After an uneventful travel experience, the full NOLA team has made it safely to The Big Easy, checked into Camp Hope, and coordinated tomorrow’s performance. Those of us who are of age are sitting outside a bar on Bourbon Street enjoying the warm Gulf Stream air and quaffing the city’s signature drink, the Hurricane.
Wait! That’s not what’s happened at all! That’s what was supposed to happen, but as the Scottish poet Bobbie Burns said, “The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley.” I’m not 100% sure what that means; it’s hard to tell with Mr. Burns on account of the Scotch infused haggis he insisted on consuming before setting pen to paper. Maybe the idea is that we shouldn’t let rodents make plans, or maybe it’s a reminder that sometimes we have to let go and put ourselves in the hands of fate. Perhaps my confusion is due to the fact that of the last 34 hours, I have been awake 31, and those three hours of unconsciousness were not contiguous.
You see, we left Juilliard as planned at 3:30 AM last night. Due to several unfortunate circumstances, we are already two team members down from the 33 who have been training these last several months. Before we even left Manhattan, we’d received word that our 7 AM flight had been cancelled. Still, we thought it best to press on.
Most of us arrived at JFK by 4:15 AM. We noticed quickly that our fearless leaders were nowhere in sight. Turns out their cab driver got JFK confused with LaGuardia. Oops. Once they arrived, they hit the ground running and as quickly as possible negotiated all the flight re-bookings. The good news: we can all fly today. The bad news: the flight is at 8:30 PM. Yes, that’s almost 16 hours hence.
With that news, the sleeping bags come out. We set up camp in the foyer above the check-in desks at Terminal Five. You know that scene in Gone With the Wind, right after the battle of Gettysburg? This looked like a scaled down version of that. Faceless bodies, piled on top of one another, wrapped in blankets and covered by hats, all lined up in front of the elevators.
We took turns sleeping. Those who could keep their eyes open played cards and watched the luggage. Some brave souls ventured out in search of food in distant terminals. By late afternoon, we were all fed, rested to varying degrees, and more than ready to get on a plane. It was still not time for check-in, though. Together, and eager, we had an impromptu rehearsal right there in the foyer of our group number, “Lean on Me.” Orchestrated and harmonized on the spot, suddenly this group of scruffy, smelly wayfarers was transformed into a soulful choir, ready to take on anything.
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that New York travelers did not bat a proverbial lash at this brash display.
Finally, around 4 PM, we were allowed to check in. Past the security checkpoint, we charged towards our gate with bravado, ecstatic that our flight was in sight! Oops. Wrong again.
Four hours till boarding time. Well, there’s always the consolation prize of Jamba Juice. Looks like we’ll hit the ground tired and running.
But there’s always a silver lining, and this somewhat irritating delay may be a blessing in disguise. The one thing that we never managed to do in our months of preparing, training, baking, and envelope stuffing was to form a cohesive sense of team. This experience has brought us together in the way that no bake sale possibly could. Bonded by this absurd day, we are now NOLA Team 2010.