Friday, January 01, 2010

The. Longest. Day. EVER.

We got up at 7am, as usual. We were in Portland, taking over the two bedrooms on the top floor of Grandma and Grandpa's house. We were scheduled for an 8pm flight back to California. I questioned how on earth "we" decided on an 8pm flight, and was informed that we saved several hundred dollars by flying out on the last available flight. (In retrospect, so not worth it).

Packed our suitcases and two duffel bags and three backpacks, made breakfast, did 2 loads of laundry, packed an extra box to take to UPS because we couldn't fit everything in our suitcases, played a couple rounds of Trouble with Grandma, got coffee.

Went to see Biglittlethings at the Imago Theater in Portland. On the way, G. stopped at Franz Bakery ("The GOOD Bread") to show the boys where he worked a few summers. You could see the machines, whipping out english muffins, through the windows. It was cold, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Saw the show, went to the bathroom and heard people yelling from the hallway, "It's snowing outside!" No way. Snow wasn't in the forecast.

It was snowing outside. Yippee. Fun for the boys (including the adult one) and cold for Grandma and me. Drove back to the house and began thinking, "Geez, this is kind of a lot of snow." Decided we'd better get going to the airport now, even though our flight didn't leave for 4 hours. We kept thinking it would turn into rain any minute now.

We'd borrowed my BIL's car, and were supposed to return it to him way up in Vancouver, WA, about half an hour away. No problem, if it's not snowing. Portland doesn't do well in snow. They have maybe one snowplow, that gets let out after the storm.

Apparently, everyone and their brother were surprised by the sudden snowstorm and decided they'd better hightail it for home, except no one hightails it anywhere in Portland snow. Traffic was horrible, the roads were icy and we were driving a Lincoln Continental. I called my sister and asked her to meet us at the airport instead. She mentioned that our flight was delayed and it might be canceled, in which case, we'd need the car. So we decided we'd just get to the airport, check the status and then maybe they could come meet us and pick up the car.

The highways were pretty much stopped, so we decided to take Stark all the way out to the airport. There's this little hill on Stark, though, that we couldn't get up. We got stuck, with the back end fishtailing from side to side. G got out and tried to push it all the way up the hill but with the icy road and his tennis shoes, it was hard to get enough traction to push. I tried to steer, which was pretty useless given the ice. Cars who had better traction than us went around us, while we slid this way and that. Other cars had pulled over and either were abandoned or had passengers hunkered down waiting for it all to stop. Benjamin was whining from the back seat, "Mama, could you please close the window? It's cold." And I was answering, "No, because it's the only way I can see." I wanted to give up, I didn't see any way up the hill and it made me nervous that we were backing up an entire lane of traffic. G kept saying, "We're almost there!" Finally, a dude who'd begun putting snow chains on his van came over to help push and we actually made it up. Yay!

G said, "OK, it's pretty level from here on out." I was just grateful we were headed somewhere, but I was really nervous we were going to hit another hill. Even the slightest incline would mean pushing again. As we approached the airport, we saw cars trying to make it off the freeway and up a slight off ramp and sliding all around. A van had slid into our lane, facing us, and was abandoned. Fortunately, we slid around it and could keep going.

G. asked for a Power Bar from my backpack and I told him he was on his own, this was my stash. It's not my fault he doesn't prepare for disasters. Then I realized he'd have to eat me if things got hairy and so I offered him a Power Bar. But then he saw it was chocolate and rejected it. He doesn't eat chocolate after 4pm.

It took us two hours to get to the airport, normally a 20 minute drive. I called my sister and told her we'd park the car in the long-term parking lot so it wouldn't cost them an arm and a leg to get it out the next morning. Unfortunately, the long-term parking is outside. Did I mention we were in the middle of a snowstorm? We parked and lugged our two suitcases, one car seat, two duffel bags, and three backpacks over to the shuttle stop. By this time I was thinking I would never, ever fly anywhere again. I decided I would travel again when I can be beamed instantly to my destination and not a day before.

We lugged our stuff onto the shuttle, off the shuttle, onto a cart, to the ticket counter, where the attendant told us our flight was overbooked and we would be asked at the gate to give up our seats. He glanced at my face and stuttered, "Of course, you do have seats, you're OK if you don't want to give them up...."

