Part 1: Fire, Ice And Foam

January 9, 2011

Part 1 of 3:

When I called my friend to tell him I’d be going to India for the wedding of our mutual friend he said “Dude, you are going to get so sick!” He was eerily prophetic, but I mistakenly assumed he meant once I got to India . . . but more on that later.

My flight was scheduled for December 26th from the lovely town of Newark, New Jersey. Though I had religiously checked the snow situation in London after it held up a couple of my friends’ flights, I was completely taken by surprise when I learned on Christmas day that a foot of snow was being predicted for Pennsylvania for the 26th. The morning of the 26th looked ominous, and all British Airway flights following my 6:45 one had already been canceled. I guess my flight was right on the cusp of “Let’s see how bad this thing really gets. ” I made two fortuitous decisions (well, my mother may have made them). One to pack my outfit for the wedding in my carry on, and two to book a hotel in Newark just in case the flight was canceled. My brother-in-law nicely offered to drive me up early before the snow hit so I could be there if we did still take off. The snow started on our drive up, and we passed at least 10 accidents on the way. Apparently people forget even basic driving rules at the sight of the first flake. When I got to the airport, we waited until after 3pm for anyone to show up to the BA counter and start checking us in. I heard one of the agents saying they were trying to move up our flight time, but the line was crawling so they really needed to step up their check-in. By 5 pm I could barely see out the window, and we were still waiting for news. At 6 pm they had 4 de-icers like alien spiders on the plane next to us, and they boarded us as well. We thought we were set, but then the pilot announced that Newark had already closed the runway, but he was hoping for a window since they had “focused all their efforts on this one flight.” Flight attendants brought around booze and turned on the entertainment, though of course my row was broken. And at 8:30pm they de-boarded us. It’s incredibly disappointing to get settled on a cramped plane only to get kicked off without actually going anywhere. They apologized profusely but didn’t give any direction beyond that we needed to leave the gate and go get our luggage. All the de-boarded flights crowded together waiting for maybe 40 minutes for the luggage to come and only then would they allow us to talk to a BA rep at the gate. But when I went over they said they weren’t in charge of re-booking, and I had to call.

So then I had to figure out how to get to my hotel. I wisely stopped at Subway before attempting to get across the airport. I needed to take the airtrain transport but none of the agents could tell me if it was actually working. They knew one had been stuck on the tracks but were more concerned with arguing with each other about whether or not they could use the airport wheelchairs as chairs than answering our questions. I waited maybe 2 hours for one to show up going the right direction, and it was almost too packed for me to get in. It dropped me at a drafty parking garage area that was crowded with tired and angry people waiting for shuttles to their hotels. The shuttle for my hotel took an hour to come and I shutter to think how close we must have come to getting stranded in the snow. We passed car after car, after bus, after 18-wheeler stranded all over the roads.

While I had been making this sojourn across the frozen tundra of New Jersey, my mother called BA and found my flight wasn’t “canceled” but “rescheduled” for 6 pm the 27th. The next day, I had lunch at the hotel watching the news about the “crippling storm,” but I did learn that “in happier news Hugh Hefner is getting married again,” so at least there was that… Around noon I headed back to the airport where I found the rest of my flight who had slept on the floor of the airport. Of course to get their luggage they had to leave the gate which had both carpet and padded seats. The counter area just had a hard floor and drafts. Apparently a BA agent had passed out blankets to “women and children.” BA showed up at 2:30 confirming that only our “rescheduled” flight would be going out today because there weren’t any other planes at the airport. Departure was set for 7:30 since the airport was officially closed until 6pm. We didn’t take off until after 1am and it was completely uncertain until we actually left the ground…to be continued.

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