Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Home For Christmas (Almost Only in Our Dreams)

[Allow me to start by saying that I got about 4.5 hours of sleep last night; that might be plenty of sleep for the Energizer Bunny ever-ebullient Katie, but I assure you it is not enough for this redhead. So forgive me any and all errors; I'm sure there will be plenty. But this post has been bouncing around for days and if I don't get it out now it will be the new year (2009! OMG!) and then I never will (and I know at least two kind people want to read it). :) SO. On with the post.]

The Sunday before Christmas Jason and I loaded our bags into the car and headed off to the airport, bound for Portland, Oregon (PDX). As I mentioned in a previous post, it almost never snows at Christmas in Oregon. The few times I remember having a "White Christmas" when I was growing up it was either a dusting or just a few flakes that us kids used to be far too excited about. So although Jason and I heard, from family members as well as actual certified meteorologists, that it was snowing in Oregon--and was going to keep snowing--somehow it didn't quite really sink in. I still planned to pick up Starbucks gift cards at Costco and run a few errands. Saturday Market and Powell's (City of Books--OMG it's heaven) were still not entirely out of the question in my mind.

When we landed in Salt Lake City, they immediately informed us that our flight to PDX was cancelled and we were rescheduled the next morning. They gave us our boarding passes and (upon my request) a hotel voucher. Having never been in this situation before, I asked about our bags. The kind but obviously stupid customer service rep told us that we could pick up our bags in baggage claim, and if we didn't claim them they'd be forwarded to PDX the next morning with our flight. This didn't make a whole lot of sense to us, but we made our way to baggage claim anyway. Obviously, our bags never arrived. The line for the Delta Baggage Office was about 40 people long and there appeared to be one person working. By this point it was around 8 p.m. SLC time, which meant 10 p.m. East Coast time, which meant we were starving. [Usually I'm better about planning our eating schedules but I was fairly crazed and was lucky just to get my bags packed in time to get to the airport--I literally mailed out my last etsy orders on the way to the airport.] So we opted to head for the hotel and grab some dinner, since I had a contact case and lens solution in my carry-on (thank God!).

We actually made the most of our short time in SLC; our hotel gave us a shuttle ride over to another hotel that had a good restaurant, we ate and talked with another couple stuck for the night, and our Bosnian restaurant manager was delightful and very generous with his pours of wine. We heard that a big snowstorm was supposed to be blowing in around 2 a.m., so with hearts and minds full of dread we slept a few hours and were pleased to discover no new snow when we woke up! So we caught the hotel shuttle back to the airport.

Luckily we had our boarding passes, and since we only had our carry-ons we skipped the Delta counter and went straight through security towards our gate. There we realized how lucky we were to have boarding passes; the airport was full of people sleeping on every possible horizontal surface, not because they couldn't afford a hotel, but because they were afraid if they left the terminal without boarding passes they'd never get put on a flight! OUCH!

The Pilot came out a few times and warned us of the weather in Portland, so when they started boarding us just a few minutes late we were all excited and pretty hopeful. By this point Jason has missed his ski day with his cousins and I'd missed my PDX day, which was a bummer, but we were both excited to just get home to Portland.

So it didn't bother us too much when they delayed our takeoff for a half-hour--it was early, after all, let's give the PDX airport guys time to clean up the runway, right? And then another half-hour slipped by fairly quickly, filled with reading and short dozes moments of drifting off into some weird kind of half-sleep. :) By the time they announced the third half-hour delay, most of us were just praying we'd get to Portland, especially when the snowflakes started to fall and we all had visions of being stuck in SLC through Christmas! So when they announced takeoff after 90 minutes of waiting, we were all pretty stoked! We sent our last-minute texts/tweets and made our last-minute phone calls to the people coming to pick us up and then we were in the air. Woo hoo!!

We settled in for the quick two-hour flight and breathed a collective sigh of relief as the plane started to descend over Portland. And then we collectively gasped slightly when we started to ascend again. Huh? The Pilot came on and announced that Portland's long runway was totally icy and wouldn't be cleared for two hours (which makes me wonder why the heck we were ever cleared for takeoff in the first dang place), and the short runways were too short for our plane, so up we went to Seattle. GAH.

Obviously everyone figured we'd head up to Seattle, wait around for two more hours (or an hour and a half by the time we got there), and then head into Portland on a freshly-cleared runway. Right? Doesn't that make sense?

Nearly upon touchdown in Seattle the Pilot jumped back on the horn to say that the plane was heading back to SLC. We could get off in Seattle if we wanted, but the crew and all of our luggage was heading back to SLC. Further, we would be responsible for our own transportation from Seattle; they weren't going to book us through to Portland. And, we had about two minutes to decide what we were doing, because they were refueling and heading straight back.


Decisions, decisions! All of us were immediately on our cell phones--Jason and I were actually each on our phones to different people, which struck me as comical even at the time. Everyone on the plane was trying to figure out if there were any busses or trains running, if small chartered planes could get into the shorter runways at PDX, or if rental car places had any 4-wheel drives still available--all this in about two minutes! Meanwhile we're remembering the snowstorm blowing into SLC even as we sat on the runway and imagining being stuck there for Christmas, and of course wondering if we'd ever see our luggage again if we let it go back to SLC without us! [Especially since I had only two weeks previously laughed by ass butt off at this blog post from comedian Eugene Mirman about his luggage which Delta--the very airline now responsible for our luggage--lost. I spent most of our vacation trying to not think about his post. Which is hilarious, by the way, and you should check it out.]

