MONIQUE BATSON — My bad luck just won’t “let it go”

Published 12:03 am Friday, July 2, 2021

I don’t have the best luck when it comes to traveling.

My first actual time flying was at the age of 5, when I went to Disney World with family. I remember nothing about that trip, so for all intents and purposes we’re going to pretend it didn’t happen.

So I consider my first fight to be Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019. It wasn’t a planned trip and certainly not a vacation. It was two days after a mobile gunman traveled through Midland and Odessa, killing eight and injuring 25. The company I worked for at the time had a newspaper in Midland, but it had a relatively small staff for such a large event so three people — one from Beaumont, one from Houston, and one from San Antonio — were sent to help.

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My traveling companion was the Houston Chronicle reporter, who I met while waiting at Hobby airport. She was (and still is) an incredibly kind person who had lots of experience flying, so she was prepared to settle my nerves.

We boarded, me in the center of three seats, and she popped in her headphones and closed her eyes. The gentleman to my left pulled out a travel pillow and crashed before we ever left the runway.

And directly across the aisle was a workaholic that doesn’t seem to know he’s on a plane, because he’s fervently typing while also utilizing a tablet, smart phone and what appears to be a multitude of spreadsheets. I immediately assume this man is extremely comfortable in the air. And he is key to the story, as he will become my compass.

We take off, and Emily immediately says, “This is perfectly normal.” I never had to ask or show fear; she instinctively knew with every move the plane made when it was time to reassure me. Spreadsheet Man is still typing and Travel Pillow is snoring. All is well.

Then, halfway through our one-hour flight, something happened. I wasn’t sure what it was, but it didn’t feel anything like the turbulence experienced when we left the ground.

Emily opened her eyes and said, “well this is different.” The plane started swaying as if it were a boat. She remained calm, but did admit she hadn’t experienced anything like that on a fight before.

Now getting motion sick from the swaying, the captain comes across the speaker and said a technical issue forced the plane to turn around and return to Houston. He didn’t say what — I’m assuming on purpose. But Spreadsheet Man is still working, so we must not be in too much danger, right?

About five minutes before landing, the pilot comes back on the speaker, lets us know the plane blew an engine, so we have to switch to a new one. The idea of getting back on a plane isn’t comforting at this point, but Spreadsheet Man has yet to close his computer so we’re not at super panic level yet.

About the time we land, Travel Pillow wakes up with no idea that we flew halfway to Houston on one engine.

So finally — two more planes later — we make it to Midland, and I pick up my first ever rental car. And I liked it very much, until the front passenger tire exploded while I was driving down the road. Despite the fact that I am the literal personification of “Hell on Wheels,” I don’t know how to change a tire.

I didn’t even know where I was. And what happens when it’s a rental car?

Fortunately a very nice couple from the area stopped and put the spare on, and the rental car place swapped my vehicle the next morning.

And I’ve told you all of this for the grand finale.

As I mentioned last week, I’m leaving Saturday morning to take my kids to Disney in Florida for a week. It’ll be our first trip.

Have you checked the hurricane forecast lately?

Elsa wasn’t the Disney princess I wanted to meet.


Monique Batson is the Port Arthur Newsmedia editor and can be reached at