Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Thunderstorms Over Atlanta
After posting recently about our all-too-brief stay in Wilmington, North Carolina, and about losing our bottle of authentic Carolina barbecue sauce to security at Raleigh-Durham Airport, I got a comment from a friend on Facebook that said, “You must not fly very much.”
Guilty as charged. Up until June of this year, the last time Linda and I had flown commercial was December of 2010, when we went up to Seattle to see my sister at Christmas. Then in a period of seven weeks this summer, we both flew to Seattle for our nephew’s wedding and back east for our son’s basic training graduation. In between, Linda also flew to Minnesota, from whence a friend took her to the Finn Fest in Hancock, Michigan. Don’t ask.
The return trip from our son’s basic training graduation last month was somewhat eventful — not a good thing in commercial flight — and reminded me that our air transportation system operates on a hair-trigger. When the friendly skies turn surly, it becomes a daisy chain of messes.
Our itinerary for returning from the Carolinas and Virginia was to return the rental car at Raleigh-Durham Airport, catch a 4 p.m. flight to Atlanta, arriving a bit after 5, then hop a 7:45 flight to San Jose, getting us to the airport before 10 p.m. and home by 11. As the old saying goes, when men make plans, God laughs.
Arriving at Raleigh-Durham on time, we learned that severe thunderstorms had closed Hartfield-Jackson in Atlanta to all incoming and outgoing flights, a condition that lasted for nearly five hours. At one point, we boarded the plane, sat on it for an hour, then were marched off because Atlanta was still down.
Delta, our carrier, was helpful, and stationed an agent at an adjacent gate to help people with connecting flights. She gave us the bad news that our flight to San Jose would be taking off as soon as Atlanta opened, but she could rebook us at no charge on a 10:30 flight to San Francisco, arriving at 12:45 a.m. As the defense attorneys used to say in Law & Order, we took the deal.
The Longest Taxi Ride
We finally got out of Raleigh-Durham a bit before 8, which seemed to put us in good shape to make the connection. Problem is that Atlanta is one of the busiest airports in the country, and the ripple effect of a weather closure is immense. When we touched down at 9, we had to wait on the tarmac for nearly 40 minutes for a gate to open up for our plane.
And, of course, the San Francisco flight was leaving from another terminal than the one where we disembarked, so we had to take the airport subway to it, arriving just before they started boarding. The good news was that the flight wasn’t full, and I got an aisle seat.
Arriving at San Francisco International just before 1 a.m., we faced the next question: How to get to Mineta San Jose, where our car was parked. At that time of day, the only option seemed to be a taxi, so we took what I fervently hope will be the longest taxi ride of my life, arriving at San Jose’s utterly deserted long-term parking area just before 2 a.m. The fare was $150, in case you’re wondering, and that was before tip. It was nearly 3 a.m. when we got home, or 6 a.m. Eastern time, which was what our bodies were on. I’m glad I don’t have to do that for a living.