Just trying to get to the airport at all was the start of the adventure. My ride was snowed in on the East side and I was left to fend for myself. There is a shuttle that stops at all the major ritzy hotels downtown and goes to the airport...for only $11. The question was, how do I get downtown? My first though was the bus. But once I get off the bus, I would have to drag my luggage 4 blocks to the hotel. So I tried to call a cab to take me downtown. All of the cab companies, and I mean every one of them but one, had constant busy signals. Apparently cabs are VERY popular on snow days. The one cab company that did answer told me they were not taking any new calls for at least 3 hours.
Okay then, bus it is. I left a bit late and managed to wheel my suitcase across the street to the bus stop. The buses were operating on no particular schedule. In the snow, they just kind of get there whenever they get there. And it got there. The nice bus driver was kind enough to get up out of his seat and lift my suitcase on to the bus. Thank god, because I couldn't do it. A few stops later another girl got onto the bus with her suitcase. I struck up a conversation with her and asked if she wanted to go to the hotel with me to catch the shuttle. She agreed. The bus driver did a fabulous job by the way. The bus slipped and got stuck on ice a couple times, and he always managed to get it under control and get us going on our way.
The 4 block trek from the bus stop to the hotel was so NOT easy. I kept having to stop and rest. The ice made it hard to walk without sliding and I had so much heavy stuff to both carry and wheel along behind me. When we got to the hotel, they told us the airport shuttle was not really running on time. Like the Metro buses, they just kind of get there when they get there. At this point I started to pray that my flight was delayed (it was not when I left the house). Because I as cutting it a bit close.
We waited inside the hotel at first, where it was warm. But one of the clerks at the hotel suggested we wait outside in the snow or the shuttle might just go right by the hotel without stopping. As we waited, an empty cab actually spotted us with our luggage and honked. It was a miracle! A cab!! We rushed to it, but he was not sure about taking us to the airport because of the dangerous weather. He said he would do it, but run the meter rather than give us the normal flat rate from downtown to the airport. The girl I was with wasn't keen on this since she was a college student and wasn't sure she could afford it. So the driver promised to run the meter only until $40. She only had $20, so I covered my half plus the tip.
Once I got to the airport I found my flight was indeed delayed by an hour and a half. Sweet. I was able to relax and have an airport food dinner and do some shopping. But once we boarded, we sat around on the plane for 45 minutes before they took off. They wouldn't tell us why, but I did see them de-icing the wings from my window seat. So after 45 minutes of sitting around on the plane, we were quite happy to finally take off. I was watching a movie on a portable DVD player and I was so engrossed in it that I didn't even notice our rapid descent. The Alaska Air pilots get an A plus from me for making an emergency descent so smoothly that it wasn't even noticeable.
The pilot announced that we had a sudden loss in cabin pressure and dropped below 10,000 feet immediately. Then he said we would make a landing at the nearest airport right away, which was Portland. Many passengers groaned. I finally spoke up and mentioned to the people around me that were all safe. I mean come on, where are your priorities people? My positive attitude won me a few new friends on the flight and we got to chatting as we waited to find out if they would let us off the plane. The captain said to disembark. But the flight attendant got on the microphone and said not to disembark. We all said, "But the captain said to disembark." She checked. We waited. Okay, everyone disembark.
As we got off the plane, I heard one angry passenger tell the flight attendant that he would never fly Alaska airlines again. I was not happy with his attitude. Alaska Air did not make the wings ice over. Apparently he would rather we take off on time with ice on our wings rather than wait 45 minutes so we can return safely to our loved ones. And he apparently didn't notice that we lost cabin pressure and the pilot got us below 10,000 feet so quickly and so smoothly that not only was it hardly noticable, but we didn't even need oxygen masks. As I got off the plane I saw the pilot and thanked him personally for getting us on the ground safely.
Priorities people. Come on.
Alaska Air did flunk on this one next part. I was one of the last people off the plane. Apparently all the people that got off the plane first, were told to go to gate C2 where a new plane was being prepared for us. But folks like me that got off the plane last, were told nothing. NOTHING. I was left standing there at the gate saying..."Umm...what's going on? Where am I supposed to go?" Lucky for me a passenger nearby from another flight had heard the announcement earlier for those that got off the plane first. A passenger on another flight had to tell me to go to gate C2.
At C2 I hooked up with the folks I had been chatting with on the plane. We sat on the floor and had a picnic. I met a cool girl named Lux that just moved to Seattle 2 months ago to go to UW. She's training to be a crisis counselor specializing in counseling rape victims at the hospital where they are admitted for treatment immediately following the attack. It turns out UW has one of the best programs for this in the country because they don't just teach you how to be a trauma and PTSD counselor, but they also teach you how to not burn out while doing it. I worked at a temp job with the mentally ill, for only a week. I was burned out after a week. God only knows how people who do this for a living don't burn out quickly. The other person we chatted with was a man that was retired from being an attorney for 30 years. He had all kinds of interesting stories to tell. I enjoyed my time stranded at Portland.
Eventually they announced that the reason we couldn't get on the new plane is that we were short one flight attendant. They said they called the attendant but by policy they had up to 2 hours to get there. When she did arrive in about 20 minutes, I applauded and cheered her and roused some other passengers to do the same. Apparently they neglected to tell us they also needed a pilot. Yeah, that helps. The pilot arrived a few minutes later and we were on our way.
I really didn't mind the whole experience, except for the part where my friends were forced to stay up much later than usual in order to pick me up from the airport. I just don't see how getting upset at all the mishaps would have helped anything. And those around me seemed to find my positive attitude contagious, and we made friends and made the best of it.
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