Re-entry following vacation has been especially tough this year.  Now I don’t expect sympathy.  After all I got away to a tropical island for eight days.  But it has been a hard back to reality.

It may have started when we waited 90 minutes for the plane that we would leave on to arrive in St. Maarten.  It got considerably harder when they announced that we would be diverted to Miami for refueling.  It seems that the government of this third world country had decided to give all planes, commercial or private, the same consideration.  So if you were on a plane with 300 people you got the same first come, first serve basis, as the five rich people on a private jet.  To top it off there is fuel rationing at the SXM airport and if you’ve had to circle for an extra 90 minutes the plane has used a lot of fuel.

They loaded  us onto the plane.  Finally.  A woman with US Air got on the plane asked for five volunteers to give up their seats.  Our crew, by the time they hit Miami would be over their allotted work hours, so they were flying a relief crew to meet us in Miami but needed five seats to take the present crew back to Charlotte.  And by the way, if she didn’t get volunteers, she would start calling names of people who would then have to leave the plane.  It was all said in a very nice tone of voice but still…thankfully she got the volunteers.

We pulled away from the gate…and sat.  The pilot announced that San Juan control had just shut down the airspace over SXM.  It seems they get a little tired of the shenanigans of the people in charge in SXM and decide to shut them down when the skies get too over-crowded.  Sweet.  I took a two-hour nap and woke to find we had gone no where.

Finally after three and a half hours on the tarmac we were off…to Miami.  The planes coming to SXM are not allowed to restock food on the plane due to health regulations so all they have is what is left over from the flight into SXM.  Fortunately we know this and packed food…and chocolate for the trip.

As we approached Miami they said the plane would be service with food while we refueled.  Nope, just kidding, they couldn’t because we hadn’t cleared customs yet.  What that has to do with a boxed meal is beyond me but whatever.  We had now been on the plane for seven hours.  On the 2 hour flight from Miami to Charlotte there was no food, no booze and not much soda left.  Water and coffee anyone?!

After 9.5 hours we landed in Charlotte, long after the last connecting (and overbooked) flight to Chicago had left.  We waited in line for another 1.5 hours to get rebooked, scoring the last two seats on the first morning flight to Chicago.  All around us people were being told they couldn’t get out until Wed or Thurs…and this was Saturday.

Finally arrived at our hotel for what would turn out to be three hours of sleep.  Got a taxi back to the airport to catch our 7:30am flight into O’Hare.  Then my niece had a connecting flight to Philly at 10am.  And yes, there were weather advisories for Chicago and Philly.

I hugged my niece good-bye in the airport and headed out to meet the car service.  (My niece’s flight would be delayed until 1:30 but she finally got out and home to Philly).  Chicago was a winter wonderland, if you like that kind of thing.  They were on their second major storm of the week, ending up with about 19-22″ of snow on the ground.  The car service dropped me off in the middle of my street, the only place the driver thought he could stop and not get stuck on the unplowed side streets.

Within 30 minutes I was dressed in layers of clothes to go out and shovel in my alley to make sure I could get my car out in the morning.  The temps were supposed to dive down to an overnight low of -22.  I needed to go out and get some food in the house and I promptly got stuck in the alley.  I would be there still if not for the kindness of a neighbor who used his snow blower to get me loose.

The next day all schools around were canceled because of wind chills of -45.  I got an unexpected day off as well…much appreciated.  The first three days of the week were sub-zero days.  New weather word, “polar vortex”.  Definition=really, really cold!

I also came home to a broken washing machine.  So I lugged laundry up to work and back.  My vacation clothes are still dirty.  Next week my new washer will be delivered and slowly my house will get back to normal.

Lessons learned from this re-entry are as follows… take only direct flights to and from SXM.  Make sure your snow blower is operational in November.  Have a full gas can for the snow blower.  Remember the pictures and memories last much longer than the feeling of being relaxed.  And tans fade quickly!