In the 1980s, I repeatedly watched a recorded copy of the film “Escape from New York” on my family’s Panasonic VCR —complete with tuning knobs the size of hubcaps.
Little did I know that I would star in my own version of the movie (as a domesticated, tattoo-less and slightly flabby version of Snake Plissken) on a recent holiday vacation to the Big Apple.
Of course, my family and I chose to travel to New York City during one of the coldest Christmas seasons on record — so cold that even the subway rats were wearing The North Face.
One of our most exciting adventures while visiting NYC with a family of five was finding public toilets, which apparently must be booked in advance and require a tour guide. This may explain why, when nature calls, some folks just use the floor of the subway stations.
NYC’s subway system is a true masterpiece of comprehensive filth — to the point that it makes my eldest and most expensive daughter’s bedroom look positively pristine (and that’s saying something). Anytime we had to enter the subway, I felt compelled to apologize to my own germs.
Despite the grime and cold, though, I’m glad I finally made it to this iconic city and thawed my retinas long enough to see the Brooklyn Bridge, Rockefeller Center, Central Park, the Empire State Building, Times Square and the inside of several high-end retail centers where I defrosted my giblets while my three teenage daughters nuked our credit cards.
Although getting to New York and going bankrupt was easy enough, leaving was another matter entirely.
On our ride from Manhattan to LaGuardia Airport for our departure, my wife checked our flight status online and informed me that our flight had been canceled. At first, I wasn’t too alarmed, assuming that we could catch a later flight and undergo a more leisurely strip search in the TSA line.
However, when we saw the desperate throng at the Southwest Airlines kiosk, I knew something was up, and it wasn’t airplanes. We discovered that all Southwest flights had been canceled for the foreseeable future, and to that point, we hadn’t received so much as a text message from the airline confirming the cancellation and offering us a monogrammed airsickness bag as a consolation.
And speaking of airsickness, as we approached the back of the customer service line, one nauseated Southwest customer hastily exited the queue to toss his New York cheesecake all over the check-in lobby (three times). For a second, I thought the crowd might applaud him for expressing our collective feelings so succinctly. But nobody seemed to notice much. (They had probably ridden the subway recently.)
To make a long story of a long trip short, we managed to finance another night in a NYC hotel, booked an American Airlines flight to Arkansas the next evening, ate Taco Bell twice, rented a car and drove to Dallas through the night to pick up our own car, then drove home to East Texas and somehow survived it all — including the Taco Bell.
The trip was truly an adventure that brought our family closer together through shared trauma, and we’re still hopeful that Southwest Airlines will reimburse us for our extra expenses. Maybe they’ll even throw in a monogrammed airsickness bag.