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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Puerto Rico -- Prelude

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After a rather stressful 2010, I was eager to travel again.

I wanted to go somewhere warm with beaches and swimming pools.  A little culture would be nice in case I got bored laying around being a beach bum.  Less than 5 hours of direct flight is the key requirement.

Even though I would prefer to travel outside of the U.S. territory, Puerto Rico seemed to hit all the marks, and it would be silly of me to reject Puerto Rico just because I did not need a passport to travel.

As luck would have it, the afternoon before we were scheduled to fly, it started to snow. Just before 4 PM, the airline company called to inform us that the our flight the next morning was cancelled. My heart sank when I heard the news. Before I could get all hysterical about it, H called the airline back and booked another flight leaving the same night at 8:30 PM.

It was 4 PM when we booked the flight. Both H and I were still in our offices and the luggage was not packed yet. We didn't know where to sleep for the extra night, but it didn't matter, we were able to get out of snowy New York!

We rushed back home, quickly packed, got the car service at 6 PM, checked in, and had dinner in the airport. Everything was on schedule. We booked the airport hotel for the night, re-booked the connecting flight for the next morning, informed the car rental company and hotel that we would arrive earlier than expected. We could not believe how lucky we were to be able to make the last flight out.

After all the passengers boarded the plane, the captain made a series of announcements:
"We are waiting momentarily for the runway to be clear to take off.".....
"We have to wait for the visibility to get better to take off."......
"We will try our best to wait for the storm to pass to get you safely to San Juan."....
"We are now cleared to take off." 

The passengers burst into small cheers.  The plane was slowly moved backwards for de-icing. After awhile, the windows were quickly covered in snow that we could not see what was happening outside.

Another series of announcements later, finally the captain pulled the plug. 
"Unfortunately, the snow has progressed into a full blizzard.  This flight is cancelled.  This is it. We are calling it a night."
I was throwing myself a pity party while the news slowly sunk in.

As if it was not tragic enough to have a cancelled flight, we were sitting on the plane forever waiting for the ground to be plowed so the plane could return back to the gate.  Finally around midnight, we unboarded the plane. Both H and I were on the phone with the airline companies, hotels, and the car rental company trying to rebook the entire trip.

As soon as we stepped out of the airport, we realized how bad the weather condition was. It was windy, frigid, and the snow was blowing sideways. There were only a few taxis around, and more and more snow accumulated on the ground. We shared the cab with two other passengers. There was zero visibility on the highway. After dropping the first couple, the cab got stuck in the snow. The cab driver kept stepping on the gas, the wheels were spinning, but we were not moving. H tried to push the car with a bunch of other bystanders. Smoke came out, and we smelled the rubber burning. 

This night could not get any worse and I was prepared to spend the night in the cab in the middle of the road. Somehow, just as we were ready to throw in the towel, the driver maneuvered out of the snow! We were on the road again! 

The driver dropped us off on the main road, 3 blocks away from our apartment since he did not want to get stuck on the unplowed street again. H carried our suitcases, I walked behind him in the midst of the winter snow storm  wearing only light sweaters and crocks for the longest three blocks in the snow. By the time we got to the building at 2:30 AM, both of us were shivering uncontrollably.

This night was too crazy for us to be upset about the cancelled flight. The whole experience was almost hysterical. I guess in the case of New York Snowstorm v.s. Puerto Rico Sunshine, New York Snowstorm won this run.

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