The plot revolves around Gwen and George Kellerman, whose company has invited him to interview for a possible job promotion in New York City. From the moment they depart their home town of Twin Oaks, Ohio, the couple suffers nearly every indignity out-of-towners possibly could experience: Heavy air traffic and dense fog forces their flight to circle around JFK Airport and the New York skyline repeatedly before finally being rerouted to Boston’s Logan Airport, where they discover their luggage – in which George’s ulcer medication and Gwen’s extra cash are packed – was left behind.
Just missing the train at South Station, they chase it to the next stop by cab, board it (it is extremely overcrowded), and wait two hours for seats in the dining car, only to discover the only food left is peanut butter sandwiches, green olives, and crackers, with nothing to drink but tonic water and clam juice (“but they ain’t cold”). Upon arrival at Grand Central Terminal in New York by 2:00am (02:00), they discover that the city’s subway and bus drivers, taxicab drivers, and sanitation workers are all on strike. Making their way to the Waldorf-Astoria on foot past tons of garbage in a torrential downpour, they discover their reservation – guaranteed for a 10:00pm arrival – has been given away, and the hotel, like every other one in the city, is booked to capacity due to the strikes.
What follows is a series of calamities that includes being robbed at gunpoint by a man with an umbrella named Murray; kidnapping by armed liquor store robbers after a high-speed chase while the Kellermans are riding in a police car en route to an armory; being mugged while sleeping in Central Park; George cracking a tooth on Cracker Jacks left by a dog under Trefoil Arch; broken high heels; accusations of child molestation; an exploding manhole cover; expulsion from a church; and an attack by protestors in front of the Cuban embassy. With each successive catastrophe, George angrily writes down each perpetrator’s name and promises to sue them or their company when he returns home.
The only thing that goes right for George is that he somehow manages to arrive on time for his 9:00am (09:00) interview, with rumpled clothing. Despite receiving a very lucrative offer, the two realize an upwardly mobile move to the big city is not what they truly cherish after the urban problems they have gone through, and they make the decision to return to their small town in Ohio, only to be subjected to one more major catastrophe—their flight home is hijacked to Cuba. Gwen says “Oh my god!” (which she had said various other times during the movie) ending the film.