Monday, December 22, 2008

My Journey Through JFK

I went to high school in Austin, Texas, and my brother and mom still live there, so for the Christmas Vacation, I decided to pack up my necessary possessions and braved JFK to return "home". But oh, I did not realize how much of a mess this would turn out to be.

Due to the huge snow/sleet storm on Friday (Dec 19th), my flight was already delayed for an hour when I arrived at JFK at 7pm Saturday night. This wasn't a big deal to me; I could live with getting into Austin at 12:30am or so. I did not, however, anticipate the series of events that would transpire that would make me much, much later.

The first unusual thing happened while in line for security. I was conversing with the young woman behind me about how the security agents were barking out slow and loud orders to us, like, "TAKE OUT YOUR LAPTOPS" and "NO LIQUIDS" as if we had our brains melted somewhere along the way and had reverted to child-like states. The middle-aged woman leading the security team would clap her hands together with each command, as if it would help better register the order with us. "Does she really think we are all this dense?" I asked the woman behind me. Well, apparently someone was, because when I turned around to look at the opposite security line, I saw a young man (no older than 25), with his shirt completely off, and about to strip down to his underwear. (!!!) I cannot help but fathom how this young man thought that airport security had gotten so intense that we all had to undergo strip searches to get on a plane, OR that he just accepted this scenario as truth and wouldn't at least think, "This is a violation of my being." Luckily, the security guards stopped him before he could embarrass himself any farther, and got him to buckle up his pants, and put his shirt back on. This was such a sign of things to come...

After grabbing some food and a new book to read on the plane, I finally boarded my flight to Austin one hour late, and settled into my seat, thankful to be on my way home. Well, 45 minutes later, we were still sitting at the terminal, dealing with a computer error that the pilot described as, "Nothing serious; just a signal we can't take off with. We're going to reboot the plane similar to how you reboot your computer at home." It's funny how that is the universal solution to all technological problems: restart and hope for the best. Finally, the pilot came out and said, "Alright, we've got problem one solved, now on to problem two." Uh oh, right? The pilot went on to describe how the flight crew had already been working for eight hours and the maximum that any crew cam work is 13 hours. Which meant, that if we didn't get off of the ground in 30 minutes, they would have to bring in a whole new flight crew to take us to Austin, which was not available at that time. We would have to wait for the 9:30am flight the next day to get to Austin.

"I'm gonna be honest, folks," the pilot said. "We have a 50/50 chance of going anywhere tonight."

It was like a suspense movie aboard the plane after that. I had terrible visions of having to get off of the plane, claim my backs, and return all the way back to my apartment to then just come back the next morning, thinking all this while we rushed to get to doors closed and everyone secured. We cut the line to get our wings de-iced, and then air traffic control allowed us to cut the taxi take-off line to get into the air literally four minutes before the deadline.

Once in the air and at crusing altitude (and after we had all breathed a sign of relief to actually be on our way home), the pilot came on with this funny, final message. "You guys...well, SOME of you guys must have been really good this year, because I honestly didn't think we were going to make it. Thanks!"

Some of us? I enjoyed that he was a realist :)

Needless to say, I finally arrived in Austin at 2am, went straight out to a Birthday /Engagement party that was still raging in East Austin, and sat in front of a fire pit with a cold beer and friends to de-frazzled myself from the past 12 hours. I'm so happy to finally be on vacation.

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