June 18, 2011

How I found myself in Rochester, New York one summer evening.

I suppose I should be typing about how excited I am to have formally situated my abode for the next year or so.  But I can't help replaying back to events that happened approximately 24 hours ago. Plus or minus a few  time zone differences and you can highlight one of my most terrifying moments in my life, so far. Minus that time I was on X2. I'm kidding.

It started with a phone call.

My future roommate and I had booked the same return flight from boston.  We checked the date, the airline, even the seating (she would be diagonal from me), and finally the time. down to the minute.  Leaving at 620 arriving at 1141.  Big mistake because one thing we didn't check was the AM/PM.

and on the first night of our hotel stay, as she tapped away on her ipad, she exclaimed "I wonder how we are going to get to the airport so early?"

you can probably figure out the series of exclamations after that.  And this sets the premises to why I was traveling home alone.

fast forward to the third day of the trip.

My airplane was delayed for over an hour.  Having arrived there already several hours earlier, I was in the most impatient mood.  I was hungry (wanted to just buy food on the plane), I was tired from waking up early, I was annoyed that I was over 40 points behind in most of my WWF games. (seriously, I suck).  The last thing I wanted was a delayed flight. My mom had promised me "delicious' food when I got home.  Till now I wonder if she actually did prepare it or was it going to be store bought.

Nevertheless, the flight did come and we boarded.

A few minutes after being seated, the man next to me pulls out his notebook of crosswords and ferociously dives into it.  I wondered if he really loves solving puzzles or whether it's for distraction sake.

Let me insert now that due to some past events, I'd never been too keen on flying.  Mix that with a case of "I Love To Travel" and you get the most complex love-hate relationship ever.  Luckily I'd discovered that drowning myself in upbeat "clubby" music can somewhat deter myself from fretting over each minute bump.

Unfortunately music doesn't blind us from other senses. I think it started with the smell.  Kind of like car brakes. seeping from(?) into(?) the back. (Later I learn from a fellow passenger that he heard some metal sound from below the cabins right before the odor began to pervade)

then it was a mini drop. (when in any other circumstance I wouldn't have really distinguished it from regular minor turbulence). Minus the fact that right before the flight was somewhat smooth and that right after, something sounded different, maybe the engine was a tiny bit louder, or maybe it was the sound of something else the pilot turned on... but the flight attendants started congregating towards the front of the plane.  One started walking down the isle briskly checking each of our seats.

turning her head left right left right...

I wondered if someone had snuck a lighter in and light something on fire.

Then all the attendants started walking back and forth again.

At this point, several of the passengers had their heads on a swivel following the attendant's every move. my ears were on high alert too. The pilot turned on the intercom and announced we would be doing an emergency landing in Rochester.

 A lady who was behind me stood up and beckons the flight attendant.

"maam please sit down" she looks a bit pale and stands there with her fists clenched near her chest.  "would you like some water?"  the lady leans forward and whispers something to the attendent. "I don't know maam, I sure hope so. but I dont know, It's most safe you take a seat now and buckle your seat belt"

the attendents started walking down the isle asking all of us to place our tables up and seats back to original position.

I catch the attendent as she walks past me "um.. excuse me, when are we going to land then?"
"I dont know. why?"
"ohh. no reason."

I swear I now, HATE the word "I dont know" (even more then eating daikon)

And I really don't know how long it was until the plane landed, but it was one of the most intense moments i've ever had in my life.

I just kept hoping the plane would hurry up and land. I'm embarrassed to say this but  the following thought also crossed my mind.  "Just get me out of this situation and let this plane land safely, I'd rather break out for the rest of my life."

Oddly, it wasn't like intense situations in movies where people were frantic. We were all pretty quiet.  I glanced at the to the two men sitting next to me.  Both were still strangely in their literary zone. Reading a book and fiddling with the crossword.  Then I noticed the pages weren't turning and the pencil wasn't moving.

Perhaps if someone were a mind reader, the room would be filled with shouts, but at the present. There wasn't really any noice. Everything seemed fairly normal, minus the smell.    All of our eyes just kept following the attendents as they walked back and forth. I turned my head back several times and this old man behind me just kept staring at me.. maybe I looked freaked out or something.

In a futile attempt to stare out into the window (it was 10PM) I realized that I really couldn't make out cloud vs sky. so I just gave up and gazed into the dark night and tried to picture the landing process. I could feel the plane descending slowly Yahooo! ok... so wait, I was gonna be in new york?

The best feeling was when I felt the roar of the plane as the wheel touched the ground.  and as soon as that happened, people started chattering again.  from the left window I'd noticed some flashing lights piercing though the dark. Firefighters.  Woah.  The intercom came on and the pilot summed up the main reason of this landing. "We smelled the acrid smell of smoke and thus had to land"  Nothing  more was actually explained to us after.  They turned off the engine and the smell dissapated and soon they said we could turn on our cellphone devices and use them we did.

