...So as I was saying at the end of Part I, I was more worried than I should have been about traveling out to New York State last month, in the middle of Winter.
Turned out I didn't need to worry. The day I was to leave dawned sunny and clear. I woke up early, feeling refreshed; packed efficiently and quickly, which is not always the case (I can be remarkably absentminded); and got the dogs squared away at their respective boarding kennels without incident. The trash truck even came by just before I was scheduled to leave, which meant I could bring the trash container back inside the garage before I left. Very convenient.
The whole day went like that. Everything played out fine as a well-tuned fiddle. At no point did I have to hurry or wait. I wasn't anxious because there was nothing to be anxious about. I didn't encounter lines anywhere, found my gates with no trouble, had a tasty, unrushed snack at midday. Everyone was nice. The commuter flight to my destination, which had been jam-packed the last time I made this trip, was half empty. I had a row of seats to myself.
When I got there, I expected to have to wait in the airport cafeteria for S., because my flight arrived before she got off work. But she'd unexpectedly gotten off early, and was there to meet me. Sweet surprise.
It was a charmed day. Winter travel? Piece of cake.
Of course, it's not that winter travel is always perilous. The problem is that it always can be.
So cut to yesterday. Leaving this time, coming home. I was scheduled to go out at 9:30 a.m. and arrive home at 12:30 p.m. (in plenty of time for a scheduled doctor's appointment). It's not a bad trip.
Except that, well, as you might know, there was a bit of snow between here and there around the Midwest and East on Sunday and into Monday. S. even got a partial snow day on Monday (of course she also had a virus; winter giveth and winter taketh away).
I'd go research how much snow there was and where for you, and chart the track of the storms, so I could talk cogently about the weather, but I'm too discombobulated.
The trip to the airport was perilous. We crept down a steep hill in first gear, hoping the tires would keep their grip on the snowy road. Forty seemed too fast on the highway...except to the idiots whizzing by in claptrap old vehicles with their death wishes showing.
To begin with, the 9:30 departure was delayed by an hour and twenty minutes. At the cafeteria, where we planned to wait, a guy in coveralls appeared behind the counter clutching two glass coffee carafes, asking the counterperson for hot water. We chatted with him a bit, and he mentioned something about needing to get a door open that was frozen shut. I wished him luck. He said, earnestly, "You better hope I'm lucky! If I can't get this door open, that plane isn't going anywhere!" What? Hmm.
Out the window, my girlfriend sees a man cleaning snow out of the jet engines with a broom. (She also saw a great picture: an older man and woman talking to each other from opposite sides of a glass wall on their cellphones. I was too lazy to try to get it.)
The line for security snaked all the way past the tapes and out into the main terminal. When I finally got processed, I was "randomly" chosen for extra tests, and was relieved to learn that there is no explosive residue on my hands. We had made a lot of wood fires in the fireplace—could that cause a false positive and turn me into Zeitoun? Who knows? My special treatment unsettled me sufficiently that I walked away and abandoned my laptop on the rollers. The TSA guy had to chase after me to give it back.
Next, once boarded, there was a strange delay at the front of the plane, with what looked like scuffling and a strange banging noise. This went on for a while. Later, the captain came on the PA system. Turned out they couldn't get the door shut. The door of the plane, that would be. It was all iced up and wouldn't close. That took twenty minutes. Was this the door they needed hot water from the coffee machine in the airport cafeteria to open?! Nah. Couldn't be. Could it?
Meanwhile the world out the window is just white with snow and ice. Snow and ice everywhere. Caking the window, covering the runway, blowing through the air. I'm getting worried, because it does not take an expert to see that the wings are just crusted with ice. They're going to de-ice the plane, right?
Right? We sit there and sit there. Nothing happens. Nobody tells us anything. I'm no expert, but even I can see that the wings are entirely encrusted with ice. Finally, we were told that yes, that's what we were waiting for. Anxiousness ebbs.
We sat on the runway waiting for the de-icing machine.It comes. It sits there for a while. Then it goes away. What now?
Then the captain came on and began his next announcement by saying "Well, folks, the plot thickens." Um, hint to pilots? Do not begin announcements with the words "the plot thickens." These are not words that the more anxious among your passengers will be eager to hear. This time, he says that the de-icing truck has broken down—excuse me, but (!)—and we need to wait for another one to arrive.
We wait some more.
Finally the backup de-icing truck arrives. It spends a good long time spraying down everything with what I later learn is Type I de-icing fluid, which is orange. That's to knock most of the accumulated snow and ice off the plane. That took a good twenty minutes. Then they started over again. I'm sitting there chewing a fingernail and perseverating about Air Florida Flight 90.
Then another truck comes, and starts spraying again, this time a bright green liquid. This, I later learn, is Type IV anti-icing fluid, to keep ice from re-forming.
By the way, note the bumper sticker on the front of the cab of the de-icing vehicle above:
Finally, we take off...successfully. Sigh of relief.
A total of two hours and forty minutes late, though. Of course, I've missed my connection (and my doctor's appointment) by now. But not to worry. Thanks to S., who is smart and practical, I got a backup reservation for a later flight from Detroit to Milwaukee. And, I figure, we're in the clear. Winter travel—what, me worry? All is well now, right?
Do I need to tell you that this gets worse?
[To be continued]