Not that Burbank is a bad place
We had clear skies, the pilot in Denver told us, and the flight would take an hour and a half. Just as I was thinking that seemed a long time to reach Grand Junction, he added, “Temperatures in Burbank are in the 70s.”The guy across the aisle and I, both seated toward the front of the aircraft, leapt up. “Burbank?” We hurried forward, and the flight attendant whirled around and screamed into our faces.The day had started with great good fortune as my family and I, returning home only a day after the second major snowstorm of the holiday week, left Baltimore on time, and landed on time.Our present, final flight had been delayed, but eventually we passengers lined up, and marched out into the sunlight on snowy runways. Mike and I settled into our seats, settled the kids, buckled up, and opened books.The attendant shouted, “Never rush me like that!”The stranger and I stammered, “We’re going to Grand Junction!”Looking completely disgusted, she turned to the rest of the plane. “Is anyone else here going to Grand Junction?”Every single person raised a hand.We all unpacked the overhead bins, hauled on our coats, and trudged indoors. An employee apologized, saying, “The plane was parked in the wrong place.”The week before, my sister from Paonia and I, heading separately toward our childhood home in Annapolis, had first faced the prospects of this inundated airport. Lucy was booked on a red-eye for near-midnight Friday the 23rd, the day the airport reopened at noon after its snow-drifted Wednesday closure. She and her son, Sam, 6, took two hours navigating there from a friend’s house in Denver, then stood in line for two hours.They moved through the besieged airport carefully, amid people on cots and blankets brought in by the Red Cross. Outside, the National Guard helped stranded motorists. Nearly 5,000 people had slept in the airport one night, and some could not be rebooked until the day after Christmas. People lined the walls, sitting and sleeping. At every electrical socket, often out between the men’s and women’s restrooms, sat someone with a laptop.They tapped keyboards, spoke on phones, read or just sat, quiet and seemingly isolated. Lucy boarded, and then waited with her kindergartener on the runway until 2 a.m., because the plane was overcrowded by four people who adamantly refused to leave. Security guards were called to escort them off.My friend Whitney from Glenwood stood for five hours the next morning, missing her flight, in a security line circumnavigating the whole airport. At one point, guards raced by when a fight broke out ahead. Later, in the bar, she met a man who had been in the airport since Wednesday.Upon our own departure, my family and I were somehow rewarded for my poor planning – I had cut it close, flying Christmas Eve – by missing the worst of the mess. Still, the airport remained jammed, with people along every wall, and sitting shoulder to shoulder against the Plexiglas sides of the moving walkways.Arriving home a week later, we headed almost at once to a ski event in Crested Butte, where a gas pipe had ruptured, blowing out 35 feet of highway guardrail, and leaving 1,700 people without natural gas for over a day; visitors arrived to hotel rooms estimated to be in the low 40s. Both weekend mornings we awoke to temps of 5 below zero, while elsewhere in the state a monster avalanche knocked two vehicles off a highway, ground blizzards caused a 25-car pile-up, and winds gusted to 115. It is winter in the Rockies.A recent holiday card from a friend in New Hampshire reads, “Getting into the ski-racing season – on pitiful strips of brownish manmade snow.”While we shivered in Crested Butte, the snowless Northeast was hit by temps in the 70s. Now those people have problems.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at aosius@hotmail.
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