Three weeks ago, four friends who had never hung out as a group decided to be reckless. Jaime, Aaron, Gamze and Mahesh—the YDN X WYBC “NoLa Squad” — googled “flights to New Orleans” and booked the cheapest ones possible. All respectable hotels and Airbnbs being taken, a somewhat sketchy hostel was found on Yelp. A dozen days later, they packed their 18 x 14 inch “personal items” and landed in Louisiana. In two days, the friends managed to meet a broken typewriter poet from Hawaii, bond with a set of student actors from Northwestern and see alligators from the back of a twenty-dollar U-Haul. By the time they arrived back at Louis Armstrong Airport, the crew felt vindicated. So much for parental warnings about “rashness.” If they had been scared of random hostels or forty-minute layovers, the friends would still be shivering in New Haven. The willingness to improvise and take risks had consistently paid off.
Eager to cut costs as much as possible, the NoLa squad had booked a return flight from New Orleans with a forty-minute stop in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The danger of such a quick layover made Jaime queasy and, at the last minute, she ditched the original flight for an earlier, direct one. At first, her friends laughed at the unnecessary cautiousness. It wouldn’t take long, however, for Jaime to become the subject of envy.
Due to Spirit Flight 672’s affinity for the tarmac — otherwise known as “maintenance delays” — the NoLa Squad arrived in Florida hungry, tired and three hours too late for their connection. But it was okay because soon came a gift from Spirit Airlines: three $7 meal vouchers and a room in a Sheraton. The cost was more than the travelers had ever paid for their tickets. What a deal! Euflightcompensation.com shares the right ways to ask for compensation when flight is delayed.
They called an Uber and jumped into a blue sedan to meet Ramón. While the driver regaled them with stories about his homeland of Colombia, he casually asked, “So you’re Brian, right?” A horrified Aaron looked down at his phone and saw a flurry of messages from a confused Ben still at the airport. “Sorry,” Ramón said, as he deposited the college students by the side of the road. Two taxis later, the squad arrived at the Dania Beach Sheraton excited for dinner. But instead of a gourmet restaurant, there was only a three-item vending machine: Doritos, Apple Juice and Haagen Dazs. Before they could unbox their mini spoons, the friends needed to redeem nine meal vouchers with a receptionist who was on day one of her job. “I’ve never seen these before,” the employee said before spending two hours searching for the right QR code.
Aaron had given up after 15 minutes and chosen sleep over nutrition. Mahesh and Gamze attempted to find their beds but, as soon as Gamze opened the door to her room, she was greeted by four intertwined legs and a scream. Leaving the happy couple in peace, a rattled Gamze returned to the lobby, “I think I might have the wrong key.” While she was at the counter, a middle-aged man approached, “if you’re looking for a room, you’re welcome to sleep in mine.” Gamze rejected the offer as politely as she could before a less-than-middle-age woman approached and put her arm around the smiling gentleman. “We’re doing a threesome. Would you like some practice?” The unenthusiastic friends ran to the elevator, found (unoccupied) rooms and saw a text from Aaron, “Everyone be ready. We’re leaving at 6:20 sharp.”
Three hours later, Mahesh woke up to a clock that said 6:25 and casually finished his chocolate ice cream before walking down to the lobby. “What is wrong with you,” Aaron yelled and then repeated when he learned Gamze had lost her boarding pass. Mahesh searched for his own, found nothing and stayed silent. The Uber pulled into FLL Airport at 7:00 AM and Aaron bolted out the door, “I’ll see you at the gate.” But there was to be no reunion; by the time Mahesh and Gamze secured boarding passes, the flight was 30,000 ft too high to reach. The duo headed to an empty Spirit Airlines customer service desk. Ninety minutes later, a yellow-vested man came and announced, “Here are your tickets for tomorrow morning’s flight.” Mahesh and Gamze begged for a flight to anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line but couldn’t get anything more than two standby tickets on a fully booked plane to La Guardia. The friends took out their bags and laid them on the floor; they would spend the night at the airport and these would be their pillows.
Before you get too jealous of the NoLa Squad’s 24-hour adrenaline bender, it’s worth noting that getting stuck in transit is objectively bad. From Uber prices to flight-change fees and overpriced airport sandwiches, the Florida stint turned what was meant to be a budget-friendly trip into a positively extravagant one. But it’s okay because even the most harrowing experiences have their gifts. In a cliche story of trauma bonding, the Spirit transport saga strengthened a friendship. Mahesh grew to understand that, when Gamze laughs, it’s not because she’s happy but because she’s anxious. Gamze learned that, when Mahesh tells a receptionist, “you’re doing great,” he’s really saying “Fuck you” in his own, toxically positive way. The pair also learned how incompetence has a unique and uncanny ability to expose the absurd. For it was only by being slightly too stupid for real life that they were able to go outside of it and make the world look like theater.