I traveled to New Hampshire this weekend to visit some family. It had been a few years since I had been up there and I figured it would be a nice time and it was. It is always good to see family after several years, especially around Christmas. Food, gifts, seeing old faces, or new young faces, all in all it was worth the trip. In the back of my mind the whole time though was the prospect of a bad snow storm along the east coast on my day of departure. The flight up was not too bad, but I knew the flight back would be dicey, with the big storm coming from the west. Although no one seemed to know exactly what it would do, I sensed it was going to be bad. By Saturday night the meteorologists in Boston were saying this was going to be monster storm. So I left on early Sunday morning, flying from New Hampshire to Philadelphia for a connecting flight south, wondering if I would beat the storm or not. The flight out of N.H. went smoothly and when I arrived in the Philly airport at first things seemed fine. There were few cancellations, no snow on the ground and different gates were boarding passengers. The skies were actually partly cloudy. I could clearly see downtown Philly from the terminal. I wondered if the great blizzard was going to be just another storm that never lived up to its hype. I felt calm and assured that I would get home in time. Finding a quiet seat in the corner of the terminal, I took out some food and enjoyed a little meal while waiting for my flight. It was around 8:30 a.m.
Then the cancellations started. It was around 9:30. I first became aware of this when a man sitting a few seats from me was reading from his laptop and suddenly exclaimed, “Fuck, my flight has been cancelled!” My flight was supposed to leave at 11:15. Then there were more cancellations. Frustrated passengers starting congregating at different gates to negotiate their fate. By the time my flight was supposed to board, the plane had not yet arrived. I was starting to become worried. The last thing I wanted to do was spend several days in an airport, trying to get out along with thousands of other stranded passengers. 11:15 came and still my plan had not arrived. It was a small connecting flight so there was only about 30 people waiting. People began asking questions, wondering where the plane was. I noticed a group dynamic had started, with some taking on leadership positions, others negotiating possible alternatives to travel, others quietly listening and following. One man, an experienced traveler, took on an alpha position, asking all the questions, suggesting alternative solutions to getting out of the airport, etc. This quickly evolving group dynamic was an interesting thing to notice, especially when complete strangers are put into such situations. Cooperation to manage the situation becomes the main driving force. Human nature adapts fairly quickly.
After questioning some airport workers, we learned that the plane had left late from the previous airport due to deicing, but was still scheduled to depart from Philly. Whether it would actually arrive was in doubt. In the worsening weather conditions, a number of things could go wrong. People were giving it a 50-50 chance. I fidgeted in my seat, walked around the gate area, watched more and more flights being cancelled, and stared at my feet quite a bit. Our gate person was an attractive young black girl in good spirits, kind and friendly and with a cute, firm ass. At least I had something nice to look at while I waited. A few sexual fantasies about her dance through my bored mind while she walked around. Hell, I needed something to distract myself. I thought, well if I do get stranded, maybe she and I could find a nice quiet spot somewhere during the night. By her demeanor I sensed she probably loved to fuck and was a screamer. My human nature never changes: even in the most stressful of situations, I still like to think about fucking pretty girls.
The snow started around 11:00. The winds began to pick up. Whereas before I could clearly see the skyscrapers of downtown Philly, they were now becoming increasingly shrouded in clouds until finally they disappeared all together. The storm was starting to engulf us. Still no plane. All I could see out the window of our gate was an empty tarmac, starting to resemble more the snowy plains of the north pole than a big city airport, with whatever planes left quickly leaving and flying out to safety, apparently without any passengers. The people who were once calmly sitting and waiting were now mulling about the terminal, watching the arrival and departure boards, seeing the increasing number of “cancelled” flights. By noon most flights had been cancelled. It started to feel like a execution. It was only a matter of time before we were the next ones to be thrust into the hell of stranded airport passengers. I prayed. I figured it couldn’t hurt. At least it gave me some sense of control over things. The black girl with the hot ass remained a nice distraction though between prayers.
Then, out of the snowy skies, our plan arrived. It was one of those older propeller driven planes and, perhaps in a strange twist of fate, was better adapted to fly in these conditions than the newer jet engine planes. Even though I had taken these types of planes numerous times, I noticed for the first time how these particular planes resembled something you might see flying about Alaska, with the wings being attached on the top, rather than on the belly of the fuselage. I know nothing about planes, but a ground crew worker told me once that these types of planes are good for flying in snowy conditions. The ground crew had done a good job of getting things ready for a speedy departure, so the previous passengers quickly departed and we hurriedly boarded. I did find it amusing how, during these tense moments of people wanting to get on the plain, the worker at the gate still went through the routine of announcing our flight was ready to board and then calling us out zone by zone and we all lined up accordingly. I knew that we would not be free until we were in the skies, and that at any moment the flight could return to the gate and be cancelled. We taxied to the runway. Then we stopped. The pilot seemed to turn the engines down. I feared the worst. Had the weather conditions so worsened that the plan could not take off? The snow was swirling outside the window and I could see little. It seemed bad. Was I this close to freedom, only to be turned back.? That would be crueler than just having the flight cancelled all together at the terminal. Then, to my great delight, I saw the deicing liquid splashing all over the windows. My hopes increased. Then engines then revved up again. As one woman said to her small child when he asked what that sound was, “That is music to our ears.” In a few minutes we were moving again until we finally reached the runway and the pilot told us we were the next to take off. He then thrust the engines harder than I had ever felt, jerking the plane, pushing me back, pinning me to my seat as the plane burst up the runway and rocketed into the sky. We were free and heading home. I had escaped the monster blizzard.
As I now watch on the news the horror stories of people stranded at airports for numerous days, and that 10,000 flights have been cancelled since I left Sunday, I have never felt so lucky. Perhaps my prayers had something to do with it? Only God knows.