Jacquelyn Smith

Out of Control: My Epic Journey Back Home


The calm before the storm


So I recently got back from a lovely vacation in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The weather was great, the food and drinks were awesome, and I had a very relaxing time, which was just what I needed.


The trip back home was another story.


Now, I like to be in control of things. (I don’t mean I like to control other people, just my own actions and my life in general.) The problem is, there are so many things that are beyond my realm of influence, like the weather, for example.


As our plane approached Toronto, a huge storm was over the city. We flew just above it, watching the flashes of lightning streak through the clouds. Even though there hadn’t been any announcements yet, it didn’t take long to realize we weren’t descending toward the airport. We just kept hovering in a holding pattern until:


Me: Oh, man, I hope they don’t re-route us to some other airport…


My husband: They can’t do that, can they?


Airplane captain: If I could have your attention please: We have just been informed that no aircraft is being allowed on or off the ground during the storm. We will be re-routing to Ottawa to refuel. That’s all the information we have at this moment. As soon as we learn anything else, we’ll let you know. Thank you for your patience.


Thus began a turbulent journey just above the storm toward Ottawa. Across the aisle, someone started vomiting, and all four babies on board began to fuss and/or cry. Passengers who had been planning to catch connections at Toronto were looking anxious.


Would we deplane in Ottawa, or try to go back to Toronto after refuelling? Here we were, trapped in the air without knowing what the plan was, and unable to contact anyone about our original arrangements back in Toronto for getting home from the airport. The flight crew didn’t have any information either. They were waiting for instructions from the ground. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just our bad luck to be arriving during the storm.


At first, I was freaking out a bit. Would we be stuck in the Ottawa airport overnight? I was supposed to be working an opening shift at my day job the next morning, and it was already pushing 10pm. I wasn’t even sure I would be able to contact anyone by the time we landed to let them know about the situation.


After a few minutes, I got a grip and came to terms with the fact I had no control over what was happening. All I could do was try to relax and go with the flow (which isn’t always my strong suit).


As soon as we landed in Ottawa, there were a few people who were really tense about what was going on. One guy marched up to a flight attendant and told him if we didn’t get off the plane soon, there was going to be a riot. But for the most part, people were happy to be able to use their phones to text their family and friends while waiting for another update.


We were stuck in Ottawa for a couple of hours while waiting to refuel. We had to stay on the plane because Customs didn’t want to process us for some reason, so it was a bit cozy. Our plane had already flown from Calgary to Cancun, back to Toronto and Ottawa that day, so food and water were running low—another reason for tension. But people were very polite, and I overheard two passengers both insisting the other go first to use the washroom, which seemed so stereotypically Canadian, I had to laugh. We made jokes with the passengers around us about chipping in to order pizza right to the plane, since we were all getting pretty hungry.


Finally, it was announced we were flying back to Toronto, since the storm had passed. This was great news for those of us who lived in and around the city, but I felt really bad for those whose final destination was Ottawa. Even though we had landed there, they had to fly with us all the way back to Toronto, only to catch a connection back to Ottawa again. (Crazy!) Everyone who had missed a connection was set up with accommodations by the airline.


After going through Customs, getting our luggage, and driving home, it was about 3:30am. (If everything had gone according to plan, we would have been home around 11pm the night before.) From the time we left our hotel in Playa to the time we got home was about 14 hours in total—an epic (and exhausting) journey. But in the end, I was glad I had made a point of letting go and making the best of the situation. I can’t even imagine being worked up about it for hours on end like a few people were. I mostly focused on being grateful that:


  • The plane landed safely
  • I was with my husband
  • We didn’t have any upset/overtired children to console
  • We weren’t catching a connection
  • We’re not smokers


No matter how bad you think a situation is, there’s always someone who has it worse. Don’t get me wrong. It wasn’t a super-fun time, and I wish it had gone better. I still would like to be in control of every aspect of my life, but maybe after this, I can learn to handle those unexpected bumps a little more gracefully. (Fingers crossed!)


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