The children took their first trip to Israel, being chauffeured to JFK by their father, after five years. We left Pittsburgh after midnight driving a brand new rental car, on a seven hour drive to New York. Our plan was to visit the Ohel (gravesite) of the Lubavitcher Rebbe before check-in. The flight was scheduled to take off at 1:00pm. Driving from the Ohel to JFK takes just five minutes.
Of course, that's if you know your way around.
So I turned to my trusted GPS device. You can always rely on Gremlin GPS, unless you really need to know where you are in a major metropolitan area. Following the directions, I eventually found myself in a very nice neighborhood. However, there was no sign of the Ohel. The clock kept ticking, and I became concerned. It was Sunday morning, and there was no one around who could help with directions.
Suddenly I noticed something weird. Someone was lying on the ground next to his car, in a mechanic position, and at first glance it looked like he was trying to fix something. Except there was also an upside down cooler right there. Everything seemed terribly strange. I parked the car and went outside to check it out. Guri, the most punctual of my children, protested vigorously.
"Is everything OK?" I asked the mechanic. "No," he replied without looking up. I then noticed a puddle of blood oozing from his scalp. He was conscious. Probably fell over. Please help me get up, he said, I cannot get up. As I supported his head and nodded to Guri, we were able to help him stand up. He grabbed his walking stick and I assumed he had had a stroke. Apparently he was the owner of a nearby restaurant who slipped and was injured trying to get the cooler out of the trunk. We helped him back into the restaurant and called 411, then cleaned up the blood on the floor.
The entire episode lasted 25 minutes. Now we were behind for check-in. Would we miss an intercontinental flight as a result of helping out a stranger?
We arrived at the Turkish Airlines counter nearly out of breath. Immediately we felt at home - the line was the same length as we're used to in Israel. We were finally called by the airline representative, who took our passports, but then for some reason didn’t give us boarding passes. Instead, he continued fiddling with the computer.
It became increasingly clear that something was wrong. Is there a problem, Officer? No problem, he said. I'm just waiting for my supervisor.
That is precisely the moment I realized: the Turks are overbooked, which means they are bumping us off the flight - even though there is over an hour left until takeoff.
Clearly, I was trying to remain calm, as here they were, three young passengers, with early-bird tickets that were purchased months in advance. Even though we arrived at the airport on time, the plane was already full. If we had only arrived 25 minutes earlier, the kids would have been putting their carry-on bags over their heads and fastening their seat belts. But we had been on a mission unplanned, remember?
Our supervisor sounded great when she said the El Al flight was leaving in six hours and she could get us on business class. But as it turned out, this flight was full as well. Turkish Airlines had no choice but to accommodate us (on Erdogan's expense) at the DoubleTree hotel in New York, meals included (not kosher, sorry), and they put the children on a flight scheduled to leave the following day.
"You are not going to bump us off again, are you?" I inquired.
“Of course not, we can bump off someone else” said the representative (so considerate!)
We then negotiated for an appropriate compensation for the mishap.
“You choose”, said the Turk, “between cash reimbursement of $280 for each ticket, or a free round trip ticket to Israel, for all three passengers, valid for 12 months”.
My choice cannot be revealed, but a practical idiot I am not.
The conclusion I draw? Everything happens for the best, and you should never get upset, regardless of the circumstances.