Flurries in the south towns

Marcy O’Brien

It’s frequently said that the meaning of craziness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result. The jury is out whether the quote is from Einstein or Mark Twain.

It doesn’t matter who said actually said it. I still haven’t learned the lesson.

But it’s not entirely my fault. The Princess of Boston, my first-born grandchild, was born in Boston on January 31st, fourteen years ago. For all but two of those Januarys, I have flown to Boston from Buffalo to be there for the birthday candles. Only back surgery kept me away. Again and again, year after year, I fly to Boston. But I can’t help it. I’m crazy about the girl.

And, year after year, the weather in Boston and Buffalo has continued to be just a little on the wintery side, as it has been every January since . . . forever.

Last week the forecast for my annual trek was ” . . . clear in Warren but lake effect flurries in Buffalo and the south towns.” They could have added, “This is a recording.”

My flight out of Buffalo was scheduled for 10:16 Wednesday morning. That means being in the airport for check-in, baggage, and security by nine-ish. I calculate departure time by adding the totals of 1:45 drive time, 15-20 minutes parking and transit time from the off-property airport parking lot, and that extra 15-20 minutes for a flat tire or act-of-God en route, … like flurries in the south towns.

Tuesday had been a busy day that included a late-ish evening obligation. I groaned while setting the 5:15 A.M. alarm clock. Okay, it wasn’t the first time I’ve done this trip on four hours sleep. When I awoke, JetBlue emailed that my flight was on-time

The south town flurries didn’t begin until an hour into the drive – above Fredonia. Ten minutes later they’d flurried themselves into a blowing rage of white. I used up all my extra act-of-God time on the Thruway. I was beginning to feel that little knot of skepticism.

The off-site parking lot was filled with hundreds of white-mounded cars leaving little space for their plow to maneuver. The extra snow was coming so fast they couldn’t cope. The courtesy bus driver told me he was mostly bringing back people whose flights were canceled. Not me. Jetblue had just posted an hour’s delay. We were going. Hah! Remember earlier what I said about the definition of crazy?

Well, in truth, I did expect it to be delayed. A bit. The aircraft was coming in from Boston but hadn’t left there yet. Uh, this was going to be more than a bit.

A few hours later the plane was en route and made it past Rochester – before it turned around and went back to Boston. I thought, that captain has been to Buffalo before.

The snow never stopped and it was blowing sideways in 30-50 mph gusts. The wind-whipped runway shimmered like racing whitewater. Doubling the de-icing efforts was proving futile – ice was accumulating faster on the planes than it could be removed. The temp was -2. The wind-chill was – 35.

Around 2 P.M. Southwest announced the cancellation of the remainder of their flights for the day. JetBlue didn’t throw in the towel until the airport announced it was closing. They rebooked me for the same flight the next day and I found a hotel room.

The parking lot driver said that his trip from just across the street was so dangerous with whiteouts and no plowing, he was about to refuse another round trip. He was thrilled they’d closed the airport but concerned about making it home – to the south towns. It took him 20 minutes to shovel me out of the parking lot. The attendant wouldn’t take my money for the 6 hours I had been parked.

I couldn’t see any defined parking spaces when I finally reached the hotel lot. I tried to line up with a nearby car, but blindly drove into a wall of snow and got promptly stuck. I couldn’t open the car door on the first few tries. Picturing myself behind the wheel for hours amidst whirling whiteouts, I pushed with all my reserves, shoving the door through a 3-foot snowbank. I still don’t know how I clambered out into mid-thigh snow and honestly don’t remember retrieving my luggage. By the time I walked into the lobby my face was so frozen I could barely form words. The hotel was no great shakes, but it had heat

I shared a very late lunch at the neighboring McDonald’s with a charming gentleman, a Florida-bound passenger, who just happened to be a fitness addict. He was embarrassed about eating at Mickey D’s, but frankly, we were both ravenously grateful for warm food. On the treacherous walk back he proffered his strong, guiding arm. Imagine my reaction when he offered that since he hadn’t run or worked out that day, he would shovel out my car. I resisted covering him with kisses because I didn’t want to risk injuring him.

Thursday morning I woke early for my morning departure but it had canceled. Rescheduling for 2 P.M took a while.

The overnight accumulation and blown drifts had refilled the hotel parking lot. My angel friend shoveled me out all over again before checkout at noon.

The hotel’s electric front doors were frozen shut from broken pipes overhead. The water pouring into the entry froze as it landed. One staff member was chipping at the ice while the remainder, those who were able to get to work, shoveled exits from the hotel. No one was available to clear my backed-up toilet but they did hand me an ancient plunger. Good Lord, get me outta here and on a plane to Boston.

The flight finally left for Beantown about 8 Thursday evening. My daughter and I arrived at her house just before 11, long after the family party was over. The birthday girl was fast asleep. It was about 42 hours after my early morning alarm had rung back in Warren.

Fortunately, Boston’s weather behaved. We shared three nice days instead of the five we had planned. I did take my girl to a fancy lunch and a movie and we all enjoyed a Super Bowl party at a friend’s house.

When I landed in Buffalo Monday, it was 65 degrees, a 100-degree swing from the -35 wind chill of Wednesday and Thursday.

Keira’s birthday celebration is always going to be in January and I’m always going to be there. All it takes is a full gas tank, extra gloves, an angel delivery to McDonald’s and some wine.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the wine. The archangel braved the weather to buy some at a nearby full-service hotel. I think it’s a rule in heaven that procuring wine in a raging blizzard earns an automatic promotion.

Next January, I’m packing my own wine with the shovel and extra gloves. A girl needs to be prepared when the forecast reads “Flurries in the south towns.”

Marcy O’Brien writes from her home in Glade Township. She can be reached at Moby.32@hotmail.com.