The Great Escape, Pt.1
Tuesday, 10:45 PM
“Not our problem. Call the airline,” said a man with an Indian accent on the other line. My eyes follow the blades on the ceiling fan as they rotate clockwise. I get lost in the movement, then take a deep breath so I don’t lose my shit on this man, presumably on the opposite side of the world.
“Right, have a goodnight, morning, whatever, and enjoy answering calls,” I reply. I drop the phone on the mattress next to me and continue to get lost in the fan above.
Hurricane Ian had already made landfall, carving destruction throughout the Caribbean, and it was heading straight for Jacksonville - my location. I booked my trip to London ages ago, and of course, a hurricane would decide to set its course in my direction and cause my life to turn upside-down.
A quick Google search for Jetblue Airlines followed by an hour wait to speak to an agent and I was rebooked on a flight departing that afternoon. I hung up the phone and noticed the time was just after 1AM. I walked into the living room, where my roommate/business partner/kickass friend TK is watching the latest episode of The Pat McAfee Show. I let him know the new plans, and we started brainstorming my options for leaving early in order to beat the storm.
I’m not the best at asking for help when I need it, but sometimes you just need it. TK, without skipping a beat, was on the phone with a friend in NYC setting up a place for me to crash at. He drove me to the airport, too. I’m still lost for words on what it’s like to have a homie like him in my corner.
With everything now in order, I fell into my bed to steal a few hours of sleep. I still had to work before heading out. I’m awakened before sunrise to the sound of the wind howling and the rain tapping on my window.
‘Please, don’t cancel my flight,’ I think to myself as I notice palm leaves scooting across the streets and the sound of massive waves crashing at Jax Beach.
As the day went on, the storm created more of a show to let the residents of Jacksonville know, I’m getting closer. I double check to make sure everything is packed: passport-check, credit cards-check, black belt and gi-check, gifts for my girlfriend and friends-check.
TK and I throw my bags into his SUV, and we are off to the airport. My anxiety is building. I just want to make it on my flight before the airport decides to change their minds and close down. As we crossed the suspension bridge, I remember hearing on the news that bridges would be closed by nightfall.
Part of me felt guilty for leaving, like I was leaving my boys behind. But then I laughed, because I know they're professional beach lifeguards and were actually excited for the waves that come with big storms. So my slight sadness turned to a mental laugh as I could imagine them in my head stoked to be in the water.
We finally made it to the airport where you can see the people trying to escape just like me. We unload my gear, give each other a bro hug and part ways. I walked toward the automatic doors and stepped into the airport. I felt like I made it into a special night club. I can’t believe I made it inside. I quickly get over my shock, check my bag, and before I know it, I’m up in the air bouncing around in some of the heaviest turbulence I’ve ever experienced. I have a handful of friends who are pilots, and they’ve reassured me that planes don’t go down from turbulence, so all I can do is mentally throw my hands in the air and enjoy the rollercoaster ride.
“Welcome to NYC!” I hear as I walk to collect my bag. I made contact with my new friend Sean, whom I would be staying with. I let him know that I was still waiting for my bag, but I would grab an Uber and be on my way as soon as possible.
I wait and wait, but no bag. There’s no way I’m leaving without that bag. My black belt and other important items are in that bag. The airport baggage claim employees tell me someone probably took my bag by mistake, but I didn’t buy this, as there was only one person from my plane who grabbed a bag.
Luckily, a different employee informed me that my bag could be jammed on the belt, which is why it hadn’t come out yet. With one final push to the airport baggage claim, the carousel restarted, and my bag flew down. My stoke level was through the roof!
With my bags in hand, I jumped in my Uber and made my way into Manhattan. I’ve never been to NYC before, and I was about to spend two whole days there. My driver filled me in on the joys of living there and what to check out. After some brief talk about the city and the Indian sport Kabaddi, I arrived at my new place of rest until I could fly out.
“Hi, is this Sean? I’m so sorry for being so late. My bag-” I try to say before Sean let me know it was totally OK, and to come up to the fifth floor, take a left, go through the fire door,and look for the open door. I follow his directions and soon I’m shaking Sean’s hand, blown away by his apartment. The whole space is covered in art. My eyes were darting back and forth taking in my new surroundings. Sean, being an artist, decorated his apartment as an artist should. He had to be up early, so he led me to my room where I dropped everything off and got ready to crash out.
Rome Lytton IV
Rome is a world traveler who thrives living a nomadic lifestyle. He spent the last eight years exploring southeast Asia and was promoted to black belt by Dan “Imal” Reid. If you see him on the side of the road with his thumb out, trust the good vibes.