Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Look homeward...if the snow doesn't blind you, that is.

When last I left you, we were on the runway at O'Hare, watching scenes like this unfold:

The thing is, I'm not bad with flying and snow. Jeez, I'm from Massachusetts. What I am bad about is the fact that airlines choose not to send their planes to cities where bad weather is expected because they won't "get their plane back" therefore royally effing up our travel plans. We landed in Chicago to find all flights to Boston canceled until Thursday. It was Tuesday. WTF. I actually walked away from the woman at United when she informed us she couldn't get us to Boston on Thursday because everything was booked but there was a chance of getting us to Manchester or Providence. REALLY UNITED, REALLY?!!!! Jamaal, because he's awesome, managed to score us tickets to Baltimore that night. "Eastern Seaboard" we shouted, dancing merrily around the terminal at O'Hare amidst weary travelers looking for an electrical outlet. We took off around 7:30PM. It became clear as we approached Baltimore, that we may not be escaping so easily from BWI. During the last 40 minutes of our flight, all I could see was snow rushing by the window. All I could think was how the snow was blinding the pilot and we'd miss the runway - I am morbid like that when I fly - and how we'd skid off and be on the news, but maybe I'd be injured just enough to get home to Boston on some sort of mercy ambulance ride, or how my dad could pull strings with the Maryland State Police and get me home. Luckily, we landed just fine to find BWI....closed....dead....with no flights to Boston until Thursday. Le Sigh.

In our infinite wisdom stupidity, we hailed a cab, which charged us a 25% markup in fare for "weather conditions" and went to the Greyhound Station. Looking back, this was the turning point in our journey, the point where we could've had triumph or tragedy. Sadly, triumph was not in the cards for us. Jamaal went in. I am sure they laughed when he was gone. No buses. We went to the Amtrak station. Because we had gone to the bus station first, we entered the train station to hear the final boarding call for the 10:30 train to Boston. Because we didn't land until nearly 10, we never thought we'd make the Amtrak....but then that train was 17 minutes late, and by the time we diddled around the snowy streets of Baltimore, our arrival via cab exactly coincided with the Regional Service. We asked the cops in the station if we could make it. To their credit, I think they radioed someone. They looked at us with a mixture of amusement and downright pity, informing us that the train was pulling out of the station and the next one was at 3:55AM. Thus began our long night at the Downtown Baltimore train station.

I've slept on airport floors before. I pride myself on being able to fall asleep anywhere, and often end the night on the couch knocked out on husbando's thigh (we have a system). Unfortunately, the train station is in the midst of renovations, and the flimsy plastic covering the windows near the only benches in the station not occupied by homeless men did little to protect us from the howling blizzard winds. It was f*cking.cold. I tried to maintain perspective - we were sharing a place with homeless people. How cold must they be? I tried to be worldly and understanding, but you know what? Around 1AM I started to lose it. We had been up for 18 hours, I was tired, my dinner had been apple pop tarts from a vending machine, and Jesus gay did I want to get home.

The 3:55AM Amtrak looked magnificent as it charged towards the station, lamps gleaming, snow falling gently around it. I half expected some elves to serve me hot chocolate on board, all Polar Express and sh*t. The conductor applauding us for signing our tickets ahead of time was enough (though I wanted to say, what else were we doing during our 5 hour layover that would've taken us away from the ever-important signing of the ticket?). I stretched out on two seats and tried to sleep. The door of the train froze shut. Whatever. I figured if I had to peel the rubber gasket from the window and jump onto the platform at South Station to get home I would.

At 7AM the train came to a grinding halt in Penn Station. The friendly conductor starts moving through the train. "You gotta get off" he says, "we're not going to Boston." "But that's where I'm going!" the passengers lament. "Go to customer service, they'll help." We gather our crap and head to the Amtrak area at Penn. We get to the window and I explain that we were on train 91, bound for Boston, and it just stopped here. Could we buy another ticket for another train to Boston? "Ain't no trains going to Boston" Amtrak lady says. "I can get you a ticket back to Baltimore though" she reassures me. In my head, I want to leap across the counter, tackle her and say "WHY THE F*CK WOULD I WANT TO GO BACK TO BALTIMORE!" I didn't though. Jail is probably  colder than the Baltimore train station. I take a breath. I say "Ok, so what do we do." She offers us a refund. Whatever. We soon learn that the snow is not the issue with Amtrak, but downed power lines in Massachusetts. Great. At least we had made it to NYC, a place where you can get food 24/7- for that fact alone, I was grateful. We hopped on the subway to Port Authority to try our luck with buses. As soon as we said "Boston" we got a "no" head nod. OOOOKKKKKK. Back to Penn we went.

I spent the next seven hours wondering when we'd make it home. I knitted. I read a book. I looked for places to charge my electronics. I spilled my entire coffee moments after purchasing it, then felt so bad I offered to clean it up myself. "No no!" the ladies cried, "we get it!" They were probably worried I'd spill something else. I brushed my teeth in the squalor that is the Penn Station ladies room (cleaner than Port Authority, my friends). At 2PM (this is Wednesday, now, and we hadn't had more than 2 hours of sleep in.....a long time) Jam cracked. "WE ARE GETTING A HOTEL ROOM" he declared with manly, husbandly authority. Never have I been so willing to be the dutiful, subservient female in all my life, that is how desperate I was for a bed with a blanket and hot water. When we left Penn, NYC was bustling around us. I grew to respect NYC after six years of visiting Jam there, but at that moment, my heart swelled with love. I wanted to kiss the sidewalk and every hot dog vendor and bootleg cd hawker in sight. After the empty echo-y halls of BWI and the desertion of the train station, NYC was an elixir of life! "Jamaal!" I cried, "Let's go to Old Navy and buy clean clothes - I have the credit card, my treat!" After checking into to the shaky Hotel Pennsylvania, we went to find clean clothes (my suitcase actually smelled by this point, I swear), then we finally took a nap. We had been awake, more or less, for 33 hours. We looked like this:

The end of our journey home was uneventful. We called friends for dinner and went to BBQ's where I ordered a "Texas-sized" drink called a "cherry bomb" which tasted like a cherry popsicle. The drink was as big as my head and came with a shot of 151 in a test tube stuck into the frozen glory of the drink. It was really just what I needed.

We boarded our train at 7AM the next morning, now 45 hours (adjusting for the time difference) after waking up in SD to leave. Luckily, there were no snags on the way home. We made arrangements for my mother to fetch us from the Red Line. The day's only catastrophe was me spilling an entire medium french fry on the tracks in a feat of spasticity the likes of which Boston has not seen in a while. It was sad, but I need to lose like, 15 pounds anyways.

We were delighted to come home to our cozy apartment and our bird children. We had fretted about them the whole time we were trapped; my sister had been petsitting, but left on Tuesday afternoon, assuming we'd be back by 10PM Tuesday night - she then proceeded to get snowed in at my parents, where they also had no power. She was worried that we had lost power also, and we'd come home to find our birds sitting on their perches, lifelike, but frozen to death. Luckily our landlord works for National Grid and typed our address into the computer, and was able to see we had power. Thank goodness.

And here we are two weeks+ later, where life has taken on its normal winter pace, where I avoid going out except to work or to the occasional social gathering, I eat a lot, lament about how I should be out jogging, then declare it too cold to exercise and sit on the couch and knit instead. Life is good. I have no real complaints.

No comments: