• Melissa Kartini

#MyFirstTime: Stuck in a Snowstorm

Updated: Aug 6, 2018

I’ve never done this before and frankly I’m not sure what compelled me to write this, but I would like to finally get it off my chest and tell you about the time I lost my virginity.

OK, I lied.

Obviously, this piece you’re reading does not involve the tale of a time in my life when I was deflowered considering it wouldn’t be a long tale to begin with (think in minutes).

But now that I have your attention, I do have an amazing story for you. There are times in your life when something is afoot in the most unfortunate circumstances and it rarely fazes you until you’re smack in the middle of it.

It began in KLIA airport circa January 2013. I was back home for college winter break, which I did each year before I graduated from my school in Grand Rapids, Michigan. If you’re wondering what the place is like, just imagine a less dangerous, more hipster version of Detroit. Michigan is well known for having brutal winters since it’s almost entirely surrounded by a lake, which causes a phenomenon known as “lake effect”. To put it loosely, it’s when the momentum of the lake carries the strong, icy wind and snow towards the city and causes the temperature and conditions to be more worse than it should be. They don’t call the state “The Ice Box” for nothing.

A snowstorm was silently brewing while I was on the verge of taking my flight back to The States. I had a slight disagreement with my parents over something insignificant at the time, but looking back it seemed to be a tell-tale sign of bad juju to come. What happened was I insisted on just putting my passport in my pocket while my overly concerned parents wanted me to bring a small carry-on instead, but I refused because I detest unnecessary weight. Like I said, very insignificant.

So, I departed with a sour feeling between my folks and I, but I wasn’t going to give in because our entire history has formed me into the headstrong, unrelenting and stubborn person that I am today. However, I did feel bad a little after, but what are you going to do?

The first flight sent me to Germany (Auf wiedersehen!) where I was informed by the airline staff that a very serious snowstorm was hovering over the East and Midwest of the US of A and that I might have to change my final flight route once I touched down in the Detroit airport. Apparently, all mode of public transportation were being grounded. That included planes, trains and, I assume, lots of automobiles (10 points if you get that reference). With that in my frame of mind, I finally caved in and bought a pretty ugly carry-on bag just to appease my disapproving mother who has no idea I bought the damn thing anyway, which also had straps so unforgiving it felt like it was slicing through my skin like white bread.

With my second flight approaching Detroit, I somehow got the sense that there’s unrest in the atmosphere around me. Maybe it was foreshadowing, but nothing would’ve prepared me for the sights and sounds I would experience.

Imagine being trapped in a building that’s on fire with everyone screaming and yelling their lungs out for an escape. It wasn’t exactly that, but it was pretty close. Every flight at that airport was practically grounded due to the ungodly cold winds and snow that never stopped falling to the point that it reached more than 10 feet high. It’s basically enough to cover your entire house door and trap you inside. I made my way to the airline counter to check on my flight only to witness an array of displeased, tired, confused passengers roaming around the place. Families with kids and couples and suits-and-ties were all conceded in one place with no answers to their questions that involved them getting out of there.

There was more unrest at the airline counter demanding to know when the next flight out would be and they often left disappointed. Oh, this is a good time to tell you that I didn’t pack my snow jacket going back to Malaysia (because of the extra weight) and so all I wore then were a simple shirt overlapped with a fairly thin sports jacket, a pair of jeans and my old trusty pair of Converse. Suffice to say, the temperature in the building caused me to give myself hugs while the 20-plus hours of flights were starting to take a toll on my brain and energy levels. I was tired and hungry and feeling slightly homesick, but all I could do was plop on a bench and try to get some shut-eye as my body shivered with such severity I felt like The Little Match Girl.

Knowing my mom, she is always the first one to worry for just about anything and this was a pretty major event. I talked on the phone about my situation and I could hear her voice starting to crack a little. We were on opposite sides of the globe and I knew that if she could, she would embrace me in her arms at that exact moment, but all she could do was offer me words of encouragement that conditions will improve.

