John Robbins asks, "What's your worst travel day?"
Wow, he sure has me beat. I can't top that.
My worst travel day so far was returning home from Taipei last year. We had been watching for days as they were reporting a typhoon might be heading towards Taiwan, and as the day of our departure approached, it looked as if it was pretty likely to come right across Taipei. Sure enough, the day I was supposed to leave, this was on my television:
Yep, it was going to be a fun morning. Of course, there were 3 of us there, and we all kind of wanted to get home. Could we beat the storm?
My friend Rick had left earlier in the day, long before I would ever want to wake up. We hadn't heard from him, so we assumed he must have flown out. So, my friend Mark and I (we were on the same flight) decided we may as well give it a go - the worst that could happen is that we would end up turning around and coming back.
So, we hopped in a cab. The wind was blowing so hard that the prodigious rain was blowing sideways. This did not dissuade our driver from driving beyond quickly. Now, I've been in my share of white knuckle cabs (most recently, I shared one with folks in Barcelona), but there's something objectively different when you're on such a ride during a typhoon. So, we're zipping along, and Mark (who enjoys living) asks the driver to kindly slow down. He nods, and keeps going. A few minutes later, he asks him to slow down again. He acknowledges him again, and keeps going. Mark is occasionally looking at me with a "holy crap" look that's really hard to describe. We watch an SUV spin out of control directly in front of us. Mark offers to pay him money to slow down. This gets the cab slowed for a little while, but then back up to full speed. Finally, Mark decides to name a number, and pull out that much money and show him. "You can have this if you don't go over this speed." This finally works.
We get to the airport whole, and a little surprised to be that way. Here, things are OK. We get our tickets, and head to the lounge. It is then that I realize that I have never emptied my safe at the hotel. So, I have left behind my cell phone, my travel wallet (fortunately no longer containing my passport), and my DVDs (there goes my entertainment for the flight home). There is nothing I need, so I don't have to go back and wait out the storm, but I figure if I am to stand a chance of getting anything back, I ought to call them. Convincing the lounge people to let me use the phone and explain my dilemma is my first challenge, but I eventually succeed. Then, I have to explain to the people at the hotel what I have done, without speaking their language. But they eventually just tell me to email such and such person at this email address to take care of it - they got tired of trying to communicate using the spoken word. So, I try to send the email, and naturally, it bounces. At this point, I've had enough, and I start rationalizing "well, I could use a new cell phone anyhow...."
We eat a few tasty treats while waiting (mmm... dim sum...), and then head to the airplane to board. Once one the plane, Mark and I both agree that this is the worst turbulence we have ever felt while on an airplane. Which was surprising since we were still at the gate and actively boarding - we're both more used to turbulence while actually in the air. So, we had a bit of a white knuckle boarding and taxi, but takeoff was surprisingly smooth. A few bounces on the way up, and finally we could relax.
Oh, and in the end, the hotel in Taipei shipped all of my belonging to me. Grand Hyatt Taipei, I applaud and thank you.
Such was my worst day of travel. I'm glad this is much less rattling than John's!