Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas and the Blizzard

It's great news that the Holiday season is over. I don't want to give you an impression that I detest the festivities that are associated with the end of the year, but I am glad that the irritating TV commercials and the excruciating Xmas songs are about a year away from us. I do like, however, the camaraderie and the familial occasions the Holiday seasons bring. This year I spent the Christmas with my girlfriend's family in Alabama and it was great fun - good food, good beer, fantastic weather, and a chance to spend some quality time with my girlfriend. Sadly, I won't be able to see my parents this year for the New Year's because I have to work.

I had been waiting for this vacation for quite some time and I was very excited the last few days preceding the trip. However, the Mother Nature played a nasty part in the proceedings and made sure that my outbound trip was as difficult as can be. As you know, the Northwest suffered its worst winter storm in over a hundred years. About ten days prior to my departure, the storm came and the city shut down immediately. These kind of storms are a rare occasion, apparently, and the city is not prepared for it. The temperatures remained low and it continued to snow on and off for a week. Needless to say, the roads were covered in ice and with drivers unable to manouever their Subarus.

Then I found out that there was another big system expected in the area for the weekend of the Sunday I was to leave. The storm came and everything shut down once again - flights were cancelled, roads were closed ... utter chaos. My flight was cancelled - no surprise there - but I managed to find a seat on a flight leaving on Monday. All in all I was to lose only way day. Not too bad, right?

Well, it continued to snow on Sunday night and there was a foot of snow on the roads around the Portland area. A friend I am staying with was going to give me a ride, but the car didn't even make it out of the driveway. So, I picked up my bag and started walking to the bus stop. I had a good 4-5 hours before my flight. Severely underdressed, I walked on the road covered with snow almost up to my knees with my luggage. I was waiting at the bus stop when a lady told me that the buses were taking the snow route. We walked together to the main road. In about 10-15 minutes the bus arrived. I was actually relieved.

The bus was going about 10 mph, passing by cars and other buses stuck on side streets of this part of Portland, which is very hilly. As we were halfway to downtown, the chains broke. Great. Luckily, though, there was another bus behind us. This new bus dropped me off at the intersection with the lightrail that would take me to the airport. When I got there, a representative from the transportation authority of the city told me that the line going to the airport wasn't working. I was to take the only train that's working up to a certain point, then take the shuttle. So far, so good.

I waited in the cold, with tens of other people, for an hour and a half  for the packed train to come. We all squeezed in like sardines. As the train stopped at various stops, you could see the disappointed faces of the passengers waiting on the platform when they saw the packed train. All in all, it took about 30-45 minutes to the station where the shuttle buses were waiting.

I got off - with the majority of the passengers - and proceeded to the rather long line for the bus. It was colder in this part of town. I estimated that I would get on the second bus. Two buses came and stopped about 10 yards from us. A lady from the City got on and started talking to the driver. Here we are, freezing our backsides numb, and they are talking away. that wasn't the worst part though. When their little chit-chat was over, the bus started moving and drove to the end of the line thinking it was the front. You can only imagine what happened then - people shouting, obscenities flying about, Yours Truly running across the tracks, snow up to his knees ... I can't really describe how I felt, but it wasn't pretty. Besides, by this point, I had lost feeling in my feet.

Anyway, after another hour or so, two more buses came and I managed to climb my way over people to get on the second one. I was running late - only half an hour before departure - but  I knew my flight was delayed. When I got to the airport, I learned that my flight was cancelled. Great. As the check-in lady was trying to put me on another flight, news came that they reinstated my original flight. Good news. However, there was no timeline. I didn't care. I just wanted to get out of Portland. I was going to miss my connection to Mobile. She told me that all the other flights to Mobile and surrounding airports were fully booked - I might get stuck in Houston for a couple of days. I still wanted to go.

There were two more delayed flights to Houston before mine and the first one departed a few minutes after I got through security. Then they started boarding the second flight. On the departures boards, my flight was listed as "delayed indefinitely". So, I went to the Powell's bookstore at the airport - very poor - and when I came back with Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" - horrible - I saw that the line by the gate was small but the flight was still there. I decided to try my luck again for my connecting flight. When I approached the gate I saw that it was the same lady from before. She took a look at my boarding pass and told me to get on this flight and sit wherever I wanted. What?! Lo and behold, I got on the plane and picked a random seat - they wouldn't let me sit in First Class - and off we went. I couldn't believe my luck, especially when I found out next day that all the flights out of Portland after ours were cancelled.

We arrived at Houston and went straight to the customer service desk. There was a long line and I waited a good two hours before talking to an agent. Actually, things went very smoothly and he confirmed for the first flight to Mobile next morning. He also told me that, because my flight out of Portland was cancelled, my return flight was automatically cancelled too. I had no idea. He sorted that out too. I went to a very dirty and dilapidated hotel at the airport and slept for five hours before waking up next morning for my flight. Needless to say, that flight was delayed too.

I got in to Mobile around noon. My drama wasn't over though ... they lost my bag. Luckily, it was coming on the next flight.

It was a bad flying experience, though I am aware that mine wasn't as bad as some other people's. It was worth it, though - when I saw my girl, everything vanished.

Peace.

1 comment:

Kevin said...

Holy fuck, G! That's like a movie. Glad you had a good Christmas. I think most people had a downer of 2008 but nothing is ever as bad as it seems, it just feels it at the time. I'm pretty confident you'll be singing about 2009.