Saturday, December 16, 2000

Never fly through La Guardia (if you can help it)

Alternate title: In which we have an unplanned layover in NYC

We have arrived in Maine safe and sound, thank God! It was definitely an adventure getting here and a story worth a minute or two to record for posterity.

Our adventure began on Thursday evening. A snowstorm struck Thursday afternoon while I was in downtown Vancouver. By the time the public transit train brought me back to Surrey, the snow had brought traffic everywhere to a virtual standstill. It took Cheryl over an hour and half to get from our house to the train station to pick me up. This is in contrast to the 10 minutes it had taken for her to take me there that morning!

We crept home through stop-and-go traffic, past many cars that had slid off the road. According to the radio there was a strong possibility that the temperature would drop again below freezing that night. This would turn all the roads to ice and make our planned trip to the airport a very hazardous affair. Cheryl and I agreed it would be best to go to the airport right away, before the roads froze, and spend the night at the airport.

My dad picked us up at 11pm and we got to the airport around midnight... Melissa would not go to sleep until she was literally unable to walk. Cheryl decided to put her into Michael's carseat and the poor kid sighed and promptly feel asleep. Cheryl was not so fortunate. Michael insisted on waking every 30-40 minutes and feeding. By the time 5am came, Cheryl was looking very owly.

We boarded our plane to Dallas-Ft Worth on time. Michael sat with Cheryl and Melissa sat with me. She was fine until the plane had taxied into position for takeoff. When she realized I had to hold her securely on my lap for the ascent, she began to screech as if someone was beating her with a stick. As every head in our section turned to see who the child abuser was, I turned 9 shades of red an few more of purple. Melissa screeched for the next hour and a half. It was a 3 and a half hour flight and I thought I was going to die (but in all probability, so did Melissa).

At last the flight attendant rearranged the seating and Cheryl and Michael ended up sharing the two seats next to Melissa and I. The extra seat allowed the Baboo some room to move about and she promptly stopped shrieking. I was sure that the passengers around us were going to applaud, but of course nothing of the sort happened.

Melissa pretty much wiped herself out on that first leg of our trip and by the time our plane was in the air on its way to La Guardia, she was asleep. Michael, on the other hand was wide awake and very fussy; much to Cheryl's chagrin. Poor Cheryl did not get a chance to rest at all and she went from owly to 'just-barely-hanging-on.'

Just after our our pilot announced that we were flying over W. Virginia, Cheryl turned to me and said that we might miss our 7.00pm connection at La Guardia to Portland. I checked my watch: 5.55pm. Our pilot said that we had about 55 minutes until we landed at La Guardia. We would be cutting it very close.

We came in over New York from the south and as we descended, I pointed out to a waking Melissa the statue of Liberty and the skyscrapers of Manhattan. I don't think she was all that impressed because they all looked about thumb-size due to our height and distance from them.

As it was, we did land on time. Our pilot had hurried us past the other planes stuck in holding patterns and landed us in a manoeuver that took us from landing speed to full stop in just about nothing flat. We were literally hanging on our straps due to the force of the deceleration. When we had stopped Melissa gave this little cry of glee -- I think she would gladly have done it again -- but everyone else just looked relieved.

Unfortunately, our pilot's efforts were in vain. La Guardia's gates and ramps were jammed with extra flight traffic from planes redirected due to bad weather and overbooking. Our plane stayed on the taxiway for a good 40 minutes before we finally were granted access to a gate and allowed to dis-embark.

Cheryl and I grabbed our backpacks, the children, and Michael's carseat and hustled over to the other terminal. We needn't have worried. The same congestion that had delayed our flight, had also delayed our next plane and about 40 other flights.

8 o'clock came and the airline staff changed the departure time to 8.30. 9 o'clock came and they delayed it again. It became apparent that the gridlock was not going to be cleared very quickly.

At 9.30 a few flights were cancelled and later still more flights were cancelled. We were told that our gate had been changed to a gate at the terminal we had arrived at. (This really got my goat, but I didn't say anything.) Cheryl and I picked up the children and hauled them back through security to the other terminal.

At 10.30 some more flights were cancelled and then we were told that our flight would be departing from the gate we had just come from. By this time Cheryl was just about to fall over. But she got up, picked up her backpack and Michael and followed me back through security to the other gate.

It was 11.30 before we were finally told that our flight had been officially cancelled. I do believe that if they had announced this earlier in the evening there would truly have been an uprising worthy of the Bolsheviks, but by this point the starch had been taken out of most of us and we all lined up (somewhat) meekly at the counter to arrange our bookings onto a flight in the morning. For a lucky few of us, the airline would provide overnight accomodations at a nearby hotel. The rest had to make do with the not-so-comfy seating in the airport lounges.

It was a grumpy / anxious hour later that we were finally in our room at the hotel. We were grumpy because the airline had provided us with a voucher for dinner at the hotel, but the hotel restaurant had already closed at 11pm. We were anxious because we had not factored an extra day of travel into our diaper supply. Between Cheryl and I, we only had 4 diapers left to get Michael and Melissa through the remaining night and morning.

Melissa got a much needed bath and Cheryl got a few precious moments to soak in the shower -- away from screaming children. It wasn't until about 1.30 am before we finally got to a reasonable approximation of rest...

The next morning we were able to use our voucher at one of the restaurants at the airport and so doing got some food into ourselves and the children.

There was one last insult to add to our injuries. I was checking us in with the airline at our designated gate when the ticket agent told me that "your wife's ticket is in order, but I haven't got one for you." I just about fell out of my tree. I went through all of my papers, but no ticket was to be found!

Cheryl was mad enough to spit, but kept her cool wonderfully. The ticket agent herself assured us that it must have been a mistake from all the kerfuffle the night before. A supervisor appeared about 10 minutes later and after some inquiries discovered that the ticket agent in Dallas-Ft Worth had punched the wrong boarding pass in my small collection of boarding passes. She printed up a new boarding pass for me and got us settled again.

We boarded our flight on-time and truly this last hop was so anti-climactic that we all fell asleep in the back of the plane.

About 45 after we landed in Portland, ME, we found ourselves in the warm comfort of the GMP's Caravan on our way to Brunswick...

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