Granted, when it comes to snow we’re in a better position than Vancouver to host the Winter Olympics, but nonetheless, yesterday’s much-ballyhooed “blizzard,” which closed down schools, offices, stores, airports, and transit systems even before a single flake had fallen, turned out to be nothing but a run-of-the-mill snowstorm, the sort of thing you’d expect anyone who’d grown up in the northern half of the country to have gotten used to by the time they were in middle school. I’m talking specifically about New York City, of course; people down the coast in Philly, Baltimore and Washington actually did have to contend with some serious snow, but as I kept asking people yesterday: when did this town turn into such a quivering mass of sissydom? (“In 1995,” someone helpfully pointed out on my Facebook.) Maybe it’s not fair of me to make comparisons after my years in the mountains, where I experienced a number of real blizzards, and nearly died in one (but more about that in future installments of Spy Rock Memories), but to be a blizzard, a storm has to have howling winds, near-zero visibility, and snowdrifts piling up faster than you can dig your way through them. None of this happened in New York yesterday. Some snow fell out of the sky for a few hours, then it turned to a sort of misty half snow/half rain, and, well, that was about it. The National Weather Service, which unleashed all this hysteria, claims that some parts of the city got over a foot of snow, but in my journeys between Brooklyn and Manhattan (on near-empty trains, what with everyone being convinced that travel was next to impossible) , I never saw more six or eight inches, and by midnight last night, much of that had turned to slush as temperature rose into the mid-30s. A friend who lives just off Times Square told me that the sidewalks had never even been completely covered. By morning, the temperature had dropped and the slush turned to ice, which sucked for those who had put off their shoveling duties. Other than that, though, the sun shone brightly and the city was free to go about its business as usual, or at least will be as soon as people muster up the courage to venture outside again. Which brings me to one sore point, i.e., the plane I was meant to be taking to California today being canceled (again, almost before any snow had even fallen). If the city can sufficiently clear hundreds of miles of streets so that cars can travel around (and there was never a time, even at the height of the storm yesterday, when even my side street was impassable, surely the airport can manage to shovel enough snow off its runways to allow planes to take off. I’ve flown into places like Chicago, Minneapolis and Winnipeg when there were two feet of freshly fallen snow. As became clear later, it wasn’t a matter of planes being unable to get in and out of New York, is was more a matter of the airlines not being willing even to try. Be that as it may, the decision was made, the flights were canceled, and that should have been that. When I got the call from American Airlines telling me I wouldn’t be going to California after all, the woman on the phone sounded so harried and overwhelmed that I instantly sympathized with her and tried to be as understanding as possible. I shouldn’t have. Other friends who had similar experiences ranted and raved until they were rerouted and given huge vouchers to compensate them for their troubles. I instead took the lady’s word for it when she said that there were “no seats” on any flights going out either today or Friday. Again, I shouldn’t have. The reason I was going to California was that some friends of mine have a band who are playing one of their very occasional shows (every couple years or so, sometimes not even that often) and I wanted to see them and take my nephew to see them. I also would have the chance to see my mom for a couple days. I called everyone and told them I wouldn’t be able to come after all, and shortly afterward, friends who were going to the same show started telling me that they’d been able to get their tickets changed and wondered why I hadn’t. Well, I did a little research and discovered that the lady from American Airlines has straight up lied to me. She said there weren’t any seats on later planes, but there actually were. Funny thing, though: instead of selling them for $125 each way, which was what I had paid, they were now asking between $1500 and $2000 for those same seats. No wonder they hadn’t been too anxious to transfer me to another flight
Well, live and learn. Until this happened, I’d been reasonably happy with American (“reasonably” and “happy” of course being employed in the necessarily relative sense necessary when dealing with any monolithic semi-monopolistic corporation). I’d switched to them from United when that company went into the dumpster (and stopped flying direct between New York and London, which is kind of like not being able to catch a direct BART train from Berkeley to San Francisco except at peak hours, but I digress), and until now, I’d never had any truly bad experiences with them. Oh, I’ll get over it; I’m sure my friends’ band will play again sometime, somewhere, and I’ll see my mom another time, and take my nephew on a different outing, but it really just rubs me the wrong way. You hear that, American Airlines? I DON’T LIKE BEING LIED TO! So you made some extra money reselling the seat I should have had for 12 or 15 times what I paid for it. It’s going to cost you a lot more than that to regain my trust and good will.