American Adventure

Here’s how our trip to Montreal went…

Wednesday AM: uneventful flight from Raleigh to NY/JFK. Get to JFK, and find that American Airlines has left a voice mail on Mrs C’s cellphone telling us that our flight to Montreal has been canceled (reason: “Air Traffic”) and that we’ve been booked on the 5:00 flight to Montreal. It’s a 2 hour delay, but not the worst thing in the world. 4:50, they announce that the flight has been canceled (along with a half-dozen other flights). Voice mail says they’ve re-booked us on the 8:00AM Thursday flight. We ask the American Airlines ticket people if there are any other flights, they say No. We ask if they are going to put us up in a hotel or pay for some food, etc? No. “Air Traffic” means they don’t have to do anything for us. Have a nice night, suckers!

After much searching, the resourceful Mrs C finds us a room in the Ramada near JFK. Hoo. Ray. It’s about ten years past needing a remodeling, but whatever – we’re only going to be there a few hours because we have to be back at the airport by 6AM. We pay too much for some food, watch a little TV, then get to sleep. 12:30AM we’re woken by people pounding on our door, yelling “Fire! Get Out!”. Our room alarm isn’t going off, but the one in the hall is. We throw on clothes and, barely awake, head out the emergency exit to the 6th floor fire escape. It’s raining out. The fire escape is covered with water, rust and peeling paint – slippery and gritty at the same time. We reach the 4th floor but can’t go any farther because the people in front have stopped moving – the door at the bottom of the stairwell is locked. Awesome! We all go back into the building on the 4th floor, and then we smell smoke. At least it’s not a drill! Someone says the smoke is coming from one of the elevators – burned-out motor maybe. We all go into the internal stairwell, and down to the lobby.

The lobby is full of people, but most of them seem oblivious to any fire. Waiters are taking room service up the stairwell because the elevators are dead. There is a gospel choir convention/competition of some kind in the hotel and so there are dozens of women in flashy choir robes walking around. Some of them are practicing choreography in the lounge. Police, and firemen in full gear, arrive; they make a quick trip up the stairs and back down – no fire. They start posing for pictures with the people in the lobby. We’re still half-asleep. It’s totally surreal. So, we go back upstairs. The only alarms going off are the ones on the emergency exit doors. They’re still going off. Our room is right next to one. 30 minutes later, we get a manager to come shut it off.

Thursday AM, back at JFK, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of people trying to get through the American self-check-in lines. Bags are piled up everywhere and none of them are being put onto the baggage system belts. People are getting angry and panicky. The line for the traditional check-in is over two hours long, according to the staff. Turns out the TSA’s baggage scanning system is down. No flights are leaving because no bags are being processed. Our flight is delayed two hours, but finally leaves. And then we get to have a nice few days in Montreal – a beautiful city full of great and expensive food, charming little neighborhoods, and homeless people. It rains a lot.

Sunday, we’re in the Montreal airport waiting to board, when they start canceling outgoing flights; again, “Air Traffic”. Our flight to NYC is delayed until 7:00PM and nobody seems confident that it’ll actually leave then either. So, we ask if there are any other ways to get from Montreal to Raleigh. Amazingly, there is! We can get on the plane at the next gate, which is scheduled to leave in like ten minutes. It’s going to … Miami! It’s also delayed by an hour or so. But, whatever, it’s better than nothing. So, it’s all the way down the east coast of North America, to Miami. But as we get closer, because of the delay, I’m starting to worry we’re not going to make our connection back to Raleigh. Luckily, when we get to Miami, the flight to Raleigh is leaving from the gate we’re arriving at. It’s the same plane, in fact. Awesome! Six hours on the same plane, a tour of the entire east coast, hearing the pre-flight safety instructions in English & French then English & Spanish, but we’re gonna make it! Two hours later, we’re in Raleigh.

And they’ve lost our bags.