I grew up in Minnesota. I remember winters where the middle of every street featured a wall of snow, dividing the lanes — there was no place else to put it. Parking lots were used for snow storage. You knew spring was imminent when the mountain of snow in the Kmart parking lot dwindled to a dirty hill.
I don’t remember any buildings collapsing from snow, but years from now, I plan to tell my grandchildren that I was there when the Metrodome collapsed. They won’t know if I simply set the event back twenty or so years — it will make for a great story.
We’ve lived in Portland for over ten years now. Once or twice a year, a meteorologist spots a snowflake and the entire city shuts down. Truly, an inch of accumlation causes people to abandon vehicles in the middle of the street.
But two years ago, there really was a blizzard in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, it stormed a few times in as many days. Many inches of snow. Lots of ice. Airport closures in three states. Just a few days before we were to fly in Minnesota for Christmas.
When I purchased the tickets a few months before, I thought myself clever for avoiding a layover in Denver. Empirical data told me that Denver was far more likely to have a major winter storm than, say, Seattle. And who wants to be stuck in an airport for the holidays? With a toddler? Nobody. Nobody.
That Tuesday, all flights were cancelled out of Portland. We were scheduled to fly out Wednesday morning around 5:00am or something crazy like that. We packed, it felt ridiculous to pack, but we did it. In the middle of the night, the power went out. I knew this because I woke up to pee and the microwave clock was dark. I woke up Ben and we took showers before we ran out of hot water. We set our flashlights in every room and hauled our suitcases out of the dark house and into the snowy driveway.
We made it to the airport in our all-wheel-drive car with chains on the tires. So far, our flight was still on time.
The airport was clogged with weary, smelly, pissed-off travelers, and we walked right by them and onto a small plane.
We were in the air about twenty minutes when the pilot came on the loud speaker and told us we’d be returning to the Portland airport. A warning light indicated a door was open. My eyes closed while dread coursed through my nervous system. Of course we would crash on the runway, it was punishment for actually getting on a flight.
We didn’t crash. We landed in back in Portland. For the next half hour, the entire cabin listened nervously to the sound of a rear door being slammed repeatedly — Wham! Wham! Wham! — in an attempt to make the warning light go out. It was not a comforting sound.
Eventually, we were back in the air. A number of passengers pointed out to the cabin crew that most of us were headed for Minneapolis and were quite likely to miss our connecting flight. The flight attendants seemed non-plussed. But, kinder heads prevailed and the plane was held just long enough for all of us to dash to the gate.
We made it to Minnesota, where they know how to handle such things.
So that was two years ago. Last year, we flew on Christmas day and some fool on another plane tried to blow up his underwear.
This year? I booked us a direct flight.