Dragged all the luggage over to the #3 security (in Portland they make you take all your suitcases to the screening machine). It was closed. Go to #2, he said. We lug our stuff back to #2 and I want to threaten the guy with death if he doesn't take our goddamn luggage, but remembering the recent terrorist incident decide to keep my mouth shut. Just in case, I stand far back and let G. give the guy our bags while I give him the evil eye.

Have some pizza for dinner, find an outlet to recharge my poor dying iPhone. If I'd known I would need it for the snowstorm, I wouldn't have checked Facebook so much that morning. Get to the gate, find our plane delayed 2 hours. Eh, could be worse, it could be canceled and I could be 8 months pregnant. Always with the positive thinking, I am.

Everything closes in the airport at 9pm. For some reason, I thought airports stayed open all night. They don't. We finally get on the airplane close to 10pm, and then wait an hour for the de-icing machine. They spray the airplane with a giant, loud hose. I hope the runway's not too icy, but even if it is, I figure the pilot can steer it correctly once it's in the air, right? While we were driving, we'd have been better off if we could have made our car take off and fly. It was because it was stuck on the ground that we had such problems. Benjamin has a loud voice and keeps dropping pieces of his Anakin Skywalker figure between the seats and the cabin wall.

We get to Oakland around 1am. As soon as we get our bags from the carousel, everything shuts down. The baggage handlers say goodnight, the security guard leaves and it looks like we're the last ones in the airport. It's weird. I could run right past that sign that says "You are leaving a sterile area. No readmittance!" I could readmit myself right back to the gate, it seems.

We're waiting for G to go pick up the car at the off-site parking lot and come back and get us. Everyone is gone. A.'s a little freaked out by all the workers going home and I tell him I'm sure there's a security guard somewhere on the premises. We did see a maintenance guy taking out all the trash, but then he disappeared too.

So G. finally gets us and we drive home. It's 1:30am and the boys want to see what Santa left for them while we were in Portland. G. tells them he wants to turn on the tree lights first, rushes into our 50-degree house and quickly takes all the presents and stuffs them under the tree.

Benevolently, we let them take 30 seconds to look and then rush them to bed. I grab the stockings, thank G_d that they didn't notice they were hanging empty, and fill them quickly. We got to bed about 2am. Longest. Freakin. Day. Ever that ended the longest freakin' visit ever. But that's another post.


ChloƩ said...

OMGosh, what a day! But your way to tell it made me LOL!!! ;) ((((hugs))))

Ange said...

You crack me up. :) Love this post. Love it. "One snow plow they let out after the storm ends." I've never experienced a Portland Snow Storm, and I think that's for the best.

HaplessChyld said...

It took my friend 6 hours to get home that day- I barely beat the rush. The only tip I have for you next time (which I hope there isn't) is The Max. There might be delays, but there is nothing that actually runs in that kind of snow storm in PDX like the Max. Buses would be a close second.

Jess said...

I can attest to the fact that the city owns at least two snowplows, because I saw two pass my house, one going each direction, on Tuesday night. I was STUCK in traffic so your two hours sounds speedy to me, but I didn't have the stress of making a flight so you win. I still can't figure out why so many people abandoned their cars - my tin can chugged along just fine, even up my hill.

Lunasea said...

Nat: We would've taken MAX if we didn't have 2 suitcases, a car seat, two duffel bags and 3 backpacks. And a partridge in a pear tree.

Jess: So how come your tin can got up the hill and ours didn't? I don't drive in snow enough to really know how to do it. Is there a secret? My BIL took 4 hours to get from downtown to east Portland.

HeatherB said...

You totally cracked me up with this post. Sorry to laugh at your misfortune, but your description is just...well...very funny! I love your sense of humour after the fact. But I wonder what you would have written in the middle of all this! ;)

Snow storms and driving are not fun together. Neither are snow storms and being in a plane trying to take off.

At least you weren't coming from Canada to the US -> customs lines were about 7 hours in Toronto, and about 3 hours where we are!

Pam said...

We just moved from Portland this summer. You are absolutely right about the snowplows! Last winter it snowed 14" and the city shut down for TWO WEEKS! They'd plow the main roads occasionally, but the neighborhoods weren't plowed, so it was a disaster!! Glad you made it out of there. I did hear it was a mess! :)

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