In 20 years, will we be asking each other, “Where were you when the polar vortex hit?” My answer will be, “I was stuck in Florida.” I imagine people rolling their eyes and giving me sarcastic, oh-you-poor-baby looks. But for some families, I imagine being stuck in Florida was a hardship they weren’t prepared for.
After 10 perfect days in Florida (including a much-needed rainy day to reset), my entire family was ready to get home. We had packed every minute with biking, beaching, exploring, swimming, mini golfing and just playing tourist. Whew! Why do we run ourselves ragged on vacations so that when we return, we need to recoup? But run ragged we did, and had a wonderful visit to sunny Southwest Florida and my folks.
We watched with anticipation the forecast for our beloved Chicagoland. There was going to be a wind chill factor of -45! No. That had to be a typo! Much to the chagrin of our friends at home I’m sure, it wasn’t.
By Monday, more than 5,000 flights had been cancelled. What about our Tuesday flight home, my boys asked. We went about our day and packed as if nothing was going on, but I wasn’t surprised when the airline’s computer called that night to tell us our next-day flight had been cancelled. Oof. I immediately called the airline, and the computer voice told me there was a 2.5 hour waiting line until I could talk to an agent. Double oof.
As I put in my phone number for a call back, I couldn’t help but think of the other thousands of families whose travel plans were going to be cancelled. We were fortunate enough to be staying with my folks, so I didn’t have to worry about where we would stay. No matter what, we would be comfortable and taken care of while we weathered the storm… in Florida, no less. Trust me, the irony isn’t lost on me.
The first flight we could get on wasn’t until Friday! Three days from when we were supposed to travel home. This delay was a serious inconvenience for us at the most. My husband’s job allowed him to work remotely. My son was going to miss a couple of days of school but nothing he couldn’t make up. I could always blog when I got home (even though I was itching to get back to the computer keyboard). Again, I thought of other families.
How many families were not as fortunate as us? How many families scraped together their money all year long to come down to Florida for the holiday? Perhaps they had come down for a special trip to Disney World or to cast some sun on their faces while visiting the beach. Undoubtedly, many of them do not have jobs that allow them to work from anywhere. Many of them probably don’t have the expendable cash to drop on extra hotel nights and eating out for an entire family. How many hundreds, even thousands, of dollars would these extra days cost them?
And yet, while the country was glued to the television, watching as the polar vortex affect the country, I didn’t see one single news story about the families whose vacation turned into a potential money hardship. And so, when people ask me where I was when the polar vortex hit, I’ll say I was thinking of the families trapped inside their homes and those trapped away from their homes as well.
On a side note: It was a frigid 50 degrees and rainy in Florida for the extra days we were there. And while 50 degrees wouldn’t normally get me off-kilter, having homesick kids, staring at gray skies and not packing for really poor weather when on vacation sucks. Thinking of others certainly did put things into perspective quickly, however. And while my parents love us all, I’m sure it was a bittersweet relief for them as we pulled out of the driveway to head to the airport.
Where were you when the polar vortex hit?
Chicago Landscape: Photo Credit