . . wrong.  I had eaten a burrito at the Houston airport assuming there might not be anything near the hotel . . . and spent most of the night going to and fro between the bed and the bathroom (the burrito, no doubt).

5th leg:  Rent car at the airport and head to Tyler. No problem.  Get directions out of airport to IH 45. Never mind, I’ll just skip it except to say that, after thirty minutes of touring the airport, I found myself back at the Rental Center from where I started.  By then, time no longer had any meaning so I took an extra five minutes to chew out the girl in the Exit booth after she admitted she had meant to say “take two lefts, then right”. #%$@#(*%Y@$(*^#!

6th leg:  What could be left to go wrong?!  How ‘bout a signal on the dashboard that reads “Low Tire Pressure” when I got to Conroe?  I had to stop twice more to get nice gentlemen to put air in my tires. When I arrived at the airport in Tyler to return the car, I had lost everything . . . sense of humor, good sportsmanship-like conduct . . . everything!  I slammed the keys on the Avis counter and said, “Let me tell you something.  I know it’s not your fault, but don’t even THINK about not refunding my money for this damn car!  By the way, I did not fill up the tank, but there is enough gas to get it to a tire store.”

(One call to Houston and I got my money!)


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  • What a trip! Tweak it the tiniest bit further, and you’ll have dark comedy.

    BTW, was the reunion worth it? You didn’t say.

    And at least your directions weren’t of the “turn left where the old Woolworth was until it burned down.”

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