Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Blizzard Flying

Text © Robert Barry Francos

I first heard about the big impending snowstorm of March 2, 2009, that was to hit New York City, when Donna Shewolf mentioned it on Facebook. I was in central Canada and checked into 1010wins.com.

My flight was set to fly out at 6:30 AM, land in Toronto, and then at noon head to LaGuardia (LGA), get there at 1:30, and head on home to Brooklyn by public transport. But the travel gods had other plans.

Before we left for the airport, I called Air Canada (AC) and said, “Hey, I’m already here, should we change the ticket, make life easier for both of us?” I was told no problem, the planes are both scheduled as On Time. When we got to the airport and I had to check in, I said again, “Hey, I’m already here, should we change the ticket, make life easier for both of us?” I was once again told no problem, the planes are both scheduled as On Time.

The plane to Toronto left 10 minutes late and arrived 5 minutes early. So far so good. Once through customs, I got to my gate with 15 minutes to spare. There is a Tim Horton’s close at the next gate down the terminal, and I remember I have a $2 coupon. I go get an X-Large French Vanilla coffee that ends up costing me 22 cents (Canadian).

By the time I got back to my gate 10 minutes later, I find the flight to LGA is cancelled. I called AC on a white courtesy phone and was rebooked to a 13:30 (1:30 PM). Standing on line at the courtesy desk to pick up my new boarding pass, I hear the people in front of me getting stand-by tickets to the same flight. Okay, I’m feelin’ lucky. At this point I called my partner back in Canada to fill her in, and then head to my gate waaaaaay on the other side of the terminal. But then again, I was in no rush.

Getting there in plenty of time, I relaxed, wrote a future blog (yes, I write them first long-hand many times), and waited. And waited. The board had a new time of 15:00. Then 15:30. I wrote a second blog. At 14:30, they announced we would be leaving earlier than expected so get ready to board. At 15:10, they gave our plane away to a flight going to Houston. At 15:20, they announced that the flight was cancelled.

As the moving sidewalks only seem to go to the gates, I walked all the way back to the white phones, just past the courtesy desk and placed my call to AC. They had nada; the next few flights were also cancelled, and the rest for the night were booked solid. What about a hotel voucher? Nope, seems as the delay is weather related, it is not AC’s responsibility (even though the only reason I was there was based on AC’s word in the first place). So, basically, they’re condemning me to sleep at the airport, where all chairs have arm rests and it is impossible to stretch out. Oops, sorry! Well, what about going to Newark rather than LGA? Oh, there’s one at 18:30! She puts me on that flight.

Back to the courtesy desk to pick up the new new boarding pass. The wait on the line was long, but what’s the rush, right? I finally get up the counter and find out that I’m listed as stand-by for the Newark flight. Day-am! The person at the counter informs me that there is an earlier flight to Newark that’s just as full, so she puts me on stand-by for both. My last chances.

The first one is scheduled for a 16:30 take-off, with a delay to 17:30. While I am waiting, and being a good boy, I’m thinking, “Please! Let me on the damn plane! I’ve been in this ferstinkiner airport since 11:00 AM! Please!

The plane boards and my name is not called. So I walk over to the person at the gate podium and give him my ticket, saying, “I’m on stand-by. Is there any chance?” He checks the computer, and squeezes me on! It’s 17:30 but I’m finally on my way…

…To the tarmac, where we sit. “We’ll be taking off at 18:15.” “Wheels up at 19:00.” “After another 50 minutes, at 19:50, we’ll be going!” And we sit on the plane. They give us a small bag of fried corn nuts. And one of those small glasses of water (first class gets coffee). I’m hungry at this point.

While we sit, I start this blog, intermittently reading a book my partner lent me called Letters From the Sourdough Bagel. The assumption is that it’s a Jewish author, but ends up he’s a minister. With a title like Bagels yet; go figure. Still the book is full of short pieces that sound an awful lot like blogs.

At 19:45, we actually take off.
We are at the Newark terminal at 21:30, and the $15 bus to Manhattan comes at 21:45.
At 22:30, I’m at the 42 Street station near Bryant Park, with the train arriving at 22:40, and then proceeds to go local all through Manhattan and Brooklyn.
Home at 23:50, say hello to the cats, phone my partner to let her know I’m still alive, and grab a quick bite of tuna salad.
I’m feeling restless, so I decide to put up this blog at 3:00 AM, even though I’m tired. And after I’m done, it’s to bed, perchance to dream…the rest is silence…until 8:00 AM when I have to wake up and start my day.

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