Ugh... it's too cold here, but I really should get up. My first thoughts as I am waking up on Saturday morning in Reading, PA on December 19, 2009.
I'm also thinking about what the "townspeople" had been telling me almost all of Friday. Their voices playing in my head:
"We're probably going to close the club if there's too much snow" said the club owner.
"Hope you don't get snowed in. That would really be miserable" assigned driver proclaims.
"Well I should probably go now, I can't get stuck during the holiday's"
That last comment was me. But as usual, I dole out advise better than I listen to it. Even if it is my own.
I roll over to my right. The room is the familiar black with the one streak of dull light coming in through the window. I'm always sure to draw the curtains in any hotel I sleep at before I doze off. (I say doze off because the use of the words "fall asleep" wouldn't be accurate.) Anyway, I draw them because God forbid light comes in too early and wakes me up. I travel too much for that none sense.
11:43am was the time given to me by the may-have-been-a-little-dated digital clock.
"Holy shit! I gotta get up!" As if anyone was there listening to me. Then I yank the cover off of my bed warm body and make my first call of the day. It's a really good thing phones these days light up... gave me a little extra time to stay in bed and stretch while I make the call. It's just a really good thing for cell phones these days, anyway.
"Baby! You've gotta get up and deal with this" He says in a hurry.
Good morning to you, too.
"Yeah? Is it that bad already?" I answer.
"Yeah. Call whoever, but you've gotta get out of there."
"Okay. Okay." in my mumbling, still tired tone. I think he expected me to be a little more haste-full. He'd soon get his wish as I started to gush on the phone about how cold it was, and having to peel myself off the sheeted mattress that I'm pretty sure was made of plastic. At very least, nylon. Then-
"OH. MY. GOD"
"Babe, I can't even see the building next to me. I gotta get outta here before I get stuck"
Oh gee... ya think? Is what I imagine he had going through his head at that moment. But instead-
"Let me go. You go take care of this and keep me posted."
"Of course I will"
And of course I would. I always do. But I'd never seen anything like this. "Blizzard" was the only thing I could think of, with my thanks to the Discovery Channel.
After a thought out process of calling the driver to get him in gear, calling the club to make sure they were closed, calling the travel agent who would change my original flight from Sunday morning to 5:55pm this day, taking a shower, packing my bags full of my clothes and the extra Christmas gifts I had picked up the day before, packing my carry-on to accommodate a very likely overnight stay at the airport, going to the club to settle out, packing my dance stuff that was left at the club, stopping at the nearest Wa-Wa because I was NOT leaving town without my Wa-Wa fix, and of course remembering to breath the whole time (PHEW), I was en route to the airport; mashed potato mac-n-cheese chicken strip bowl in hand. It's now 1:40pm
Keep in mind a few things: Changing my flight wasn't easy for the travel lady (that's what I like to call her), she had to fight with the internet and one-eight hundred number due to increased volume. But she managed. Also, it's coming down like hell out there so I must've really wanted that Wa-Wa. AND, I'm in Reading, PA. Closest airport is Philly. On a normal day (and this was far from that) it was an hour and a half drive.
Anyway, here we are. I'm eating and trying to enjoy my food and the driver is doing his best not to slide all over the turnpike. I'm clutching and clenching my stomach as I'm sure most of us do when we're anticipating the car sliding off into the ditch, and he's got his clutch clenching second gear. We didn't go into the ditch. Saw two or three people on our side of the road go in the ditch, though. And we saw about 25 snow plows on the opposite side of the highway. Lotta good that did our side.
The snow was way worse as we got closer, then eventually got to Philly. Snow was as high as stop signs and everything was shut down.
Aren't they used to this up here? Why is everything shutting down like a damned national disaster?
Not too much later, they would declare it a state of emergency. Who knew.
3:15pm we pull up to the airport. I'm so thankful at this point to have made it safely. Not that I thought any major accident would've occurred. But some of those folks that we saw on the side of the road were going to be there a while. And I wasn't quite sure how safe that would've been... had it happened to us.
So we say our "good-bye's", "until next time's", et cetera. And as I walk away from the maroon impala and to my bags, I had a slight feeling this wasn't over for me. I turn to him in the roaring snow and tell him to "drive safe!"
"here goes nothing" I say to myself.
At the ticketing counter I am, as promised, texting to keep him updated. I had sent him a few pictures in the car of all the snow and we were talking of residual disbelief. I'm waiting for the ticketing lady to bring me my change from my checked bags. I gave her a twenty dollar bill and a fifty dollar bill. It was sixty to check bags. Absurd. Anyway, all I needed was that change and I'd be on my way through security, and to my gate.
