Defiance Spanish teacher Emily Martin suffers through travel odyssey

By AL SMITH @cnalsmith Published:

Emily Martin discovered a Spanish tradition of good luck doesn't always work. The longtime Defiance High School Spanish teacher successfully completed the Twelve Grapes, linked to the New Year's tradition related to the Puerta del Sol tower clock in Madrid.

"It could have been way worse, but the tradition was not real lucky," she said from her parents' farm in Warren late Monday morning.

Martin, who was spending the Christmas holidays in Madrid, wound up caught in 48 hours of frustration and no sleep thanks to Mother Nature's snow and subzero temperatures. She was hoping to drive back to Defiance today and figure out how get her car and luggage from the Detroit Metro Airport, her original destination from Madrid.

The Twelve Gapes dates back to 1895. Tradition says if one eats 12 grapes each at the strike of the bell at midnight on Dec. 31, it will bring that person a year of prosperity and good luck.

Such as not the case for Martin.

"The weather was perfect, but my flight from Madrid on Saturday was delayed by four hours. I had my flight changed from Atlanta to New York. It's been an adventure I don't ever want to experience again," she said.

Although she left Madrid at 10 a.m. Saturday and did not arrive in Cleveland until 6 p.m. Sunday, she considered herself fortunate.

"I didn't think I would get out of JFK (airport). I think 85 percent of the people are still there," Martin said.

Her odyssey began at JFK when because of a security breach, passengers from her flight from Madrid had to be pulled into a special room to clear customs. Consequently, she lost her luggage and flight to Detroit.

"I was standing there holding a first-class ticket to Detroit. I've never done that before. Then I got bumped," she said.

Then Martin's fiasco got worse.

"I'm sitting on this dinky little plane that is supposed to fly to Cleveland. I'm sitting there and watch fire trucks go by while we're sitting on the tarmac. It didn't take much to figure out what happened," she explained. Another airliner had slid off the runway after hitting black ice at JFK.

Martin and her plane mates were taken off the plane. They got a later booking to Cleveland. That plane took off about four hours later.

"Most people were sleeping in the airport. I talked to some people who had been waiting two to three days to get to New Orleans. I figured if I had waited to get a Detroit connection it could have been four or five days," Martin said.

She came into JFK with a number of Italians on her flight. Fortunately, Italian is a language Martin has studied.

"They were so nice. I talked with some of them at JFK. Some were crying. I tried to comfort them."

Eventually a sleepless Martin ("48 hours without sleep is beyond sleep deprived") got to Cleveland and then Warren. Now her concern is figuring out when she will travel to Detroit for her car and hopefully her luggage.

As for future foreign trips?

"This wound up being a very expensive and stressful trip. I think the next holiday season I'll sit at home and read some books," she said.

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