ost people will remember the blizzard of 2005, as being a time of massive amounts of snow, wind, and cold. I will remember this historic moment by being stuck hundreds of miles away from Saturday afternoon until I finally arrived at home at 3:00 am on Tuesday morning.
Okay, so I didn’t have it tough. During the weekend storm my wife and I were vacationing in St. Maartin. Everything was running smooth with the exception of forcing myself to watch television during the week that predicted an historic storm on the east coast. However, these predictions have been made before with the end result being the storm was either too far or near from the coast that the result was a minor storm. This time the predictions were perfect.
So, there we sat, on the Saturday of the storm at the airport in St. Maartin waiting for our plane to arrive from Philadelphia. The airlines told us all was well and on time. Since we arrived a couple of hours earlier we decided to sit and wait at the airport until we were allowed to board. The airport at St. Maartin consisted of one large mall of duty free stores. Since people had nothing to do but wait these stores were quite busy. Also beer is allowed at the airport with many concession stands selling Heineken beer for $1. I assume they did this so the wives and girl-friends of the men waiting at the airport would be allowed to shop. At least it worked for me.
A couple of hours later we were told the flight from Philadelphia would be late. In fact, another two hours late. When I went to the desk to ask why we weren’t told this sooner a pleasant woman behind the desk told me she did not know. I thought to myself how the hell you don’t know that an airplane would be late. Especially since I assume the airport communicates with the airplane.
Starting to feel a bit like Jack Lemmon in the classic movie, ‘The Out-Of-Towners’, I decided to stop questioning a person who obviously had no idea as to what was going on and head back to my seat. My wife was not thrilled with the information but decided what most of the other women at the terminal decided to do. They continued to shop. I, on the other hand, bought another beer. I also had to call my daughter who was to pick us up at Boston. I found a pay-phone that actually worked, called her, told her the news and went back to my beer.
One thing I noticed about the terminal at the airport was it was getting very busy and congested. Having a seat became a priority and giving up that same seat simply did not happen. Of course, with the exception of me. Wouldn’t you know a woman with crutches decided to wait directly in front of me. She was leaning on her crutches and since she looked about 70 years old the decades of Catholic upbringing forced me to get up and offer her my seat. What surprised me was she not only refused the seat, she gave me a disgusted look, told me something in a language I will never understand, and then hobbled away. So much for my Catholic upbringing.
After about an hour it was obvious my wife had had it with shopping. She bought a few things but the majority of the stores sold liquor, jewelry, or luggage. Since I’ve been sitting in an airport for the last four hours my wife did not believe a brand new bottle of Scotch was in our best interests. Looking up at the monitor that still showed our flight on time I decided to head back to the ticket-counter to see when our plane would be loading. Hell, I wanted to know when the plane would be arriving. After about fifteen minutes I finally got to talk with someone who told me the flight had been cancelled because the plane never left Philadelphia.
‘When were you going to tell us this?’ I asked the attendant. She just blankly looked at me and stated, ‘Next’.
‘Next?’ I bellowed.
I then berated her and asked why anyone would let someone sit in an airport for four hours when they knew damn well the plane never left Philadelphia. Jack Lemmon would have been proud of me. She again stared at me but this time there was a very large person who was standing behind the attendant.
I then decided to walk away and tell my wife we were stuck, at least for another day, in paradise. Again I had to find a payphone in order to tell my daughter the flight had been cancelled. This time is was a bit tough because the first ten phones I tried did not work because they were filled to capacity with coin. I asked a security guard why the phones were not emptied at which time he told me it was not his job. I wanted to tell him it was not my job to be abused but since he had a gun I decided against the comment.
The next day I found out there were still no planes flying into the northeast. I drove to the airport and set up a flight to Charlotte for Monday morning. I was assured the flight would happen because the storm did not reach North Carolina. We arrived at the airport with what looked like everyone else on the island, found a corner of the terminal and sat on the floor. I told my wife we were just introduced to the wonderful world of travel. The flight was supposed to take off on Monday morning. It took off at 6pm that afternoon. Once again I had to find a payphone in order to tell my daughter the flight would be delayed. The only phone I could find stood about three feet above the ground. I wondered at the time if there were many midgets on the island?
In order to use the phone I had to kneel on the ground. The basic problem was a very heavy and hairy person on the phone besides me wearing a muscle shirt. Being the size of a brontosaurus and since the airport was not air-conditioned he was sweating profusely. He was leaning on the wall with his arm held high as he talked on the phone with his other hand. All I could think of was having his sweat land on my head as I attempted to call my daughter. In fact, I did see a few drops of sweat on the floor in front of me. The concept of purchasing a very cheap bottle of scotch did not seem like such a bad idea anymore. Life in an airport makes life anywhere else seem beautiful.
The problem with taking off late was that our connecting flight in Charlotte to Boston left before we were to arrive in Charlotte. When I tried to straighten this out the attendant, yes the same one I berated before told me we would probably have to spend the night in Charlotte. I told her I did not want to spend the night anywhere else other than my bed. Seeing the insanity in my eyes, she dug into the computer and told me my wife could get a ticket to Boston but I would have to be on stand-by. I actually laughed at her because there would be no way in paradise my wife would want to fly by herself. The attendant continued to dig through her computer and by some miracle found two tickets to the flight from Charlotte to Boston. The only problem was we had to rush through Customs and get to the gate in only 45 minutes.
We arrived in Charlotte about fifteen minutes late which meant we had to fly through Customs and run to the gate in order to catch our connecting flight. I never knew my wife could run so fast. Both of us looked like the old O.J. Simpson commercials. We pushed our way through and even though I had to remove my shoes and belt in order to get through security we still had a shot at reaching the gate in time. In fact, in order to not waste any time I didn’t even bother to put my shoes or belt back on. So, here we were, running to the gate in stocking feet and in the hopes I ate more then enough to keep my pants on. We finally made it to the gate at 9:54, a whole minute early. I gave our tickets to the attendant at which time she told me the plane had left.
My composure immediately went from Jack Lemmon to Charles Manson. I asked her in no uncertain terms why the plane left early especially since every other plane we were booked on for the past three days had been hours late. The attendant then put on her best ‘Stepford Wife’ image and told me she was proud that the UsAir flight was on time. My wife then pulled my fingers away from the counter and set up arrangements to leave Charlotte on another flight in two and a half hours.
For the next few hours my wife and I decided to blame each other for our predicament. I think this is what couples do in order to not kill a bystander and thus spend the rest of their lives in jail. I once again called my daughter and she told me I was insane. I agreed with her and proceeded to attempt to find a bar. My wife then called me a drunk at which time I totally agreed with her. We entered the plane 45 minutes late. So much for the pride of USAir!
The problem was no one dared to check their bags, in fear they would end up in Iraq. The plane was so full I felt like I was on a bus somewhere in South America. The only thing I was waiting for was a chicken to fly overhead. The people on the plane were obviously exhausted and were thrilled when the plane took off. I was just a little concerned whether or not we were flying to Boston. Needless to say we did. My daughter and her boyfriend picked us up and drove us home. Looking out at the piles of snow and remembering the paradise we just left I was still thrilled to be home because there were times in the past three days when I thought I would have to braid what little hair I had left and call St. Maartin my home.
How I became a refugee from Paradise
by J. G. Fabiano.
Jim Fabiano is a teacher and a writer living in York, Maine, USA
e-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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