New York City! I have a long history with NYC – mostly childhood dreams of living there as an adult.
Living there hasn’t happened nor has working for the New York Times, but I did finally get to visit New York some years ago, and I love it. I’m a Times Square groupie and, if I had the financial resources, would go see most every play on Broadway – twice.
In 2018, I dreamed of going to see “The Cursed Child,” the Harry Potter play, when it opened in New York. At the time, the play was broken into two productions, and you saw one on one night and the conclusion the next. The cost was outrageous, my husband is a Potter fan but not a huge fan (he likes Neville Longbottom … ) and I just decided to skip it.
When the announcement of the play reopening on Broadway this fall came, they had edited it to a one-night, three and a half hour production. I was determined to go.
So my friend Amy, a big Potter fan and even bigger NYC fan, and I planned our trip. To make things even better, my younger son, Brett, was in the city for a work project.
We boarded the plane on a lovely Saturday afternoon with tickets to “Phantom of the Opera” for Saturday night and Harry Potter tickets for a Sunday matinee firmly in hand. We had done our homework, had a great, safe and convenient place to stay very near Times Square and the Theatre District. We had Brett on board to take us to dinner one night, had plans for how we would get around to see the places we wanted to see and were as ready as ready could be.
We weren’t ready for Harrisburg, Pa.
On the approach to LaGuardia airport, the turbulence begins. Not just a shake here or there, but serious altitude changes and rocking back-and-forth. Landing gear was down, and we could hear hail hitting the plane. We could see the city out the window, as it was a little after 3 p.m.
The plane was very quiet in the middle section where we were sitting. Amy and I were talking – and praying. Suddenly, the plane is climbing again and back up on top of the clouds. Speculation around us began that we were circling for a different approach route.
“I don’t think we are just circling around,” I said to Amy. “I think New York City is now behind us.”
It was. As we saw some blue sky ahead, the pilot came on the intercom.
We learned that we couldn’t land at LaGuardia because of high winds and storms.
“We are headed to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania,” the pilot said. “They know we are coming. We need to refuel and see how the situation unfolds in New York.”
Harrisburg was a 40 minute flight. Amy, who is more Pennsylvania-savvy than I am, told me it was the capital and not far from Hershey.
Everyone on the plane was pretty calm, exceptionally nice and grateful for a wise pilot. Amy was in full Southern mode and talking with all our seat neighbors. As our time to see the play grew nearer, I got on the phone with the theater where “Phantom” was playing. They were so very nice, and we had a full refund before I hung up.
Once we landed in Harrisburg, the pilot let us know that Harrisburg had no gate for us, so we couldn’t deplane. They did have fuel, so everyone just roamed around the plane, stretching and talking. The man behind us walked up and down the aisle sharing his chocolate chip cookies!
We made it to New York after 6 p.m. On the ground, we learn they had closed the airport to all arrivals and departures for an hour and lots of planes were re-routed.
We all came back about the same time, so it took another hour-plus to get a taxi.
When we did get a taxi, we had a singing cab driver who entertained us with his very own CD of Spanish songs – which he said he paid $50,000 to make. As we approached our hotel, he was serenading Amy and me with one of his songs, crooning that we were his “lovely Senoras.”
Definitely not “Phantom.” Still, at that point in the day, it was something.
Seeing Brett at the hotel as we got out of the singing cab was the best sight we had seen all day. It was 40 degrees, and he had on shorts.
Sometimes it’s the oddest things that make you feel at home and at peace.
“The Cursed Child” was fabulous, and the rest of the trip was wonderful and blissfully uneventful.
Sherri Gardner Howell has been writing about family life for newspapers and magazines since 1987. She lives in West Knoxville, is married to Neville Howell and has two sons and three grandsons. Her newest adventure is as a travel agent with her own company, SGH Go Travel. Email her at [email protected]