This is a story we would expect to hear at a comedy club -- we couldn't make it up if we tried. Our daughter Stacy was getting married August 27th in the ruins of a crusader castle located on Kibbutz Yahiam in northern Israel. Given our schedules, our plan was to fly out of LA on the 24th arriving in Israel on the 25th. But, oh what an adventure to get there! The story reads better in the first person, so it's told through Lois' eyes. Well, here goes:
We boarded the plane and left the gate right on time (that should have been the first clue). After flying 5 hours the man behind me complained of chest pain and then said he was having trouble breathing. He said he was having a heart attack. They put him on oxygen and there were so many flight attendants around him I didn't see him again. The pilot announced that we had to make an emergency landing to drop him off and we would only be on the ground about 1/2 an hour. We landed in Goosebay, Canada, in the middle of nowhere at a military base with one runway that I don't think was built for a 747. When I looked out the window I saw grass flying. Not only did they unload the heart attack patient, they had to search for his luggage, especially since he was an Arab on his way to Lebanon. We sat on the ground for 4 hours. They told us not to get out of our seats. They also said they could not serve food or drinks because all the flight attendants were working on the emergency.
When we finally got to London we missed our connecting El Al flight to Israel. The Virgin Atlantic agent pulled us aside and told us there was another El Al flight in 8 hours, at 11 PM, but they also told us it was overbooked. They said the next available confirmed seats were in 2 days, (or in other words, the day after the wedding) but not to worry they would put us up in a hotel in London. They told us to go claim our luggage and then go to the El Al ticket counter in the other terminal to discuss standby options.
We had checked four pieces of luggage: my husband and I each had one and my sister had two. When we reached the luggage carousel, we fought our way to the front and retrieved our two bags, but we didn't see my sister's. We then realized we had yet another problem. I had to get in touch with my daughter and son-in-law in Israel, who were picking us up at the airport in Tel Aviv. They were driving down from the North, about a 3 hour drive. If they called the airport they would tell them the plane was on time, however, they wouldn't tell them we wouldn't be on it. So, we decided to divide up: I would go ahead to the ticket counter to check the standby situation and call my daughter. My husband and sister would stay to retrieve the luggage and then come meet me. So, off I went.
Guess what? I didn't have their phone number in Israel to reach them.
Luckily I know my son-in-law's last name so I called Israel information and they said they can't give me a phone number unless I give them an address. Of course I always carry his parents address around with me. It would have been very easy to call my house and ask the house/dog sitter to look it up in my phone book, BUT the woman staying at my house is deaf (one of my students). She said she would only house sit if she didn't have to answer my phone. I responded that I didn't want her to answer my phone because I have an answering machine. So, I tried calling my neighbor to see if she would go to my house and get my phone book. I called her but of course she wasn't home.
At this point I was totally panicked. How was I going to reach my daughter? I decided to called my aunt in Pacific Palisades and ask her for help. When I called, my uncle answered the phone. He had knee surgery 2 weeks ago and had some complications (3 pints of blood) plus other medical problems. He had just come home from the hospital a few days before and was still hooked up to a portable oxygen tank. He can hardly walk with his walker let alone the oxygen tank. I told him I needed my aunt to go to my house and get my phone book and get Stacy's phone number at her in-laws. He said it was 8:00 in the morning and my aunt was still sleeping, but he would wake her. It took him 15 minutes to walk to their bedroom (remember I'm calling from London). My aunt came on the phone and said she would go to my house but was afraid of my dog, had no key, and didn't really want to go, but would do it for me because of the situation. She told me she had to shower before she would go.
After pacing a bit, I decided to try my neighbor again. This time she answered the phone. We agreed for her to go to my house and get my student to let her in. I'd call her in 10 minutes to get the phone number. We decided 10 minutes as that should be enough time for her to get my student's attention (with the dog barking and all). I then called my aunt back, and just in the nick of time as she was walking out the door to drive to my house. My aunt was delighted I had reached my neighbor.
After 10 minutes, I called my house but there was no answer. I knew something was wrong. I called my neighbor's house again and she answered and said there was no one at my house to let her in. I told her where we hid the spare key and she went back.
I waited a few minutes and called my house again, and this time she answered the phone. But now she couldn't find my telephone book. I told her exactly where I kept it on my desk (most, well some, of the time). After searching for 20 minutes she finally found the book. Now she couldn't find the phone number. The phone number wasn't written on the page, it was written on the divider and I never thought to tell her to look there (like I could remember that little detail). But with a lot of perseverance she found it.
So, a dozen calls, zillions of dollars later, I called Israel and reached my son-in-law on his cell phone, just as they were pulling into Tel Aviv. Since they had arranged a nice room overlooking the Mediterranean for us, they stayed and enjoyed it for us (I'm still paying off that bill).
Meanwhile, back at Heathrow, while I was on the phone my husband and sister had gone to baggage claim service as her two bags never showed up. After a long wait, they were informed that with the El Al tags, the bags were just transferred, even though we arrived after that particular flight had departed. The airline agreed to take our luggage too and send it along rather than our having to lug it around.
At the El Al counter, even though I begged and pleaded between my tears they showed no mercy. They even balled me out for not coming to Israel sooner. Eventually they relented (just to get rid of me) and put us on the top of the stand-by list.
By this time we were starving. El Al told us to check back at 10 PM. We went to a restaurant for dinner. I was sitting at the table crying and complaining I guess loud enough for the young couple at the next table to hear me. They said that they were also trying to get to Israel. They said that they had been at the airport for the last 3 days, stand-by, trying to get on a plane to Israel. That was just what I needed to hear. I didn't want to go in the first place, and now that I was trying to go I couldn't get there!
We went back to El Al at 10 and they said they had no cancellations but to have a seat and see if there were any no shows. At 10:30 they had seats for us but we didn't have our luggage as they put it in storage. They said they couldn't load it without us going through it because it was out of our possession. So now it was just a matter of time! Could we get to our luggage and go through it with security. They told us to run. Of course the gate they wanted us to go to was the very last one at the complete opposite end of the terminal.
My sister is about 100 pounds overweight and can hardly walk. She came along as fast as she could, but was huffing badly. A guy with a turban was driving by in a cart from a different airline. We stopped him and asked for a ride. He was nasty. We begged him to drive us to security. He said NO but we told him my sister was very sick and we were desperate. He finally agreed but I think he tried to get rid of us when he turned the corner on one wheel. When we got to security and picked out our luggage, my lock had been broken off and I had to tell them in case someone put something in my suitcase. They made me take everything out of my suitcase. When my sister opened her suitcase her little video camera was gone. Her son's wedding was in the camera and she was going to add my daughter's wedding to the same video. Nasty terrible luck.
Somehow we managed to get to Israel. Our daughter and son-in-law were waiting (at 5 AM). Of course they came in his parents car, a tiny Fiat, hardly large enough for two let alone five and all our luggage. But, with creative stuffing, we managed. My legs will never be the same!
Did you see the movie "My Big Fat Greek Wedding?" We felt just like the guy's parents. We didn't know anyone at the wedding and we didn't understand one word. But, oh the food. Plenty and good. The ceremony was Greek (well Hebrew) to us, but in the end, our daughter's smiles made the whole experience worth it.