So we made arrangements, and on Wednesday, May 31st, 1978, I flew by myself first class on a Swiss Air flight from Dallas toward New York on the first leg of my trip. But we couldn't land in New York because of a storm, so had to fly to Washington, D.C., land, and sit on the plane there until the weather cleared in an hour or so, then flew back to New York City.
When we finally landed, I dashed from one terminal to the other where my Swiss Air flight to Zurich was already boarding. We all got on the plane (a D-C 10, which holds over 300 people and it was full), then were told we couldn't take off for at least an hour because of heavy traffic. We were all served a "free gratis" drink, but sat there for about 1 and 1/2 hours before starting to back out of our parking space.
About that time, suddenly and surprisingly, a big puff of black smoke came out of one of the overhead luggage racks. We stopped of course, and after a bunch of scurrying around and checking by the captain and crew, it was decided that it was caused by a short in the wiring of the internal lighting and wasn't dangerous to fly. So we took off, 2 hours late.
I was pretty uptight by then, as you can imagine, and we were half way across the ocean before I decided the plane would stay in the air. A nice man sitting next to me was reassuring and bought me two small bottles of wine, which helped me to relax.
Our connecting flight on to Dhahran was held for our arrival in Zurich, so we dashed through the terminal there from one plane to another and were soon in the air again. Thank goodness, the rest of the trip wasn't bad.
We landed at 9:45 p.m. Thursday night at Dhahran Airport, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, June 1st, 1978. I had never seen such a large number of people of all nationalities there before at one time. They were so thick you “couldn't stir them with a stick". You literally had to push and shove to get through, or step over or around the ones sitting or laying on the floor. But I had learned to do some of that while traveling, so it didn't bother me too much. It did bother me that my suitcase didn't come on the same plane with me there, but at least I wouldn't have to lug it to Abqaiq.
I had visited with a returning student on the plane, so I shared a taxi on to Abqaiq with he and his mother, who had come to meet him. We finally arrived there at 12 o'clock.
Of all the flights I had made back and forth with Oran, I didn't know why this one had so many bug-a-boos. I can't say the trip over there was good, but there I was back in good old Saudi Arabia again. I was tired and it was hot already, with the sand blowing all the time, but I was still glad to be there.
After sleeping as late as possible the next morning, I went to the Dining Hall for breakfast, where I ran into George Stein. After explaining everything that had happened he offered to drive me back to the airport to check on my bag, so I took him up on it. I had been worrying about just what I was going to do about it. When we got there, I was told they had received a telex saying my bag would arrive that night at 11:30 on a Middle East flight. I wasn't going to wait around until that time, so George drove me back to Abqaiq and said he would go back the next morning to pick it up for me. Thank goodness for favors from friends.
The bag was there the next morning when he went back so he delivered it to me. I was lucky. Some bags took weeks to catch up to you and others never arrived at all.
I had called all our other friends to tell them I was back and explained why. They were a bit curious about my returning early, but accepted it. A lot of wives traveled without their husbands there.
The trip had been very tiring, especially flying straight through, and my days and nights were mixed up, so I slept and rested a lot the next few days.
On Monday night, June 5th, 1978, I went to Al Shafries Restaurant in Madinat with Marge and Chris DeSantis and Jeanine and Jerry King. Afterward we went by Julie and Mike Swecker's house for a drink.
During the days I started doing some sorting, and separating things out that I wanted to send home or try to sell over there. I was right, it was going to be a chore, and I wanted to work in some shopping trips to Al-Khobar, and do some of the fun things left to do there, as well. That wouldn't be too easy as it was already extremely hot, around 115 degrees most of the time, and the wind and sand blew almost constantly. Heat records had already been set in a torrid prelude to summer. A lack of winter rainfall had left the desert exceptionally dry and parched. Throughout the entire 1977-78 rainy season recorded from October 1st through May 31st, only .90 inches had fallen in Abqaiq. The average yearly rainfall was 3.18 inches. But I would just have to do the best I could.