By the time I get to Phoenix

by the Night Writer

So, last July I started the planning for my company’s semi-annual conference for our key clients. We were in the middle of the heat of summer, and our minds were full of sun and sand as we selected a resort in the desert near Scottsdale, AZ for our February conference. I didn’t imagine that I’d have to escape a blizzard in order to get there, though.

Right from the beginning there’s a lot that goes into preparing for an event of this magnitude (our guests represent about a third of our total annualized premium) and the pace gets even faster as you get near the actual date. The last couple of weeks I’ve had several late nights at work as we counted down to yesterday’s departure. I was so wrapped up in it all that I scarcely noticed the Minneapolis weather forecast until Friday. Here we had several days in a row of temps in the 40s and NOW they want to tell me that 18 inches of snow are heading our way, with the thick of it hitting at almost the same time as my departure flight Sunday afternoon.

Sunday morning dawned gray and cold, but dry. By the time we went to church, though, the snow was coming down in those tiny little flakes that typically presage a major dumping. After church I checked on my flight status; it had been moved back from 4:15 to 4:45 but was still expected to take off. The airline in question, Sun Country, doesn’t cancel fllights unless the airport itself closes, unlike the other “hometown” airline. They merely keep pushing them back until they can take off.

It looked like whiteout conditions outside the big windows in the Humphrey terminal but our white jet eventually nosed up to the jetway like a glacier sneaking up on Minnesota, but it wasn’t ready to board until 5:20. Nevertheless, we were soon in motion shortly thereafter and I began to think we were actually going to get-away. We taxied for awhile as the engines wound up, and then were stopped because the runway needed to be plowed. After the runway was plowed, we needed another de-icing. Then we taxied some more and stopped while the runway was plowed again. Then we were told that we were finally all set to go — except that one of the airport’s ground vehicles had gotten itself stuck on the side of the runway and needed to be towed. Finally, about 7:30, we were at last airborne.

The delays were bad enough, but inside the jet it was also getting warm and muggy. Yeah, it’s a nice contrast to what’s going on outside, but not what you want as visions of jets being stranded on the tarmac for 14 hours dance through your head. Additionally, even though I had paid for the full use of my aisle seat, I was only getting about 80% of it because the large guy in the center seat next to me was spilling into my space. Now, being a kind of beefy guy myself, I tried to stay mellow about it, but being a beefy guy I really need 100% of my space and wouldn’t dream of taking 120%.

The arrangement was causing me to hangd out a bit into the aisle, which was also a problem because it was only about 18″ wide itself. Once we finally got into the air after the long delay and the seatbelt sign was turned off, half the passengers got up to get in line for the bathroom, and about half of them bumped into me on their way. Later, when I tightroped down the aisle myself to the bathroom I had to do a series of reverse-lambada moves with people heading the other direction because the aisle wasn’t big enough for two people to pass without getting more intimate than you’d typically care to do (perhaps this is where the TSA got the idea).

Earlier in the day we had prayed earnestly for favor in getting out of Minneapolis and to this conference; since I’m running it, it would be bad to miss it. The picture in my mind was the weather holding off, or opening up, so that we could get away cleanly. That wasn’t looking like the case, but I had put myself into a more laid-back frame of mind and decided not to let the situation ruin my day, and place my confidence in God that things would work out. I stayed mellow throughout, even as I literally made allowances for my seat-mate who certainly wasn’t deliberately trying to be huge. Once we got airborn we suddenly picked up a huge tailwind that knocked our flying time down to 2:23 instead of the usual 3 hours and 15 minutes. As I waited at the baggage carousel with a woman from our flight she told me that she’d just received a text from her friend saying that our flight was the last one to get out before they closed the runways last night.

God is good!

4 thoughts on “By the time I get to Phoenix

  1. Ahhh, de-icing fluid….yummy.

    Back when my office was at the airport, we had a little building at the base of the control tower. Which coincidentally was also nearby where they parked the planes while they de-iced. Due to either a lack of foresight and/or a tragic display of “engineering”, that tarmac was also directly adjacent to the air intake for our buildings heating system. And typically the places were oriented so their jet fumes were being directed right at our air intake.

    All winter long I would be breathing in jet fumes and whatever is in that de-icing fluid. Snowstorms were extra bad because it meant more planes parked right outside.

    But even on good days, about half way through my drive home the clouds would lift from my head and I’d realize I’d been high as a kite all day long. On the plus side, it made snowstorms easier to deal with…

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