Things are getting SPOOKY at PRA this October with the Travel HORROR Story series! If you’ve traveled, you’ve encountered hiccups — lost luggage, canceled flights, crummy food, the list is endless. Since PRA staff are some of the most well-traveled folks around, we have gathered a collection of truly terrifying travel stories for your reading pleasure. A new post in the series will be posted each week during the month of October!

Read Part 1. Read Part 2. Read Part 3. Read Part 4.

We’ve saved our scariest stories for our fifth and final installment!

Ashley: So this is embarrassing…I was at work last November during what I thought was a peaceful day, until someone stopped by and asked, “Why are you here today?” Apparently, my flight to Florida to help facilitate a trauma training was TODAY, not tomorrow, as I thought. Beth, our Logistics Coordinator, kept my panic down as I called Michelle at Albany Travel. It was already too late to run home and make it to my flight (and of course I wasn’t packed yet), so she rebooked me for later that day. I had to fly into a different Florida airport and drive back to the site city (who knew Florida had so many tolls?) but luckily, it worked out–and I triple checked my reservations from then on.

Travis: While trying to get from Nebraska to Atlanta in June, I was sitting in the Omaha airport waiting to board my flight to Houston, when the airline staff informed us that our flight was either going to be significantly delayed or cancelled altogether because the only flight attendant scheduled to be on the plane was too ill to fly. They said they were trying to locate a flight attendant somewhere, but there were not any in the local area, and that one would likely have to be flown in from Montana (over 1,000 miles away from Nebraska). They explained that the flight might still end up being cancelled because the remnants of a hurricane were moving from the Gulf of Mexico through the East Coast of Texas, and would be hitting Houston sometime later in the day.

We were eventually able to leave Nebraska and make it to Houston that afternoon. I was fortunate in that my originally scheduled flight from Houston to Atlanta had been delayed by several hours because of the bad weather in Texas. We were able to get on the plane and make it out of Houston just ahead of the worst of the weather.

Kathy: Joe and I were flying to Washington, D.C. to meet with Mike Faenza, who at the time was the Executive Director of Mental Health America. It was a bright, clear day leaving the Albany airport for DC. The flight was pretty empty and the pilot was chatty — pointing out the conditions and landmarks, until he wasn’t.

The flight attendants started huddling and whispering and walking to the mid-point of the center aisle, looking down. Soon, the co-pilot emerged from the cockpit and joined them. He proceeded to take out a pocketknife and cut up the carpet to look below to the plane’s floor. After a couple more minutes and more nervous huddling, the pilot comes on to announce that there is a problem with the landing gear; we are turning back to Baltimore to try to land there because they have a longer runway. He explained that there would be emergency vehicles on the tarmac to greet us and that we should all follow the flight attendant’s instructions and assume the crash position for landing. This was back in 1998, so cell phones were not really a thing, but a few people had them and you could hear people with their “I love you and the kids so much” calls — SUPER scary. We landed without incident — the gears evidently just appeared to be stuck. We continued on our way to D.C. via cab, shaken by the whole experience, but alive!

Travis: When I was the Clinical Director with Magellan Behavioral Health of Nebraska, I had several different divisions that I supervised. One of those divisions was our Intensive Care Management department. One of the women who worked in this department was in her 30s and grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa. She was good at her job, but her common sense was sometimes questionable.
After we secured a new and bigger contract with the State of Nebraska to become the Managed Care Organization for Nebraska Medicaid behavioral health services, I was promoted to the Vice President of System Transformation. One of my responsibilities was to lead our semi-annual town hall meetings in the six different behavioral health regions across Nebraska. This meant that we took most of a workweek and drove all over the state meeting with behavioral health providers to answer their questions, update them on changes, etc. I decided for one of these town hall trips that I was going to take our new clinical director along, as well as this particular woman who worked in our Intensive Care Management (ICM) department, because providers spent a great deal of time on the phone with ICM staff, but rarely ever saw them in person.

During these extremely long days of driving, you really get to learn a great deal about the people you are traveling with, because there is nothing but time to talk while you are in the car together. Regarding this particular woman, I learned that she grew up on a dairy farm in Iowa and considered herself to be a real Iowa “farm girl.” I asked her what some of the things were that she learned growing up on a dairy farm because we drove through many rural areas containing nothing but cornfields, cows, and horses.

I told her I was always curious about how cows sleep lying down, but horses often times stand. She responded to me like I was an alien from outer space commenting that didn’t I know that when a cow is lying down it means that it is dead. She was being absolutely serious. She continued to inform me that the only time cows lie down are when they are really sick and/or dead and that they sleep standing up. Our clinical director looked at me like we might have to find the nearest hospital to take our co-worker to! This co-worker and I proceeded to have a mini-argument about who was right and who was wrong.

After several more minutes of driving, I saw exactly what I was looking for and proceeded to pull the car over to the side of the highway and I asked her to join me in getting out of the car. Once we were out of the car, I pointed to a field with dozens and dozens of cows in it. I pointed at the many cows that were lying down (and appeared to be quite healthy) and proceeded to say, “So you are trying to tell me that all of those cows in this field that are lying down are either dead or really sick.” She saw the point I was trying to make and backed off, quickly changing her statement to mean that horses were either sick or dead when they were lying down. Since most of our driving that week took place in rural and frontier areas of Nebraska, I was extremely ruthless in pointing out the thousands of dead cows we were encountering along the way, each time we passed a farm or field with cows in it. I asked her many times if she was sure she grew up on a dairy farm. On future town hall road trips when she wasn’t with us, myself and the other staff who came along would either call her, text her or email her about the epidemic of dead cows we seemed to be encountering all across Nebraska and we couldn’t imagine what the catastrophe must look like in other larger states such as Texas. Nothing like having fun at someone else’s expense! At least it kept us entertained while on the road to count all of the dead cows we encountered.