February 07, 2014

Flying out of the storm

Winter Storm Warning. Those are the words I loved to hear when I was a child. The possibility of a snow day was always exciting. But the words are less fun when you are an adult who needs to get on an airplane the next day.

When I woke up Wednesday morning, about a foot of snow had already fallen. But I live in Snowstorm Region, where we have an amazing crew of snow plow and salt truck drivers. My husband doesn’t mind winter driving at all and kept saying, “Oh, this isn’t too bad,” as we rolled through several inches of snow that had not been plowed from the road yet. He dropped me off at the airport at 9:30 am, well before my scheduled flight.

The airport was ominously quiet. “We just don’t have many planes here,” the agent explained to me as I checked in. “Other airports keep canceling flights.” But my flight was still scheduled to go on time.

And it almost did. Well, at least we boarded on time. By then, it was snowing pretty hard. That is, it was a total white-out. “We’re going to take off in this?” the man next to me asked incredulously. I don’t know much about flying a plane, but I have to admit that it seemed to me he had a point.

The couple across from me leaned over to share their story. “We’ve been here since 4 am.” It turns out that THEIR original flight also boarded on time. But then the de-icing truck crashed into the plane, damaging the wing, and they all had to get off.

“At least you have a funny story to tell,” I said sympathetically.

The young guy sitting behind them chimed in. “Yep. I’m telling everyone that I’ve survived a plane crash.”

Everyone on the plane began to tell their worst-ever travel stories. We had plenty of time to talk, it turns out, because the de-icing process took about 45 minutes. The de-icing machine kept spraying gallons and gallons of liquid onto the plane, splattering the windows with orange and then green. It was like being in a giant car wash for 45 minutes.

 When we finally rolled away from the de-icing machine, we all looked at each other hopefully. “I don’t know,” said the man next to me. “I can see the snowplows on the runway — that’s a lot of snow.”

It turns out he was right. We ended up back at the gate, where the cheerful flight attendants spent the next couple of hours saying, “Just as soon as the storm lets up a little.” The passengers were, for the most part, pretty good-natured about the whole thing. The man across from me gave me half his chocolate bar. The young woman with the smart phone kept giving us updates on the storm. The old man two seats ahead began telling us stories about serving as a soldier in World War II; that kept things in perspective. We were warm and comfortable, and we had a good supply of food to share amongst us. Plus, the flight attendants started giving out free booze, which seemed to up the spirits of the young man behind me.

And we did eventually take off. The snowplows cleared the runway, we went through another long bout of de-icing, and then we went zooming down the runway, despite the newest layer of snow. When the plane rose, finally, into the air, everyone cheered.


Tom said...

Sounds like quite the journey. Glad you made it safely.

L said...

Ah.... the beauty of living in snowstorm region!! We have friends who moved here a year and a half ago from Massachusetts and we often commiserate how unbelievable it is that the kids have a snow day for a couple of inches!

Jeff said...

I remember once either in Syracuse or La Guardia airport sitting inside a prop plane waiting for the de-icing process to finish. While that was going on some of use were asked to move to different seats to help balance the plane. Two firsts for me on that one morning! :)