Thursday, March 18, 2010

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

There aren't that many major life events that Laurie and I are invited to these days, so when we got invited Becca Roberson's wedding and Stephen Kassinger's Eagle Scout Court of Honor and both were taking place on the same day, we decided we would each attend one.

Becca's wedding date was in place long before the Court of Honor and we'd originally planned on driving down to Baltimore for it, where we would meet up with Sammi, who would be driving up from Virginia. But when we decided that I would be going alone, I opted to fly. Southwest's flights from MacArthur Airport on Long Island to BWI are numerous, quick, and relatively inexpensive. Sammi would pick me up at BWI and we'd head to the hotel from there.

So, Saturday morning, deciding also that leaving my car overnight was easier than having Laurie drive me there and pick me up again on Sunday, I drove off to the airport. Oh, by the way, it was raining.

The flight took off on time and everything went well. Sammi and her roommate Vanessa picked me up and we got to the hotel in time to have lunch with a group of our fellow CTY staffers before the ceremony. (Becca has worked at CTY since 1997 and has many friends from her years there, all of whom I have worked with as well. This was probably the biggest reunion of CTY Chestertown folks ever... and many pictures were taken to document it.)

The wedding ceremony was held in a nearby church and then we were all on our way to The Engineer's Club for the reception. Through the cocktail hour and dinner, it was like many other weddings, but when the disk jockey started playing the selection of music, it took on the feeling of a CTY dance... minus the fifth and sixth graders. (Becca had asked Sammi and Vanessa to select the music, something the two of them did many times in their years running the Residential staff at Chestertown.) Not surprisingly, the evening ended with everyone singing and dancing to "American Pie."

Our plan the next morning was for Sammi and Vanessa to drop me at BWI and head home. I had a 10:35 flight and we got to the airport at about 9:15. No problem.

Except that it was still raining on Long Island. Well, more than raining. It was like a monsoon, with 65 mile per hour winds, torrential rain, and no visibility. So our flight was being delayed until they knew they would be able to land when they got there. Okay, fine, not a problem, better safe than sorry. And we weren't even boarding the plane until they knew they would be taking off, so it wasn't like we were stuck sitting on the tarmac for hours.

At 11:00, they announced it would probably be another hour. At noon, they bumped it to 1:00. By then, there were passengers who were concerned about connections they would be missing. One woman asked the Southwest rep if she was going to be able to get to Long Island for a wedding Sunday evening; the rep said she could not say and asked, "You're not the bride, are you?"

Then, at 12:10, they announced that the flight was cancelled. And in thirty seconds, virtually everyone in the waiting area was in line to try and book a different flight. But with the monsoon continuing to blow in New York, there were no flights going to JFK or LaGuardia either.

My first thought was to rent a car and drive, so I called Laurie and asked her to go online and book me a car. Unfortunately, a one-way rental was prohibitively expensive. Besides, Laurie had a better idea: Just as we had done in December when Sammi's flight home was cancelled for three days in a row, AmTrak was the answer. She checked online and found a train I could catch at Baltimore's Penn Station that would get me to NYC by 6:00.

Suitcase in hand, I made my way to the LightRail station. I don't think it could have been any further from the Southwest terminal, by the way; I felt like I walked halfway back to Baltimore. Then it was about a half-hour ride to the train station. (Ironically, at one point I was just two blocks away from the hotel I had left five hours earlier.) I had time to grab a sandwich before getting on the train, so with food, drink and a book, I settled in for the three hour trip.

Remember all the rain I mentioned? Well, New Jersey got quite a bit as well, and as we made our way through the Garden State, I got a first-hand look at some of the "flooding in low-lying areas" that the TV news folks always talk about. We passed a park that I presume usually had a small lake at its center. I say I presume so because what I saw was a lake with submerged benches and an underwater playground.

When I got to New York, I had to catch a train to Farmingdale and, remarkably, I got there with ten minutes to spare. Another train ride and Laurie picked me up so we could drive to the airport and pick up my car. So much for saving any time or effort by driving there myself. Oh, and it was still raining, by the way.

It was about 8:45 when I finally walked into the house, almost twelve hours after checking out of the hotel. But, as Laurie pointed out numerous times, it could have been worse. I could have been sitting in the plane, unable to get off. I could have been somewhere that did not have direct train service. I could have been somewhere too far away to come home by train.

Or the rain could have been snow.

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