Tuesday, January 16, 2007

the best care in the air

i cannot deny that i enjoyed my break in milwaukee. hey, eating foods from more than one part of the nutritional pyramid, often within the same day...free laundry machines...tables...i'm all about that kind of chic. and it was nice catching up with the siblings, too, if only to have such scintillating dialogues as this:

yonina: i sure am glad i live on earth where there's an atmosphere. otherwise i might get cold!

those of you who were concerned about that one's planet of origin will no doubt be relieved.

but i digress. because while i enjoyed my break in milwaukee, i undoubtedly enjoyed the flight BACK to new york (warning! light fog and twenty percent chance of drizzle!) FROM milwaukee (4 to 5 inches overnight) much, much more.

i don't remember exactly when that day started. i think it was actually thursday night, when i was walking back to my mother's car after aerobics, and one of the girls casually mentioned that it was going to snow on sunday. i turned around and said to my mother: 'mom, my flight's going to get delayed.'

i think she shrugged. my father said later that night, 'it won't stick. the ground is too warm.'

it hadn't snowed yet, and i was not overly alarmed at the prospect of spending an additional two hours lounging around my furnitured home, so i didn't worry too much.

saturday night, i glanced at the forecast and saw again that it was going to snow. my mother said to me: 'why aren't you packing?' i said, 'i'll do it tomorrow. it sounds like my flight will be delayed.'

and we proceeded to watch 'dances with wolves', by my modest estimate, at least three times.

by the time that i woke up on sunday morning, my 4:55 flight had already been delayed to 5:30. we didn't think too much of that, either. so we would leave a half an hour later. again, more quality time with the comfy chair.

by the time i had finished with breakfast, my estimated departure time was 6:25.

by the time i had gotten dressed, it was 8:00 pm. for those of you who, like me, are troubled mathematically, this would put me into new york between 11:00 and 11:30 eastern time. it was at this point that i started checking the earlier flight, the one which was supposed to leave at 1:25, figuring i might go standby. that flight now had an estimated departure time of about 4:30, or twenty minutes before the original flight i had booked. i tried not to think about it. i didn't really want to leave earlier.

the airline representatives could not, unfortunately, tell us what the chances were that either plane would take off, how fully booked they were, whether i should bother trying to fly standby, etc. so at 3:00, my mother and i spontaneously decided to drive to the airport for the sheer heck of it, just to see what was going on. the plan was for me to check my luggage and attempt to fly standby. if i was told i could not, my mom would take me home and bring me back four hours later, when my original flight was scheduled to take off.

but i had no problem getting a standby ticket. in fact, the ticketing agent seemed to undergo an epiphany as she was checking me in. 'what the--you on the 5 flight? the one that's supposed to go out at eight now? honey, you gotta get off that flight. i'm changing you to a confirmed passenger on the 3. roger,' she said to the agent next to her, 'anyone that comes in here for the 5 flight, you stuff them on the 3, you got it? as many people as you can fit! something here ain't gonna hold.'

hm, i thought. for a moment i felt slightly nervous. then i shook myself. hey, i got a standby ticket! that meant something like a half an hour in the airport, and getting into new york at 7:30, having the whole night to unpack - it was fantastic! i said goodbye to my mother and almost immediately boarded the plane.

i had been sitting in my seat for a few minutes, my bags stowed, seatbelt fastened, reading a magazine, when the flight attendent said, 'we are requesting that everyone leave this plane immediately; this flight has been cancelled. you will all be rebooked onto the 5 flight, estimated departure time 8:00 pm.'

oh no, i thought. but i gathered up my stuff and went to take my place at the end of the agonizingly long and somewhat wide crowd of people mobbing the gate agent. there was no distinguishable hierarchy that i could tell; all i knew was that i was nowhere near the agent and probably would not be within this decade. using her radio, she informed us that we would each have to hand her the stubs of our tickets so that she could change us to the 5 flight. i vainly tried to elbow my way into the outer orbit.

i had progressed about two feet when the gate agent told us, 'we have just been informed that the 5 has been cancelled. we will now proceed to rebook you all on flight 9 to new york. flight 9 has a scheduled departure time of 10:26 central time. thank you.'

again for the mathematically challenged, this would land me in new york sometime between 1:30 and 2 in the morning. i was less than thrilled.

of course this meant that the few people who had managed to get themselves rebooked on the 5 now had to be rebooked on the 9, so we were back to the beginning of the mob. disheartened, i stood there for close to an hour. they opened another line downstairs, which i raced to get near the front of, which was good, because i got to overhear many encouraging bits of information that way, such as:

'flight 9 has a decision rule on it, sir. that means that at 9:30, they will decide if it's going to be cancelled or not. of course, we could always put you on the flight to new york. that one still has a departure time.'

and:

'do i recommend that you take the first flight out in the morning, the 7:40? well ma'am, i can only say this: you do know it's supposed to snow five inches overnight, don't you?'

and:

'does anyone know when that storm is supposed to start?'

and perhaps best of all:

'no ma'am, the 3 and the 5 weren't cancelled because of the snow. that was actually new york. it appears there is some light fog there.'

light fog?! i wanted to scream. light fog?! get me air traffic control. i got some 'light fog' for them.

the truth was, however, as i waited in that impossible line, i was not angry. i was beginning to feel something which would later develop into full-fledged giddiness, and at one point i was convinced i was developing a facial tic. right before they got up to me, the gate agent started to say things like, 'uh oh, laurie, the newark flight's almost full,' and 'are you sure you don't want to consider a morning flight, ma'am?' i thought of my first day of classes, beginning bright and early monday morning, and began to despair.

luckily, however, my mother had packed a bag of cookies to put in my carry-on before we left, just in case. i offered one to the gate agents when my turn finally came.

'eating?' the gate agent scoffed. 'gate agents don't eat! what is that? nobody feeds the gate agents!'

she did not, in the end, take the cookie, although she did look at it longingly. but she did squeeze me onto the back aisle seat of the newark flight, which she assured me was still scheduled to take off after 9:30, just as soon as they found a good plane and printed me out a new ticket. she took down my luggage description so that it could be transferred to that plane. feeling triumphant, i went back upstairs to phone my mother and tell her that i still had a possible flight to new york, and then i phoned the friend who was picking me up to reroute them to new jersey. the time was 6:30.

at 6:31, an announcement came over the loudspeakers which said, 'attention in the d concourse. flight 9 to new york will now be departing at 8:05. thank you.'

my jaw dropped. my fellow stranded passengers all turned to each other with the same look of doom.

then, on cue, we all rushed the gate agents, trying to ensure a spot on the 9. people were waving their tickets in the air and elbowing their way through. those of us who had been so thankful to get on the newark flight just minutes ago were cursing our luck as we tried in vain to snatch the last few seats on the 9, now scheduled to leave blessedly before the storm would hit. i succeeded in securing, again, the last aisle seat by the bathroom door and collapsed into a chair right next to the gate agent desk, determined not to take my eye off either one of them.

a half hour of careful scrutiny later, another announcement came on: 'please be advised that flight 9 will now be leaving at 7:40 pm, its original departure time.'

who knew?

i didn't really believe they were going to have us on that plane by 7:40. but they did. i was seat-belted in, my bag under the seat, sitting next to an extremely cute mormon. i closed my eyes and took out my cell phone, to tell my mother that it looked like we would be taking off after all.

that was about when the flight attendent said, 'unfortunately, we were not expecting the 9 to be so full and this plane has too much fuel. it will not take off. please be advised that we are being redirected to another aircraft. we hope to depart within the next two hours.'

'darn!' said the girl behind me. 'i knew it was bad luck to sit down!'

i started to laugh then and i didn't really stop for a few hours.

they paraded us past a few gates to the end of the concourse, where-- you guessed it! -- they had to rebook all of us onto the other aircraft. it was the same old mob of people, me at the back, like always. i wondered what time it was. when the gate agent got to me, she asked me for my boarding pass. i handed her the four i had in my pocket.

'take your pick,' i said.

we waited around for a little while another crowd of people paraded past us to comandeer our aircraft. they were going to washington. call me crazy, but i thought it was about the same distance.

the girl standing next to me said suddenly, 'oh my G-d, they put all our luggage in the other plane!'

and on that note we boarded another plane. mathematically challenged as i am, i could not for the life of me remember what number i was up to.

i will save you the suspense of wondering whether i ever got to new york. i made it, my luggage made it, and i was actually at my dorm well before one in the morning. so you see, the moral of the story is that it all works out in the end. you've just gotta be grateful for the little things.

for example, i'll bet you didn't know we had an atmosphere, here on earth.

13 Comments:

Blogger SaraK said...

I had a very similar experience from Milwaukee YEARS ago, after Thanksgiving weekend. What a nightmare. Finally got into Dulles at 3 AM.

2:05 PM  
Blogger RaggedyMom said...

OMG! What a nightmare. Glad you made it through okay.

The only thing worse was when we were delayed with two crying small kids and a dwindling supply of diapers!

3:49 PM  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Well, that was one heck of a "Welcome back, Fudge," wasn't it? Um, welcome back, Fudge. :) Glad you made it to your first day of class.

Yeah, having an atmosphere definitely beats the alternative. :)

4:10 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

The lesson is:

The PT is always right.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Ezzie said...

Wow. Umm... welcome back?

And to think - we used to love flying out of Milwaukee, because it meant we could show up 30 minutes before takeoff and still have time to grab a coffee or a snack on the way to our gate.

7:48 PM  
Blogger outofAMMO said...

can you imagine the delays if we DIDN'T have an atmosphere?

7:55 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

LOL

BTW I told The PT today, "Boy it sure is great that we have an atmosphere," and she rolled her eyes and said something like, "uhh...yeah, whatever."

8:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

while the autmosphere still has its advantages, I hear we are trying our best to peal the orange rind known as the O-zone.

9:21 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der ┼íteg) said...

Wow. i am also amazed by the half-hour airport checkin times. but i guess you can do that when your flight actually ends up leaving 5 hours later.

welcome back to NYC, is your radio show happening again?

4:57 PM  
Blogger tuesdaywishes said...

Happy Landings!

6:52 PM  
Anonymous yitzi said...

outtammo - atmospheres CAUSE airport delays. without atmosphere even the smallest plane could travel at supersonic speeds without disturbing the delicate eardrums of those poor people underneath, all at a fraction of the fuel costs.
of course then your air guitar wouldn't work.

9:13 PM  
Blogger PsychoToddler said...

Yitzi: You are scary.

9:10 AM  
Blogger trn said...

Wow. What craziness that was, and it's impressive that you could remember all that to share it with us.

I like how you brought the story around at the end, too.

When I was around your age, we'd call ahead to make sure all was still scheduled on time, travel to our local airport, check right in and board -- all in under thirty minutes. No ID, no checking luggage, no waiting. It was like catching a bus. And cheap, too.

You ought to tell Yonina about the time you went to the restaurant on the moon. Don't you remember? The place was clean, the service was great, the food was kosher and delicious. But you didn't really enjoy yourself. It just wasn't a happening place to be. Why? There was no atmosphere.

4:42 PM  

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