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Flight Into Madness

The flight from Winnipeg to Boston last Friday wasn't really that bad in a relative sense. Yes, we did leave Winnipeg in a blizzard at -35 C. Delays and de-icing lead to a very tight connection through Toronto which would have been missed had Toronto not been experiencing problems of it's own. But it was.

My sidekick, Warren the camera guy, became bogged down in life-sucking-gear-itemizing customs bureaucracy, and by the time he reached our connection they had closed the gate. Already on board, I pleaded with the agent who agreed to speak with the Captain and Warren appeared. Then we sat at the gate for another hour and waited for fuel. No worries. We were flying to Boston.

Boston was in the back-end throes of its worst blizzard of the season. The airport itself was shut down the entire morning. I figured any delay could only improve the weather situation on the ground at Logan. I was right. Blizzard-to-blizzard we finally arrived, several hours late, to face hours of more salt/sleet/crazy drivers road travel to shoot our Hockey Day in Canada story. As it turned out this trip was the piece of cake. As I said, all things are relative.

Yesterday we contemplated trying to leave Boston in the morning, but nothing was leaving. Dense fog and an almost ridiculous 60 American degrees. Our flight was at 4:20 p.m. I arrived at check-in at 1:30 p.m. Not five minutes earlier online information had told me "everything on schedule." Right. The line didn't move, not even by one person, for 45 minutes. It still said boarding at 3:55 p.m. No worries, lots of time. As I get to the front of the line, finally, the woman on the other side of the counter informs me her computer has crashed and she will have to re-boot. After waiting several minutes she decides to check me in on the computer from the guy next to her. His runs out of printing paper. Remember now, these poor people have been dealing with weather related poisoned people for five solid days. I smile and say, "Murphy's law."

It's close to another hour at security screening. Some guy is going up and down the line saying, "I need to check your bag for size, you may have to check it." I tell him it fit on the way down; it will fit on the way back. If he thinks I'm getting out of that line, to go back to that other line, he's nuts. He moves on to someone else. For all I know he's stealing bags. Never seen that before and I travel, a lot.

Past security the waiting area is jammed. Never mind nowhere to sit, there's nowhere to stand. And it's a thousand degrees. Kids are screaming, crying, everyone seems to have the flu and nobody is smiling. But there's no yelling, although you have the distinct sense that it could blow wide open any minute. I assume a "dream-like" state. Four gates, nothing is moving. Nothing has moved for hours. Waiting on planes from Toronto they say. I stand in one spot, elbow to elbow, for hours. Four, five and six o'clock come and go. I talk to folks who have been at the airport since Thursday who were diverted from New York, trying to somehow get back west, to France, Hong Kong even. Planes arrive, things start to move. It's seven by the time we leave. Any hope of making our Winnipeg connection is long gone, but at least we can get back in the country.

Landing in the dark in Toronto looked like the surface Mars, except colder... apparently. This does not look good. We get through our initial customs and head for baggage. We are a television crew and we have bags and lots of big heavy cases. There are what appear to be a thousand people wandering between the carrousels in baggage claim. The cart dispenser is broken. Shades of the movie "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" start dancing in my head. Where is my hero John Candy when I need him?

The bags appear first at one carousel and then another, an hour and fifteen minutes after arrival. We are diverted to the sorry line of folks who did not make their connection. But, there's some good news. We can grab a later flight to Winnipeg. A quick bowl of soup, and we'll be good to go. We know we are actually lucky. Some folks have been punted around for days.

But it ain't over. Nope. At the gate they are boarding for St. John's. I hear more mumbling about "we still have to wait for fuel." Our flight is moved and in bound is delayed. "Why shouldn't it be?" I think. It arrives. We get a fresh crew. This turns out to be what, in the end, saved us.

We board around Midnight. But we are not going anywhere. We are waiting for fuel. The cabin crew is very helpful. The captain even allows people to go up to look around the cockpit. He explains the airport authority handles fueling and they refuse to even give an estimate of when that might happen. Other flights are being cancelled as their crews run out of time and they can no longer legally fly. Other worn-out travelers are moved on our flight. We have a fresh crew, but no fuel. Every time the door is opened a blast of Arctic misery blows through the cabin. I watch one movie then another. At 4 a.m. the fuel arrives. A small mercy, we will not have to de-ice. I must say it was a lovely, smooth, flight. We landed just around 6 this morning. And all the bags appear. The madness ends. For far too many, it sadly continues.
  
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