Getting Here: One Man’s Quest to Make it to Martha’s Vineyard

Hours of delays won’t take away the joy of arriving on the Island

You know the feeling. You are sitting in your respective hometowns: DC, NYC, Boston, Philly and the day has finally come - you are going to MV. Going to take a plane, train, bus or boat (or some combination of all of the above) to get there. But it doesn’t matter. Escape. Bliss. Vacation.

I woke up with this lovely feeling inside me yesterday. Got up 10 minutes before my 8 a.m. alarm ever made a peep. Two hours to get ready for MV. I have a flight at noon from Ronald Reagan International Airport with touch down on Martha’s Vineyard scheduled for 1:27 p.m. Everything is planned out. Laundry is done. Let’s go through the checklist:

Shower, check.

Bacon breakfast, check.

Coffee black, check.

Shirts, check.

Swim shorts, check.

Flip flops, check.

Toothbrush, check.

I’m ready.

I arrive at DCA with two hours until my departure time. A little early, but you know, they make you take off your shoes and stuff. Could take a while.

I glance up at the big departures board to see that lovely US Airways icon next to Martha’s Vineyard. But although it is a beautiful sunny day in our Nation’s Capital, there is one flight delayed one hour. DC to MV. Kill me now.

But I didn’t panic. One hour? Who cares. Big Deal. I got through security in less than 5 minutes. At the gate with now two hours and 55 minutes until my new departure time. Thank god I brought my computer. I guess I can do a little bit of work before my vacation officially begins.

“Now boarding at Gate 35A – all passengers for Martha’s Vineyard.”

I jump up. Grab my stuff. Head down the little escalator. Literally first in line. Hop on the bus. Cannot stop smiling. 1:27 p.m. or 2:27 p.m.? At this point, who cares?

We taxi over to the plane. There’s the big bird in all its glory. I snap a photo of it and head to the social networks. Instagram, Facebook, Twitter. Everyone sees my plane. “Adios DC” I write. “Taking this bird to MV. See you soon, Chilmark!”

Get into my seat. It’s cramped for sure, and the old guy sitting next to me who looks exactly like the guy from the movie “Up!,” is violently reading the New York Times and the Washington Post. Newspapers everywhere. But I don’t care. I’m going to MV!

I notice we are taking a bit of a long time to start taxiing on the runway. There seems to be a fair amount of commotion going on around the plane. But the flight attendant is going through all the motions. Security briefing. Oh that’s how you buckle the seat belt? Wow! Thanks for letting me know! Ok, I’ll turn off my iPhone. Whatever you say.

“This is your pilot speaking. We have a screw loose in the back of the jet. We are going to have to ask you all to get off the plane and head back to the gate while we wait for maintenance to arrive. Thanks for your patience.”

Dear god. This cannot be happening. I grab all my things. Overhead bin items have yet to shift so that’s good. We get back on the bus and ride back to the gate. My smile is still there. But my eye is starting to twitch. I think I might have a screw loose.

“Now boarding at Gate 35A – all passengers for Martha’s Vineyard.”

Ok, let’s do this people. This is it. We are going to MV people!

Back on the bus. Back on the plane. Back in my seat. The Up Guy next to me is back into his newspaper. Seat buckles buckle like that? Wow! Who knew? But why is the door still open?

“This is your pilot speaking. We aren’t able to get the door closed. We are going to have to ask you all to get off the plane and head back to the gate while we wait for maintenance to arrive. Thanks for your patience.”

Oh No.

Back on the bus. Back at the gate. iPhone battery life down to 44%. Playing way too much anxious Bejeweled. Need to flip on some tunes. Neil Young will calm me down. We’ll be there soon enough. Don’t panic.

“Now boarding at Gate 35A – all passengers for Martha’s Vineyard.”

Back on the bus. Back to the plane. They can close the door now. We can do this. Seatbelt instruction for the third time. Up Guy still reading. Palms sweating. Not sure I trust this bird anymore after a loose screw and a broken door, but whatever. Let’s go!

“This is your pilot speaking. We have been delayed for so long that headquarters is now telling us that if we fly you to Martha’s Vineyard, we will not be able to fly to our home location because we will have worked longer than our federally mandated 14 hour work days. We are going to have to find another crew and another plane for you. We are going to have to ask you all to get off the plane and head back to the gate. Thanks for your patience.”

Up Guy is not pleased. “THIS IS A COMPLETE JOKE,” he shouts from behind the Times finance section. But like good foot soldiers, we get back off the plane. Back on the bus. Back to the gate. I hate Gate 35A.

“Now boarding at Gate 35A – all passengers for Martha’s Vineyard.”

No one is messing around now. We know the drill. Tickets out. Scanned. On the bus. Board the plane. New crew. Items in the overhead bin. Yeah, we know how to buckle the god damn seat belt the other lady has already shown us three times. We are amazing at the buckle at this point. Lift up. Insert. Lift. Affix your own mask thing before you do the Up Guy’s. Got it.

“This is your (new) pilot speaking. Turns out there are thunderstorms between here and Martha’s Vineyard. We aren’t being allowed to fly our route. We apologize for this. The airplane is getting very hot and if it reaches a certain heat, we will have to ask you all to get off the plane and head back to the gate. Thanks for your patience.”


“I don’t fly the plane, sir,” he replies. “Hopefully we will be taking off shortly.”

I start to wonder how hot this bird has to get before they boot us off. It feels about 95 degrees now. I’m in an all-out sweat. This can’t be real. This is a nightmare right? That alarm is going to go off soon. I’m going to wake up in my bed and start all over right? iPhone down to 5%. Yeah, you’re right I started playing Bejeweled again. It was helping.

Kids have lost their patience. “I JUST WANT THE PLANE TO TAKE OFF MOMMY,” one screams a few rows ahead of me. “I JUST WANT IT TO TOO MOMMY!,” I think to myself. I swear to GOD, Up Guy, if you elbow me one more time I will own you with my FISTS!

“This is your pilot speaking. we are taking off in two minutes.”

And the crowd roars! Claps, cheers, joy returns. The sweat on my lip evaporates. We taxi and take off. The weight has been lifted. We fly over Baltimore, Philly, NYC. All those people down there, they envy me. I’m going to MV. I’m going to make it.

Four trips on and off the plane. Four hours delayed. But we made it.

Oh yeah – Up Guy turns out to be a really nice gent.

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Lara O'Brien August 03, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Well relax and enjoy the Vineyard, that was some trip!!
Michael West August 03, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I once traveled from the Sheraton Mirage resort at Surfers Paradise, north of Brisbane on the Gold Coast of Oz (business conference), to Brisbane by car service, from Brisbane to Sidney, from Sidney to Los Angeles and LA to New York by plane; then from New York to Woods Hole by bus where I caught the ferry home. Over 40 hours from pillar to post but very little waiting around...
Beth Colt August 04, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Wow, that is hilarious! Great story. --Beth, Woods Hole Inn
The Ballston Common Male (James Heuser) August 04, 2012 at 03:52 PM
Thanks Lara! Zero stress since I touched down. And great weather!
The Ballston Common Male (James Heuser) August 04, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Whoa! That is some serious travel. Do you surf here on island? The waves have been really rough since I got here. Cool to look at - hard to swim in!
The Ballston Common Male (James Heuser) August 04, 2012 at 03:53 PM
Thanks Beth! Hope all is well at the Inn!
jms1 August 10, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Great story.. so glad we came out yesterday- no delays no issues.. and loving it here on MV.. same flight arrival .. but late today we are seeing tornado warnings 'till 9pm...want to sit back and enjoy the next few days!


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