Needing to escape, I found a train route on my phone that would travel to where I needed to go in Grand Rapids and without haste, I went out of the airport, took a cab and headed straight towards the train station in downtown Detroit. This was it, I thought. I could finally go back to my familiar townhome on campus and forget about this whole trip when lo and behold, I arrived there just to receive the news that all the trains were grounded too. My hopes were immediately dashed into non-existence.

Here’s another new piece of information: prior to the initial trip back I already had some problems with my right leg due to an Illitibial Band Syndrome, also known as ITB. It meant that my leg would hurt when I put weight on it or turn too drastically- and while pondering my next move in that station, my leg was being quite the B word.

Back to the story, not wanting to be murdered downtown I looked up motels nearby and I actually found one. All I had to do was walk outside in the snow which reached up to my knees whilst carrying my luggage bag along. If there ever was a sadder soul than I was then, I’ve not heard of it. Eventually, I made it to the place and booked myself a room just for shelter for the time being.

Sitting in that God-awful depressing room, my mental state of being was already starting to crack. I thought to myself, “This is how I’m going to die. In this old, poop-brown room where murderers would kill their victims and leave them to rot and I would never get the chance to talk to the cute girl who works at the salad kiosk on campus. This is it for me.”

This wasn’t my proudest moment, but I will say that while showering the shower head wasn’t the only thing that was shedding tears.

Not knowing what the next step would be, I opened up my laptop and browsed around for miracle flights and luckily enough, I managed to find one that was leaving very soon and so I punched those laptop keys and bought my ticket right away. There were no cabs around and I desperately needed to get to the airport right away so a woman in her 50s who worked at the motel offered to drive me there and we took off.

I was immensely elated to know that the nightmare will soon be over and I would wake up from it with a big sigh of relief. I was so happy that when I reached the airport I gave Aurora (that’s her name and apparently she was from one of the Scandinavian countries I forgot) a hundred dollar bill as a sign of thanks. And, I even kissed her on the cheek!

Immediately, I raced towards the airline counter, got my ticket and waited for the plane to arrive along with other lucky people like myself. We boarded the plane, buckled our seats and braced ourselves for our final flight. Unfortunately, when things seem too good to be true, they usually are. What ended up happening was a huge delay within a few hours of refueling the plane, waiting for the weather to settle down, actually moving out of the gate and then back in again only to discover that the miracle flight we were on was just not meant to be. God was playing a prank on us like a snot-nosed kid looking down on us ants with a magnifying glass. We had to get down from the plane with depressed faces and just congregated at the entrance.

There was a small group of us, about six or so, mingling and discussing tactics out of our situation. One of them suggested that it’s possible to rent a van and drive from Detroit to Grand Rapids, which is around two hours away instead of just waiting there for days. All our faces lit up and we agreed to take a road trip back just like in the movies except that we were all strangers. Amongst us were a businessman, an older fellow, a mom and her college daughter and another college girl all scooched up in a soccer mom’s mini van with dim headlights passing by us and only the vehicle’s headlights lighting up a dark and grim road.

I woke up to the realization that we finally made it to the Grand Rapids airport. All of us were grateful that we made it back alive and by sheer luck, the sun came out and shone down on us. I ended up waiting with the aforementioned college girl in the airport for my ride as I figured there was no better time than right then and there to ask for her number. I figured we sort of had a near death experience and the adrenaline definitely brought out some testosterone-level emotions. I got that number, but we’ve never spoken since (there’s your love element).

Since its inception, my college has only ever closed once for a snow day and this was the second time it happened, which goes to show just how terrible that snowstorm was. As I made it back to campus two days later than I was scheduled to arrive, I realised that I would never experience anything like that ever again and it opened my eyes to a whole new side of life. But, I was too tired to think about life then and all I could do was rest my weary head and finally get some well-deserved sleep. That was the story of the very first time I got stuck in a snowstorm, and hopefully the last.

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