Friday, September 2, 2011

Back to school....

This is one of those stories that started months ago, I just didn't realize it at the time.

Last spring I started the process of figuring out what to do with C's things during the summer. Since he is on the East Coast and we are on the West he flies back and forth to school. We had shipped his belongings there in the fall and it just seemed like a waste of time and money to ship them home for the summer then back again in the fall. As I called local storage places in Burlington I was getting more and more frustrated. I couldn't get anyone to call me back. When I finally reached places I was told they were full and that's why they didn't bother to return my call. Finally I got a hold of Dave and Dave had space. Not only did he have space but it was cheaper than the other rates I had seen AND he would pick up and deliver C's belongings at the school. Really handy to know since C doesn't drive. I had already made plans to fly back and pick him up for the summer and help him pack up but I was very excited knowing that I wouldn't have to spend the money on a plane ticket twice a year for the next three years to do it again. Yay!

My first inkling that this might not be as wonderful as I had originally thought was when we dropped off C's boxes. I had spoken with Dave and let him know what time to expect us. We got there and....nothing. Nobody was around. I called his cell and tracked him down and he wandered out from where ever he had been to help pack away the boxes and fill out the paperwork. All handwritten and stored in a manila folder on a desk covered with the most random assortment of belongings I had ever seen. Well...okay, so this guy is eccentric, that's okay. Kind of an old hippie type. I live in Portland, I have dealt with my share. I can handle this. I thought...

Fast forward to mid summer. I call Dave to arrange a time for him to deliver C's things to the dorm. I have a move in day from the school so I am wrapping things up early. Upperclassmen are allowed to move in on Sunday. Well....Dave isn't open on Sunday. Or on Monday. Never mind that it's the move in weekend for both University of Vermont and Champlain College. And actually he might not even be around that weekend because he likes to go fishing in August and might be away on a fishing trip. I should call again the week before school starts to make sure he is there. To say I am a little put out would be an understatement. Now it's time to decide what to do. The options are that I fly back in with C and we pick up his things on Saturday (assuming Dave is there and not out fishing) then move him in to the dorm on Sunday and I fly back out Sunday afternoon or he flies in Sunday morning and doesn't have his things until Tuesday. The complicating matters are that EVERYTHING is in storage. His towels, his bedding, his pillow, some books and Tuesday is his heaviest class load day. At first he was fine with nothing getting there until Tuesday. Until the reality of not having anything, towels, sheets, pillow, anything until the second day of school set in. Then he realized that maybe having me go in with him on Saturday would be a good idea. Not only because I could then hopefully get his things out of storage but if Dave did go fishing I could buy him a few things to tide him over until Dave showed up again.

So flights are arranged and we are set to leave Friday night on the red-eye and get in to Burlington at 9:30 Saturday morning. We will pick up his things in storage, drop them off in the hotel room, check to make sure everything made it through the summer okay, make a trip to Wal-Mart for supplies and move in Sunday morning. Lots of time. Plan is set and we are ready to go.

Then Irene came. As I watched the weather reports I thought I might be in trouble. My flight was scheduled to leave Burlington at 2:30 Sunday afternoon and Irene was set to make landfall at noon. So I checked with the school and they were allowing early move ins to the dorm due to the storm so I changed my flight to 6:30 AM on Sunday instead. Now we are looking at getting in to Burlington at 9:30 Saturday morning, picking up everything, unloading, going to Wal-Mart and unpacking all on Saturday. Still do-able. Just a little more time crunched is all.

I wasn't worried at all about getting in to Burlington, as the storm wasn't predicted to hit the Northeast until Sunday so even if it sped up it would be late Saturday night before any travel should be disrupted. And this is what I kept telling every one who asked. "I'm not worried about getting C there, but I am a little concerned about getting me back out." When my mother called on Thursday to check in on how we were going to deal with the weather, when Brent doubled checked what time our flights were, when NYC announced they would be closing the subway at noon on Saturday. I kept thinking and telling people, getting in won't be an issue, getting out might be a problem.

But honestly I wasn't even too worried about that. While we lived in Orlando there were a few hurricanes that were going to "be severe" and one even was predicted to go right across the state causing damage in Orlando itself. Each time we got a little bit of rain and light winds as the storm was either weaker than predicted or veered off at the last minute. If I had been in New Orleans in 2005 I would probably have been freaking out a lot more. Past experiences dictate present feelings right?