Jason was on the phone to my Dad, who was at the PDX airport waiting to pick us up, and he told us to call my Mom. I'm unsure of the details but somehow she'd found out that her doctor's son (she's a nurse, she and Dr. Ellerbrook have worked together for almost as long as I can remember) was driving from Portland up to Seattle to pick up his father-in-law, who also was being re-routed to Seattle. So we got Jon's phone number and Jason called him to make sure he'd have room for us. We even managed a moment of levity when Jason said, "Oh, yeah, what about our stuff?" and I said, "Uh, babe, we won't have any stuff!" :) "Oh. Yeah!" :)

So the decision was made. About 75% of the people on the plane ended up getting off anyway, despite not getting any luggage and being unsure of how they'd get to Portland. (Further proof Seattle is a zillion times better than SLC, ha!) I don't understand why we couldn't have our luggage, or why we couldn't just hang out in Seattle for a bit, but at this point whatever, right? At least we were within driving distance of PDX, we had a plan, and at the very least (if Jon couldn't make it up), I know a ton of people in Seattle and I could start calling everyone I know to see who was still in town. :)

We had a crapload of several hours to kill in SeaTac (Seattle-Tacoma) airport before Jon arrived (he hadn't even left yet for what is normally a 3+ hour drive in perfect conditions and we all had no idea how long it would take in the ice and snow). So we did the best possible thing in these types of situations: first I cried a bit, and then we found a bar. Luckily we didn't have to go too far, it was just across from the gate we flew into. :) We ordered lunch and two big beers. A suitable time passed and we ordered another round (although I switched to wine since they were out of dark beer--another painful sacrifice due to the weather :)). We sat and made lists of all the good things that happened in 2008 and all our goals for 2009, although truth be told we were feeling pretty sleep-deprived and torqued-off and pitiful not to mention buzzed, so our lists were more hilarious than real (especially the 2009 goals--topping the list was "NO F***ING SNOW"). (Ha!) But it helped us pass the time. :)

Eventually Jon called to say he was arriving, and he really made remarkable time! So good, in fact, that his father-in-law hadn't even arrived yet! But since he was there he swooped us up in his Subaru all-wheel drive; it was remarkably easy to meet him, since I've heard things about him most of my life and he looks incredibly like his dad, so it was sort of like I already knew him a bit. He took us to another tavern near the airport to eat, since it was now dinner time. It was so nice to be out of the airport and it was also nice to not pay crazy airport prices! We ate and got to know each other and killed more time and pretty soon his father-in-law called and we headed back to the airport, and then soon--about 8 p.m.--were on our way back to Portland!

I am ashamed to say that in the cozy luxury of the back seat of the Subaru, safely on our way home with most of our worries past and our stomachs full of food and beer, Jason and I fell asleep almost immediately. I woke up about an hour outside of Portland and I think Jason woke up when we were almost in Portland; needless to say we didn't make the best travel companions, although maybe Jon was thankful for the peace and quiet. :)

The worst part of the entire drive was the distance from southern Portland through my parents' exit on the freeway (about 20 miles of pure ice with huge berms in the road). Luckily my parents were able to drive up part way to get us so poor Jon didn't have to drive us all the way down--we're sooooo thankful to him anyway, we were calling him our Knight in Shining Subaru, ha ha! :)

So we arrived at my parents' and fell into bed. The rest of our remaining visit was wonderful and fairly uneventful, at least in comparison, and I will post photos later this week/weekend of all the fun. But the good news is that we were able to get to a store to restock on essentials--I even found a pair of jeans that sufficed!--and we had a renewed sense of what was truly important about the holiday and our visit. Jason and I handled everything well and were a great team, we had a great visit with most of our family (except my sister's family who couldn't make it down from Spokane, which is a major bummer, and I'll work hard to see them soon!), and (thanks to my parents driving up to PDX on Christmas!) we even got our luggage back before we flew home (only by about ten hours due to our schedule at Jason's family's house, but still, what a relief!).

On that note, I will close out my last post for 2008. Tomorrow will be exciting, with a post about my One Word for 2009 and a special necklace offer!


jenwcom said...

wow, cameron. i felt like i was watching one of those christmas vacation movies. what a trip!

so glad you guys are safe and snug at home.

Katie said...

OH MY GOSH! What an adventure! Holy cow. Well, I'm glad you finally got to see your family, I'm glad you finally made it where you were going, and I'm glad Jason was with you as, we all know, misery loves company. At least it was a little less miserable with a travelling companion. I hope 2009 starts off a little better for you and I can't wait to see you this year! xo xo xo

Jilliene Designs said...

wow - what a journey. You guys were such troopers. I would have been so peeved at the airlines! Did you ever get your luggage? I can't wait to read that comedian's story - I'm going there next while I'm waiting for your word announcement and blog facelift. I have a list of words that I need to meditate on this AM so I can commit. Happy New Year my friend!

Ava's Mom said...

OMG! What a trip. At least you finally made it! You guys sound like you maintained your sense of humor throughout. What a story. Glad you were able to get home and enjoy the holidays with family. Happy New Year!

suz said...

I glad you made it. I live in Oregon and it was a LOT of snow that is for sure. There were a couple of days we couldn't get out.
fyi - we took that photography class on line together.

Cheryl said...

Hey Cameron, your trip sounds like a terrible Christmas movie! But sounds like you made the best of it!! Your trip sure tops my Christmas this year, my in laws came, arriving at 1:30am on on Christmas Eve, my husband spent C-mas day in the ER with his dad (who is fine), more to the story.. I will email you my schedule for next week and hope we can meet up.

Valerie Lockett said...

BA-HAHAHAHA!! Cameron, I am sorry, and while going through it at the time it may not have seemed so, but THAT was funny! :) I have had fun travel instances like that (sarcasm intended!) but I did it with small ankle-biters in tow...glad I found this(quite by accident, actually...I was google-ing Matt's obituary, and your blog was one of the hits I found.)