Sunday, February 12, 2006
Fright & Flight
Back from the botanical garden Friday afternoon, I flipped open my father's laptop and connected to the internet. I'd been vaguely concerned about the possible snowstorm that the weathermen and weatherwomen had been bruiting about all week. I was due to fly home early Sunday morning. Surely the unpleasantless would be over by then. Right ?
I typed NOAA into the yahoo search box, and clicked on "go." There was the usual US map, with its color-keyed overlay. Hmmm. Eastern Massachusetts was slathered with a brilliant orange-red I'd never seen before. I consulted the key.
Blizzard ? BLIZZARD ? BLIZZARD ?
Yes, blizzard. A blizzard that, in addition, had booked the same itinerary as my return flight. Sunday morning.
As the late sun glinted off the calm waters of the gulf of Mexico up through the balcony doors, I flew into high panic mode. Now what ?
The next half hour is a psychotic blur of unresponsive websites, tenuous cellular connections, byzantine phone menus, maddeningly calm voice-recognition BOTs sadly telling me they did not understand me, and singularly obtuse customer service representatives emerging from their addled haze only to dispense incorrect information; my Dad, feeling my panic, sat across from me at the table mechanically spooning raisin bran and soymilk into his mouth as he watched me freak: clink, slurp, clink, slurp, clink, slurp. Across the kitchen the little green nautical motif clock -- the one I'd had to disable the night before in order to sleep -- went TICK TICK TICK TICK. Can clocks crescendo ? This one did, I swear. My palms were sweating. All of Southwestern Florida was probably vying for the one remaining ticket back to Boston ! And, if I did get that ticket, it would probably cost thousands of dollars ! And what were the penalties for changing one's itinerary, anyway ?
Cue Bernard Hermann Hitchcock string motif. Screech ! Screech ! Screech !
Doesn't Camus' L'Etranger begin with the sun glinting off a knife blade ?
I eventually reached a pleasant Delta Airlines representative on my Dad's landline. Within moments she'd booked me a direct flight from Florida to Boston for Saturday morning, well before the storm's expected arrival. I would leave Florida an hour and a half later than my originally scheduled flight, and arrive in Boston more than an hour earlier. What, no long overlay in Atlanta ? I took down the flight number, unable to believe my good fortune.
May I help you with anything else ? she asked.
Uh, the price ? I ventured.
No additional cost. And, because of the storm, we've waived the penalties.
So here I am, and here's the snow.
And my forty hour Florida vacation -- did I and my camera dream it ?