Anyway...deep in denial about Irene I kept up my optimistic belief that it wouldn't be that bad, we would get in to Burlington without any issues and worst case scenario I might be a little delayed getting back home. Then at dinner Friday night I got an email from the airlines, my Sunday flight had been cancelled. Well crap. When we got done with dinner and got home I went online to look at changing to a Monday flight, no flights could be found. The earliest I could see was a Tuesday flight. Hmmm...well that's odd. So I decided to throw a few more clothes into my very small overnight bag and head to the airport early to get things straightened out with an actual clerk.

We got to the airport almost two hours before the plane was set to leave and there was a decent sized line at the Continental counter. I'm not worried, we have plenty of time. A half hour passes and we move up two positions. They start the calls for "Anyone going to Houston?" and the line moves again as those people are pulled to the side. I am thinking the Houston flight must be about the leave but then I over hear the people behind me saying it's because they won't need re-routed. Ah, so this is all about those of us needing to get our return tickets squared away got it. Another half an hour passes and we don't move. Now I am starting to sweat. Then the girl in front of us in line asks if we are connecting out of Newark, I told her we were headed in to Burlington and she let me know her connecting flight into Maine had been cancelled. Hmmm....I check my email and I have no message from the airline so I am feeling pretty confident still. But just in case I text Brent and asks how long the drive from Newark to Burlington is. He comes back with 6 hours. Okay, that is inconvenient but totally do able. Then the word starts filtering back through the line...all connecting flights out of Newark in the morning have been cancelled. Are you kidding me? A day before the storm is supposed to hit the Northeast all flights are cancelled? Then more news, the Newark airport is going to shut down. Completely shut down. JFK is as well. This means there is no way to even shuffle to another airline to try and get in to Burlington.

I text Brent and see if he can get us a rental car as the woman behind the counter is announcing that there are no hotels or cars for rent in the Newark airport due to the storm. Now panic is starting to hit a little. I turn to C and let him know there is a real shot he won't make it back to school for the first day of class. And because of the shut downs I have no idea when we will be able to make it out. He is, well let's just say he isn't happy about this news. Now it's a half hour before our flight to Newark is supposed to leave. Brent is scrambling online at home trying to get us a car reservation in Newark. I am making the call right then and there to just fly in to Newark and hope that he is successful.

We get to a ticket agent who books us through, put C's bag on the scale and it's overweight. She tells us to move stuff out of the bag into our other other bags or it's a $150 charge. I have no other bags to move stuff into and let her know. She prints out a few things and tells me again to move items around. I tell her I said I have no other bags, you are going to have to charge me. Twenty minutes before the flight leaves...the other ticket agent is yelling at people to hurry because the flight was leaving on time whether we made it on or not. Our ticket agent hands us our boarding passes and tells us just to go on without the charge. Yay! Then she says..."You are booked into Newark and your bag will get to Burlington sometime." Wait! What? No! The bag needs to get off the plane with us in Newark! Fifteen minutes before the flight leaves....she fixes it, we hope, and we are running through the airport to security. I would say pulling an OJ but I didn't have a knife...which turns out to be a good thing.

Now 9/11 THE 9/11 happened 10 years ago. It amazes me that there are still people who don't know how to go through security. The ID isn't a valid one, their shoes aren't off, they don't unpack their laptops, they wear a ton of metal jewelry, they have too many liquids. The woman ahead of us in line did all of these things plus chatted up the woman checking ID's and boarding passes to even get to security. The clock is ticking, my temper is starting to flare and this woman turns to me and says, "I remember when flying used to be so much easier." I just nodded. And thought..."IT'S NOT THOUGH! YOU KNOW IT'S NOT NOW! SO DEAL WITH IT AND MOVE YOUR ASS!!!" But what came out of my clenched jaw was..."yep...." See? I didn't actually pull an OJ because that lady is still out there annoying someone on her return flight.

C and I fly through security get on the plane and settle in for our red eye to Newark as the last text from Brent hits. He has gotten us a car, he has sent us a map, the drive is going to be a touch longer because the ferry is closed due to the storm but he found a route that we can use that doesn't take the ferry, he cancelled the car in Burlington I was supposed to pick up, and the doors are closing all electronic devices must be turned off at this time....

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