"Oh, crap" she muttered.
"Oh, crap, what?" I rebuttal.
"Well I hit the wrong button, and now it's showing that you didn't pay. And I can't get back into the system and I can't print your boarding passes until it's changed. I have to call the help desk"
Well, fuck. But of course. Nothing ever goes smoothly. No problem.
"It's totally my fault. It'll just be a couple of minutes" She says, tapping her blunt fingers on the countertops. As she waits on hold she puts the claim tickets on my bags and hurls the heavy masses of luggage to the belt behind her.
"Welp, at least that's done" in her semi-deep, been smokin' a while voice. But it would be a while yet before someone picked up.
"I'm really sorry"
"Yeah.." I say as I utter the first thought I had "I've got some time, I'm sure" But at that point I was only talking in terms of the flight I was trying to catch at 5:55. It's now 4:10pm.
Finally the person from the help desk picks up their end of the call. I don't know what she was saying, but what I'm assuming is that she had a "duh" tone to her voice because the ticketing lady says "Oh. that's all I had to do?! F10 to F2?! Wow. Okay thank you." Needless to say, I pretty much bolted when it was all said and done. Almost an hour with her. And I'm toting this heavy, big bag that's storing my laptop bag, wallet, overnight things, and signed Brett Favre mini helmet that a very nice fan bought for me and had given to me at the club. No way in hell I was putting that in my checked luggage. So I went as fast as I could bearing this heavy load.
The security line was a breeze. Actually it wasn't a line. There was no one there but me. Come to think of it, there was hardly anyone at the ticketing counter either. Oh well. Guess it's just me then. I put my shoes on, wrapped my black scarf back around my neck, put my jacket back on, and grabbed the heavy ass bag. I didn't make it very far, though, because that's when it happened. And by "it" I mean the moment I know "it" was going to be a looooooong night. It was like something straight out of a movie. As I walk past the Flight Information screens (there were 5 in a row... incoming and outgoing) they one-by-one, flight by flight, began to change from "on-time" to "cancelled"
"What the hell? Every single one of them?"
I grab my phone for the as promised update to home, thinking to myself:
Okay.... did Stephen King write this? When is the supernatural fog or whatever it may be going to start pouring out of the vents?
Then I looked out the window of the nearby bar. This was no fiction book. This was the real deal holyfield, bitch of Mother Nature herself.
She must be one pissed off bitch tonight.
The plows were working on the tarmac. Although I didn't understand pushing the piles of snow all the way up to, and as high as, the plane but who was I to-
"Hi baby. Looks like it's going to be a long night. All the flights going out tonight are cancelled"
"Is there a hotel in the airport to stay at" He's said. He's so witty.
"Yeah. A Marriott. But I'm sure they're booked up. I'll call. But now I've got to wait in the customer service line so I can get out tomorrow. I'll let you know soon. I love you!" call ends.
I knew I wasn't going anywhere for a while. With this raging, roaring, snow... please! And I also knew that the Marriott would be booked up. And they were.. I called. Twice.
I would go on to wait in line for an hour in a half. Not a lot of people, just a few people needing very specific proper accommodations. And, having a grandma who has worked for an airline for 10 years, I sort of understood that.
My turn at the counter, and I don't have my boarding pass out.
"You'd think with all that time to wait I'd have it ready" I laughed as I pulled it out of my book. I was using it as a bookmark.
She didn't think it was very funny.
"Where you going?"
Her eyes got huge... I thought they just might pop.
"Or Burbank. Even Long Beach"
"All those flights are going to have connections, and all the connecting airports are shut down as well, so it's not really a possibility."
"Direct flights?" I shoot at her.
"So what do I do?!" It's impossible that it's impossible for me to get home.
She was, too. Very diligently. I watched her snowman earrings flap around and dangle on her neck. From back in line, I couldn't make out what they were. I thought they looked a little like the "hand of god symbol" that I have on many of my jewelry pieces. But Now I can see clearly that they were snowmen. But kind of ironic I thought. And her necklace was a string of christmas lights.
How cute that some of them light up. But why not all?
"Well lookie there, It pays to be fast."--- whatever that meant
"I've got one seat on flight 39 tomorrow at 6pm. Seat 6D"
"I'll take it."
Geez, though. 6pm?! At that moment I was thankful that I was efficient and could keep myself occupied with my laptop and book, and also my pen and paper. But was thinking, too, better find a place and get cozy, this isn't as bad as it's going to get.
To be continued.......