Tuesday, June 27, 2006

My Day As An Airport Refugee

Never tempt fate. Never challenge Murphy. Never say something like, "I can't believe you're going to fly through O'Hare. I'm flying out of Lambert and it will be smoothe sailing." I know that I am hardly the first person to have a travel nightmare and all things considered, it wasn't that bad but the East Coast downpours definitely fucked me on Sunday. All of that crap about tempting fate, I thought I had it all set to fly home on Sunday evening. The plan was to drive from Illinois to St. Louis, grab some White Castle, fly to National, and be home in time for Deadwood and Entourage. And everything was working out according to the plan until we actually got into the air.

Somewhere in mid-flight we got thrust into a holding pattern because of "storms on the East Coast." Now I had been trapped in Bloomington, Illinois all weekend and the news was not something I really had access to. Dealing with a family get-together and constantly running around for two days I was just happy to have beer and baseball when I needed it (word of the outside world was a luxury) so I was wildly unaware that it had been pissing rain for three straight days in the District. Had I known this I never would have gotten on the goddamned plane.

After our holding pattern we were eventually told to land in Lousiville and sit out the storm. Great. Well at least I could kill time by getting banged up at the airport bar, right? Negative. We just sat on the tarmac for two hours while the captain told us every thiry minutes that it was "going to be another thirty minutes." I was beginning to have flashbacks to my father explaining "how much longer" on one of our long family car trips. Anyway we finally get cleared to take off, one more holding pattern in the air, and eventually land at National at 1am (4.5 hours later than expected). And silly me I couldn't help but think to myself "Sweet relief!"

What I didn't realize was what a mess National would be at 1am during an ersatz natural disaster. As I later discovered, the GW, 110, and 395 had been closed off and on throughout the night due to flooding. Ulitmately this meant that cabs were trickling in at a painfully slow rate while HUNDREDS of forlorn travellers clogged the cabstand. At one point the rumor was that people were waiting three and four hours for a cab. Fuck that, I decided to go back into the terminal and sleep with all of the other stranded travellers lingin the walls, windows, stairways, and dark recesses. And I must give credit to the National airport staff because that was the cleanest floor I have ever slept on.

After some fitful sleeping and an hour or so of people-watching from skywalk window, the cab stand line had whittle down to a small handful so I decided to forgoe the metro (my recently formulated escape plan) and wait my turn for a cab. This was at 5am. Twenty minutes of watching tourists trying to figure out why a DC cab couldn't take them anywhere in VA and my turn finally came up. I definitely was not going to work that morning.

All in all I must commend myself on taking things in stride. My usual rage and frustration were nowhere to be found as I resigned myself to the fact that this situation was entirely out of anyone's control. (Kudos as well to my fellow travellers who seemed to accept this fate as well. There was no bitching or moaning anywhere in that airport.) There are really only two things that chapped my ass about this little affair:
  1. I was starnded at an airport that is only a handful of miles from my home. Being so close to my nice cozy bed yet forced to sleep on linoleum is a bit agitating.
  2. Door to door, my entire trip took 14 hours...one hour longer than it would have taken me to drive home from Illinois. C'est le vie.


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