At this point I have to say everyone had iphones. and EVERYONE uses the same 2 sounds for texts. the 3 toned dings or the double "ding ding".  I felt cool snatching out my 3gs ;)

Called my mother, and then texted friends that I was talking to right before I got on the plane.  (Time zones still trip me out.  It is just amazing to me that it could be pitch black at one end of the US when the other side is still bright and sunny.)

After a few moments they told us that we were in Rochester. New York.. not MN. and there would be no flights out tonight. We would all be booked the same returning flight and they would work on hotel reservations for us tonight.

Several people were concerned because their final desitnation was somewhere else like Northern California or Korea.

They turned on the engine again to taxi us to the gate and as they did the burnt smell appeared.  I wondered if in any case if they figured out the plane problem whether we'd continue our journey on this same plane... LOL because if that were the case, I'd show some 5 yo tantrums that I've seen while I was teaching in preschool. I wanted to get off this plane as soon as possible.

So the fire trucks couldn't find anything wrong afters they inspected outside. and they told us on intercom we'd definitely not be taking this plane anymore and They ushered us out of the cabin and told us all to bring our boarding passes because the United Airlines system had a glitch and was completely off.

We all brought our carry ons and then the next scene was 160 or so passengers from a boeing 757 waiting in the terminals of a very empty airport. in Rochester New York.

And this is where I began recognizing faces.  That lady with the very short hair i'd saw in the boston airport was on the flight.  That asian lady that kept doing (someone interesting) excersizes next to me was there. a guy with a UCLA beanie was on my flight.

And this is also where I fell in love with my iphone.  Talking to my sister and mom on the phone while texting away on the screen with friends really calmed the situation. I forgot I was several thousand miles away from anyone I knew.

Pretty soon they made another announcement.  That the whole airline's electronic system was down and all other flights of the same airline were also now on ground.  What a crazy coincidence. (This would be on the front page of CNN the next day) In any case, we had to treat our boarding passes like gold. It would be our main link to anything we do since a computerized system was nonexistent then. There would be no flights out tonight.

Ushering all the passengers to a hotel for the night was another endeavor.  After waiting for hours in the terminal and then outside near the shuttle stop, we were finally safely shuttled to a nearby Radisson.  Another two hours of waiting goes by in the lobby.

Friendships are made. I saw several parent/child combo send their 20 some year old daughters and sons to go out and scavenge for open eateries as they waited to check in.   After all, it was close to midnight and many stomachs were beckoning for their long needed supper.  College kids hung with the college kids. All the businessmen in their snappy suits made conversation. It was interesting to see similar people congregating together.

 Then they made the announcement that there were no more rooms.  about 70 or so of us walk over a bridge to another hotel.

(all the while's my stomach still grumbles)

The sound of music welcomes us as we walk in.  The smell of barbeque teases my senses. Fenders on display  near the Hotel bar?  Buzzed people bobbing to a Overseas Swedish band. The snapping of a barbeque grill fumes   Somehow finding myself in a NY Jazz Festival afterparty after an emergency landing still tickles my thought.   How crazy is that?

A man in a cowboy hat walks by to our group of weary travelers. .."Gosh... Huge group checkin in so late at night. Where are u all from?" We all look back at him. "Everywhere".

"ookkaay" he Sarcastically says, and walks away rolling his eyes.

Little does he know how true our statement was.

After checking in we decided that we needed some happy tummy time. Grabbed some grub with two other UC'ers also on the same flight.  Sat down on the lobby couch with some dressy people from Scotland and struck up a conversation.  They had heard that there was a "group" here that was finding refuge after an emergancy landing.  LOL. I think in my head. word travels fast.

Edit:  6-26-2011:

I'd originally written this entry with an intention of detailing every second of my unexpected trip but now looking back I realize the irrelavence to my daily life. Things happen, you go through it. I shouldn't "veg" over every detail. ... especially since I'm embarking on another "adventure" right now. So I'll conclude this post now with some (camera and cellphone) pictures I took then :)

Trippy mirror at the boston airport, who would have know the ride was about to get crazier.

After the whole landing shebang.. we take our first refuge at the Radisson Hotel.....'s lobby.

A LOT of waiting... throughout the whole night.

Rooms run out after more then half of the people check in, the rest of us walk across a bridge to another hotel.

Greeted by fenders in the lobby

The remnants of a Jazz Fesitval greets us.

Can you say PARTAYY! Nights still young at 1AM. But not for us. Checkin time set tom at 9. They made a new flight just for our flight.

Fit for a queen. The room they gave me had two queens, seen as it was just me myself and I, I used the other bed as my table. lol

Rochester Airport the next day.

Nevertheless I hope this was a semi- amusing account of my whimsical journey in Rochester NY one summer night. 

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