An Anniversary, New York, and the Blizzard

Here we are, and the last month of the year is upon us. This is always my favorite time of year, not just because of the holidays, but because many exciting things seem to happen in December. From my wedding anniversary, to trips here and there, there are many entries in the memory book from the month of December. This year promises to be equally exciting, and yes you'll end up hearing all about it, but it's a story from last December that I'd like to share today.

Last year, my wife and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary in New York. Thanks to a generous incentive program in my job, I had scored us a free room for three nights at the Loews Regency on Park Avenue. It was a gorgeous hotel, with a location that was very tough to beat, not to mention that the rooms usually sold for $400 a night. On our anniversary, we had dinner at Bobby Flay's restaurant Bar Americain, followed by champagne and dessert at The Plaza. It was truly a fantastic celebration of our marriage, and one that I'm certain we'll always remember. The reason for the long memory however, won't be the fact it was our first anniversary, or the ice skating in Central Park, or the Bloody Mary's at the famous King Cole Bar, but rather our survival of The Blizzard of 2009.
Top of the Rock New York
After our arrival in the city on Thursday, we learned of the expectation of snow over the weekend. This was a thoroughly exciting revelation, as we figured there couldn't be anything better than a stroll in a snow blanketed Central Park. We assumed that surely New York was used to this sort of thing, and never gave any concern to our departure for home Sunday afternoon. Sure enough, as if on queue, the snow started to fall on Saturday, and within a few hours the entire city was blanketed in a beautiful white.

Our concern began when we returned to our hotel from The Met late Saturday afternoon. It was then that we learned that all flights out of JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark had been canceled for the evening and into the morning. I pulled up our flight on the Delta website, and it was still saying the optimistic "On Time." With the city all but shut down, we decided to walk up to a local pizzeria for dinner, still not giving much thought to our travel situation the following day.

As we made our way back to the hotel, it was becoming clear that our chances of departing Sunday were dwindling with each additional inch of snow that fell. We trudged through snow up to our calves in some places, and negotiating the icy streets was quite a challenge. We watched as cab drivers became stuck, while still others seemed to slide down the road using no acceleration. In addition, the beautiful white blanket of earlier in the day had now become a dirty brown mud. No doubt about it, this storm was making the city an ugly mess.

We returned to the hotel and decided we should call Delta for more information on our "On Time" flight. We were told that yes, our flight was still scheduled to depart, but that we should monitor the situation closely. After receiving that worthless piece of information, I decided to research the status of the other Delta departures around us. Every single flight out of New York into both Orlando and Tampa were canceled for Sunday...except ours.
The Plaza New York
We felt that this surely was a mistake of some sort, and decided it was better to cut our losses and move to a flight on Monday. I called Delta back, and was told by the agent that all of the flights on Monday were full, and that at best she might could get us on one for Wednesday, but Thursday was more likely. But again we were assured our flight was scheduled to depart, and...to monitor the situation closely.

It was right about now when I started to freak out. The first course of action was to find us a place to stay on Sunday night, because I was in no mood to pay $400 for another night in our hotel. I found a good rate at The Hotel Empire as a back up plan, and my wife and I figured the upside to this deal was we might bump into Chuck Bass. With a plan in place for lodging, I then started researching how the heck we'd get home on Monday. Train schedules were booked, flights weren't an option, that left driving. And so it was decided that if our flight got canceled, we would come back to Manhattan for the night, and then take a cab to Newark Airport and rent a car to drive home. It was a lousy plan, but it was all we had...

So after that bit of stress, I ventured out to a local bakery for a couple slices of cheesecake. It was 8pm, and I stood right in the middle of Park Avenue and couldn't see a single car in either direction...it was a crazy sight.
We awoke the next morning to another beautiful white blanket of snow. We trudged over to Central Park, and got to experience that wonderful stroll we had looked forward to when we first heard of snow. Granted, the naive exuberant feeling we had earlier had worn off, as there was quite a bit of underlying stress, not to mention that the snow was cool for about an hour on Saturday, but by now we were sick of it. Despite the stress and all the other amazing things we did during the trip, this was without a doubt the best part of the entire adventure.So it was time to head to the airport and test what fate had in store for us. I checked our flight one more time and saw the "On Time," which I was certain had to be mocking me as I stared at it. We made our way to the lobby, and asked for a cab. The front desk agent asked if we were sure of our departure, as did the door man, bell hop, security officer, and cabbie, all within the 25 foot stroll from the desk to the back of the cab. Thanks for the encouragement..

The roads in New York were absolutely empty. The hour of travel time I had planned for turned out to only be 15 minutes, a feat that I'm certain would have made George Costanza proud. As we arrived at the airport, we headed straight to security, as thankfully we weren't checking bags and risking having them stuck in the event of a canceled flight. Along the way, we passed tons of people asleep in chairs and on the floor, all of whom had obviously been having a lousy time. The TSA agents were also quite shocked to see passengers going to the terminal, as I believe we awoke them from a nap also. Sure enough, the entire 30 gate terminal was empty. I counted two other people in the entire thing, and they were both asleep. What were we doing here....

I decided it was time to do some research on the Arrival/Departure board, to see just how legit this "On Time" really was. Sure enough, the flight due to arrive into our gate, which would then be the aircraft for our flight, was en route from Los Angeles and was also due to arrive...On Time. I watched this board like a hawk for two hours to see if there was any change, but there never was one. All the while, I was also watching the runways, but I gave that up as the complete lack of activity was dashing my hopes. And then...there she was...the most beautiful 767-300 I had ever seen.

With hurdle one now cleared, it was time for the moment of truth. Were they really going to turn this plane around to Orlando, or would we be making the trip home via I-95 instead...

"Ladies and Gentlemen, we'd now like to begin boarding Delta flight XXX with service to Orlando...."

Like sweet music to my ears. I couldn't believe it. There was simply no way this was possible. After all the stress and all the back up plans, we were leaving....On Time. It seemed the Delta.com flight status wasn't mocking me after all. I felt sorry for all the people who tried and failed to standby for our flight...all 157 of them.

I'll never know exactly how it was that the flight I booked 6 months prior wound up being the only one out of New York into Florida that day. But regardless of the reason, it was one of the biggest strokes of luck of my entire life, falling just below the number one slot. That slot will never be touched, however, though coincidentally it was the reason for the trip in the first place...convincing my amazing wife to marry me.

~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~

Deej