Not everything stays in Vegas

My mother often says that “as long as you can laugh at a situation, it doesn’t own you.” This mantra saved me 35 years of aging in one week on my recent visit to the Old Country, where never before has a greater collection of snafus and fubars ever been seen.

My sister was married a couple of weeks ago in, of all places, Las Vegas. So, off I went to America for the second time in four months, after not having been there for eight years.

Things started off smoothly enough – my 12:40am flight left Israel and arrived at JFK on time – about two hours before my flight to North Carolina. Tarheel country. My childhood home.

In New York (where at 18 degrees F it was the coldest air I have felt in at least 30 years!) I brought my luggage through customs and put it on the conveyor belt to go (in theory) to my next flight.

One leg down, one to go. I next made it to North Carolina in good time, but alas, the bag did not. I filed a report in the proper office, and left, assuming, or at least hoping my luggage would join me later that day.

Ha Ha. Good one, Asher.

My parents and I were scheduled to fly from NC to Chicago at 7:30am Wednesday, the following day, and connect to Vegas in advance of the Sunday wedding. At midnight Dad checked the flight status, and — lo and behold – it was cancelled. We were now booked on a 10:00am flight to Newark with a 1:00 connection to Vegas.

OK – as we say in Israel, lo nora – not terrible. It could be worse, right?

It soon was. Our 10:30 flight from NC left 90 minutes late, landing in Newark precisely at 1:00 – just as our flight to Vegas was heading towards the runway with, presumably, three very lucky stand-by passengers in our seats. A huge winter storm was on its way from the south (we got out of North Carolina an hour before it hit there), and I have no doubt that this was the only flight to depart Newark on time that day.

We were then placed on stand-by for flights at 4:00 and again at 5:30 – no dice. So, after an hour on the customer service line, we were booked for an 8:30pm flight to Houston where we would spend the night, and fly to Vegas the following morning. Not wonderful, but still, it could be worse.

And again, it soon was.

About 15 minutes before scheduled departure, when we should have been boarding, the flight was cancelled because the pilot was delayed on another flight and not in Newark. Silly me for thinking that major airlines have pools of pilots on hand for situations like this.

An hour and a half of customer service line later, we were booked on a 3:00pm flight the following day to Houston, and only five hours after arriving there, we would be off to Vegas. Of course, the airline had no more hotel vouchers (to her credit, the rep at the counter really did try her best), so my healthy but not-so-young parents were handed pillows and blankets and told to go find a place to crash in the terminal.

Nixing that idea, I went online, found a hotel nearby at a reasonable price with available rooms and a free airport shuttle, and after only 10 hours in the Newark airport (which is probably larger than many towns in Israel), off we went for the night.

And then it snowed.

And snowed. And snowed. And snowed.

I felt like Peter, the little boy in Ezra Jack Keats’ classic children’s book “The Snowy Day.”

I’m not sure why (maybe the merciful Lord took pity on us), but our flight was one of perhaps half a dozen out of Newark to not be cancelled that day. We boarded the plane (not without some extra drama, but we made it), and 20 minutes later, the pilot promised that in “just a few minutes” after the snow plow cleared the drift behind the plane, we’d be off. 45 minutes later, he informed us the plow had broken down (behind the plane), and as soon as they got it out we would be cleared for takeoff. He pointedly (and wisely) left off any time guess-timates.

I was sure that at any minute we would return to the terminal, but at 4:40, our 3:00 flight actually took off! My worry of being deprived 5 hours in the Houston airport, proved to be unfounded, as our Houston to Vegas flight was also delayed by two hours.

We finally made it to Sin City (though I confess I saw very little sin there) at 2:00am, Friday morning, as opposed to originally scheduled arrival time of 3:00 Wednesday afternoon. We made it to the hotel and crashed.

Without my luggage from Israel, after a few short hours of sleep at the hotel, I spent what little time I had on Friday buying clothes, shoes, etc. to get me through the wedding.

And we were actually among the lucky ones. One couple was unable to make it at all. Another couple (my brother and his girlfriend) had their flight cancelled and ended up only getting in the night before the wedding, Even worse, my sister and (now) brother-in-law had their DC-Vegas flight cancelled on Thursday night. After an hour of harrowing phone calls, they got into the car, braved the east coast blizzard, and drove 7+ hours to Charlotte, NC to board a 7:30am flight to Vegas, arriving mid-afternoon on Friday. By this point all “Skype Wedding” jokes had stopped, for fear that it may come true.

But the wedding did happen, and without Skype. It was a beautiful event that seemed to go (surprise, surprise) pretty much as planned. My “baby” sister was a gorgeous bride, and the entire family absolutely adores her husband. A lovely time was had by all.

The return flight was mostly uneventful – other than our decision to avoid the expected blizzard in Cleveland and fly by way of (with another hotel overnight) Houston. Needless to say, this second blizzard didn’t really happen (you’re welcome, Cleveland. You owe us big time!), and the flights that we should have been on – Vegas to Cleveland and Cleveland to NC – arrived and departed on schedule.

As of this writing – 3 weeks later – my luggage that disappeared into the Black Hole of JFK (which sounds like a great name for a thriller flick, or possibly a rock band) has still not surfaced. Apparently it got confused with the final destination, and believed the old adage “What goes to Kennedy Airport stays in Kennedy Airport” – but I am trying to be hopeful.

But the real adage isn’t quite true either. In Vegas my sister was a bride and there we welcomed a wonderful man into our family. It was an intimate gathering with just immediate family and closest friends. We saw and experienced a beautiful ceremony in the Garden Chapel of the famed Flamingo Hotel, and we took it with us when left Vegas.

And to my sister and brother-in-law, I say (again) – Mazal Tov! I am thrilled beyond words for you both, and I wish you many years of love, laughter, happiness and everything else a married couple deserves.

But you’d better make this marriage last – because I don’t think we can survive going through what we did a second time.

About the Author
Asher Zeiger grew up (well, sort of) in North Carolina and moved to Israel in 1988. He lives in Modi'in with his wife and two daughters, and works as freelance writer, editor and translator. In his spare time, he tries hard at not taking himself or life too seriously (successfully) and at unwrapping himself from around his daughters' little fingers (not so successfully).