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The Revenge of Boston

Started: 2005-10-13 17:00:00

Submitted: 2005-10-13 18:45:40

Visibility: World-readable

I woke up Monday morning expecting to see snow on the ground. It rained all night long, but it didn't get cold enough to actually snow, at least in Longmont. The radio told me that south Denver was inundated with snow, and that I-70 was closed east of Denver. As I drove to work it got colder and the rain hitting my windshield seemed almost, but not quite, frozen.

I left work at 1130 and headed to DIA. At about 15° on 470, the rain turned to snow, and when I parked in Pikes Peak shuttle parking I stepped out into four inches of snow over two inches of very wet slush. Inside the terminal, I successfully checked into US Airways flight 62 to Philadelphia, took the train to Concourse C, found lunch, and waited for the flight to depart at 1355. Everything seemed in order, aside from the snow falling outside, and we push back from the gate just in time to get stuck in a massive queue in front of the deicing pads. Almost three hours later we finally made it to the pad. After the Airbus A321 was properly coated with antifreeze, the pilot announced over the intercom that we were fourth in line to take off... and that they had received an e-mail from scheduling informing them that the flight crew was going to run out of time if we weren't in the air in fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes later, we were still on the ground, and the flight was canceled.

While waiting for takeoff, I finished reading Anansi Boys, which was most enjoyable, even if I did see the venue for the final showdown from three chapters ahead. (Foreshadowing is good. Never forget that. Foreshadow too little and you'll end up with an illegitimate surprise ending like Unbreakable.)

As we were pulling back into the gate, around 1715 MDT, I called Kiesa and asked her to check alternate flights for me. US Airways helpfully volunteered to run the flight at 0700 MDT the next morning, which would put me into Philadelphia sometime around 1230 EDT. I had no idea when the next flight to Boston left, but no matter what I wouldn't make it into Boston until at least the middle of the afternoon, essentially ruining my day. (I just checked US Airway's flights for next Monday, and it turns out they operate the eighty-minute flight to Boston every hour on the half hour during the day. Flight 252 would arrive in Boston at 1449 EDT; it'd take at least an hour to get my luggage and rental car, then half an hour to drive to Methuen, meaning I'd get half an hour in the building before 1700... which didn't seem like a good idea at all.) I might have been able to get on United's direct flight from Denver to Boston, which was scheduled to depart around 1830, for something like US$650. I voicemailed my manager and asked Kiesa to book me on jetBlue's redeye flight from Denver to Boston, departing DIA at 2330 and arriving at Logan at 0515. Not something I would have chosen, but it at least put me at the customer's site for the afternoon. (My plan was to check into my hotel as soon as I arrived, sleep for four hours, and head to the customer at 1300.)

I called to make the appropriate modifications to my rental car, hotel, and customer arrangements and put off calling US Airways reservations for the end. (When I called the rental car, the automated customer service agent asked me to read my reservation confirmation number. I pronounced 9 as "niner" and it didn't have any trouble figuring it out.) When I finally talked to the airline's customer disservice agent, to tell them I was going to cancel the first half of my reservation but expected the second half to still be waiting for me when I wanted to fly home from Boston, the heavily-accented agent said something like "you still need to check with the people there" with something relating to the flight I was supposed to take from Philadelphia to Boston. She said exactly the same thing twice and finally I asked if it had something to do with my live boarding pass. She seemed to think that it did, or at least was happy to get me off the phone.

I trudged into the epic queue waiting in front of the gate's customer service agents. I called my sister and talked to her for for forty-five minutes, listened to half an hour of podcasts, and ten more minutes of music before finally talking to the frazzled customer service agents at the gate. I announced my intentions and the agent tapped some keys and said "fine", without touching my unused boarding pass. I asked if there was some sort of voucher or refund or something I could get for the flight I wasn't taking to Boston, and the agent said no, the delay was weather-related, and they were giving hotel vouchers out of the goodness of their hearts, not because they had any responsibility to do so. I shrugged and left. It was around 2000.

I took the train back to the terminal, found my suitcase at baggage claim five, and headed upstairs to check in for my jetBlue flight. The check-in agent asked my name (Logan) and where I was flying to (Boston) and said, "That's convenient." Since I bought my ticket a whole three hours prior to checking in, I was selected for extra-special security screening. (Never mind that I just passed security a few hours before, nor that I used a credit card I purchased at least a dozen flights on before.) After eating supper, I headed through security. Special screening meant I got to have my carry-on luggage screened for explosive residue and to be wand-frisked. In the special screening queue I spotted two other people I recognized from flight 62, who apparently also made last-minute alternate arrangements.

I took the train to Concourse A and waited at jetBlue's gates, next to BA's gate, where a massive 777 sat on the tarmac waiting to depart for Heathrow. The departure board indicated a huge number of flight delays for Frontier, many by as much as four hours. jetBlue's evening flight from Boston was delayed three hours, but since that wasn't my aircraft, my flight got off on schedule. I did my best to sleep on the three-hour, forty-five-minute flight; somehow I managed to bring my mask and inflatable neck pillow; being able to sleep generally make red-eye flights suck less. With the appropriate hardware, and a window seat in an exit row, I managed to sleep fairly well. I woke up long enough to see Des Moines out my window, and to feel the moment when the captain throttled back and began our descent into Boston. I watched as we landed; we broke through the pre-dawn fog a hundred feet above the ground and still managed a smooth landing.

Logan was disturbingly busy at 0530 EDT Tuesday morning. I grabbed my suitcase, waited a while for the rental car shuttle, picked up a silver Hyundai Accent, and headed north to Andover. I checked into my hotel, managed to sleep four hours (from 0700 to 1100), and made it to the customer's site at 1300 EDT, and didn't leave until 1930. (I did better than Wednesday, when I left at 2000; today I did better, leaving at 1800 EDT. That's why I actually have the time to write this changelog, and why I didn't write anything until now.) I think I'm still a bit sleep-deprived, but I should be able to survive through tomorrow. Another engineer is currently waiting to depart DIA for Boston; he'll be here tomorrow to take the torch and be my employer's presence on the ground early next week as we try to get our customer to not sue us.

(Tuesday night I learned that Logan was having trouble with its flight-tracking radar; as a result, incoming and outgoing traffic had to be delayed to maintain five-mile spacing between planes. DIA had to refuse incoming planes for two hours Monday afternoon because of the traffic pileup on the ground due to the de-icing fiasco. No one has yet been able to explain why there was a de-icing fiasco; I'd probably be forced to accept the explanation that it was the first snow of the season, so there were problems that had to be shaken out.)