Home > Family, Travel > Bonus Day with Joel, II

Bonus Day with Joel, II

December 20, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments
Berlin Airlift, 1948

Berlin Airlift, 1948

Just under three weeks ago, at the end of Thanksgiving weekend, I described the bonus day we had with Joel. Thanks to heavy fog that Sunday night, his overnight flight back to Boston was cancelled. We had already driven him out to the airport and gotten home, and he was at the gate, when the cancellation was announced after midnight. It was no easy matter to get him booked the next night, which Gail and I worked on while he got a taxi home, but you can read about that in my Bonus Day post.

Now it turns out we got another bonus day, in the opposite direction, as I’ll describe after the jump.

This past week was finals week at Northeastern. Joel had a final Monday and a paper due yesterday, Friday. With this in mind, we had booked him to fly home Friday night on JetBlue’s non-stop to Seattle. Thursday afternoon, Northeastern sent an email to all faculty, staff, and students warning of a big snowstorm due in on Friday, noting that the university would stay open but that people should please take public transportation if possible rather than adding to the clutter of abandoned cars on roads. Joel forwarded the email and called me around 2:30 Thursday afternoon, asking my advice on whether he should try to move his flight up from Friday to Thursday. I didn’t bother telling him that we were in the midst of our own little snowstorm that very moment. The key issue seemed to be whether he could fly home right away and still get his paper finished, versus staying to finish it and then hoping for the best the next day. Of course, this wouldn’t be an issue at all if JetBlue had nothing available Thursday, so I went online to check. What they did have was a big weather alert, warning about flights from a list of cities on Friday, including Boston, which motivated me all the more to see if Joel could get out Thursday. And to our shock, nothing was available, neither the non-stop or a flight through their hub, JFK. I tried again, and then again, and the third time an option appeared. He could fly out of Boston to JFK at 5:20 PM, just 2 1/2 hours away, then wait for the 8:20 PM flight out of JFK, into Seattle at 11:58 PM. There was a hefty premium for making the change, but that seemed better than his being stuck in Boston another few days, so we did it. Only then did I tell Joel that, by the way, we had our own snowstorm, so I didn’t know if we would be able to get to the airport at midnight to pick him up, but we could deal with that later. Better to be stuck at SeaTac than Logan.

Joel packed and headed off to the airport. I stared at our continuing snowfall and fretted. And I followed his flights online. He was an hour late out of Logan to JFK, but that still left him about half an hour to catch the plane to Seattle, which itself was delayed, so he had time to buy a sandwich. And there were fierce headwinds. It’s been my experience that all flights out of JFK to here have absurdly padded schedules, in anticipation of an hour and a quarter of taxiing and queueing time to take off. He was off in half an hour, but still scheduled to be 20 minutes late, an indication of how strong the headwinds were. So he was listed as due in at 12:20 AM.

We left just after 11:00 PM for the airport. The worst part of any drive in icy conditions, for us, is the first few hundred yards, sliding downhill on the twisty, steep road that leads past the Broadmoor clubhouse and out to the Arboretum. We took Gail’s car, since it has four-wheel drive, and she was the driver. Fortunately, no one was coming up the hill, so she could use the middle of the road, and we made it. From there on, the drive wasn’t too bad, though one always worries about the other driver, especially some of the drivers on I-5 who were going at full tilt.

We were at the security exit area of Terminal A by around 11:45. There was a big crowd waiting, and not a lot to do, but we were fortunate that there actually was something to do — see a fantastic traveling exhibit sponsored by the German Embassy in DC to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift. Text and photos told the story, and display cases had memorabilia such as cans of coffee and dried milk of the type flown into Berlin. I finished just as Joel called to say he had landed, around 12:10 AM.

Ten minutes later waves of people poured out, and dozens of us looked on expectantly. But no Joel. And there were still dozens of us looking on. Then a crew came out. American Airlines. Different flight. But now it was a half hour since Joel landed. Where the heck was he? Text message from Joel: they’re waiting for a gate to open up. Don’t bother calling him. It took 45 minutes, but they got into their gate, and it took an hour from when they landed, but Joel appeared. The drive home was okay, though a very light snow was falling again. We made it in around 1:50 AM.

Joel still had that paper to write, due at 9:00 AM. Gail made him coffee. I heated Stouffer’s frozen pepperoni pizza. And at 2:45 AM we went to sleep. We got up just as Joel finished his paper, around 8:30 AM, and then he went to bed for a few hours. We then had our bonus time with him, including a wonderful dinner together that Gail prepared, after which he went out to see friends.

I couldn’t resist tracking the flight Joel would have been on last night if we hadn’t made the change. It kept being delayed, but finally took off around 8:15 PM, 2 1/4 hours late. Joel and I looked at the entire list of flights out of Logan. The pattern seemed to be that the shorter flights were cancelled, about half of all flights out of Logan. And the longer ones, to the west or to Europe, were delayed up to 4 hours. I will admit that as I looked, I had this perverse desire to see Joel’s intended flight cancelled, as some final proof that we made the right decision in moving him up a day. But I’m glad it wasn’t, and I’m glad he came home early.

As grateful as I am for these bonus days, I hope we don’t have another one soon. I would prefer that his flight back to Boston two weeks from tonight get off without incident.

Update: I just thought to look up the details on yesterday’s Boston snowstorm in the Boston Globe. Not so bad, if you weren’t flying anywhere:

As snow fell in New England yesterday and last night, it seemed that the worst had been avoided. There was a largely effortless commute, few major accidents, and a palpable sense of relief. The storm, it turned out, dumped less snow than forecast and was more a source of wonderment and holiday delight than headaches and danger.

… The brunt of the storm left the area at about 10 p.m., and had left about 8.8 inches of snow by midnight in Boston, said Kim Buttrick, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in Taunton. Continued flurries into this morning were expected to dump another inch or two, she said.

Also hard hit were holiday travelers. At the Logan Airport MBTA stop, passengers lugging snow-covered suitcases stared balefully at a series of red cancellation notices flashing across an airport message board.

Rebekah Henderson, 30, of Denver, who teaches English as a second language, was stranded at the airport last night, halfway through her trip to her brother’s wedding tonight in Pittsburgh. Henderson wiped tears from underneath her black-rimmed glasses as she contemplated travel options, including a 12-hour, overnight bus trip or a noon flight tomorrow.

“I bought the flight although I couldn’t afford it,” she said. “But why pay $400 dollars for a [plane] ticket when you have to spend 12 hours on a bus.”

Diana Grinwis and her boyfriend, Mark Strubler, both 22, learned that they would not make it home to Detroit to celebrate Grinwis’s graduation from Northeastern at a family party tonight. Their flight had been canceled.

“We’re just hoping tomorrow goes well; then we’ll make it to the Christmas party on Sunday,” Strubler said. “We love Logan,” Grinwis said with more than a dollop of sarcasm.

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