9:00 pm- the announcement tells us the plane is delayed while mechanical problems are checked out. The passengers look at each other nervously. Some have connecting flights which might be missed if the delay is too long.
9:15 pm- the announcement is that the mechanics still have not cleared the aircraft, additional mechanics are called in from other airlines. People begin clustering around the desk, asking questions.
9:30 pm- an announcement that individuals with connecting flights to Seatle were to please come forward.
9:45 pm- one of the Seattle passengers sits next to me, I overhear that he is being put up in the SwissHotel in downtown Boston. He asks me if it is nice.
10:00 pm- the flight isn’t officially cancelled but the suggestion is that local residents should return home and try to reserve space throught the 800 reservation number for the next possible flight tomorrow. I decide to get into line to find out what they plan to do for us.
10:30 pm- the flight is officially cancelled- Duh! I’m still in line trying to get reticketed for the next day.
11:15 pm- I am the next in line, we are told that all Boston hotels are full, and that the airline has reserved the Merrimack Hotel to accommodate the rest of us. I go to the desk and get reticketed. They give me coupons for headsets on tomorrow’s flight and coupons for $100 off on my next $400 round trip ticket purchased from them. The desk personnel then announce that a bus was being chartered to take everyone to the hotel. The hotel is in New Hampshire. We are in Boston. I look around and see that at least 50 people haven’t been reticketed, it was going to take quite sometime for everyone to be ready to get on the bus.
11:30 pm- I ask if any accommodations can be made for the little children, there were two or three families that should get their kids in bed. I was told that there would be one bus to Merrimack and one bus back. We would have to wait until everyone was ready. It wasn’t a problem because they still hadn’t found a bus.
12:00 midnight- Still no bus. I talk to a number of passengers; some are catching a 7:00 am flight, some a 12:00 noon flight, and a few are set for the 3:20 pm flight. How do we all get back to Boston on time? I can only think that all of us have to come back on the bus with the crowd that flys at 7:00 am. With traffic problems, it would probably mean that the bus would have to leave New Hampshire at 5:00 am. It looks like we will have about three hours sleep and a shower if we are lucky.
12:30 am- Still no bus. I call the airline 800 number to seek help. They tell me that the airport desk personnel are gods and there is nothing they can do. They are very sympathetic but helpless. I start calling for hotels in Boston on my own money.
12:45 am- The desk personnel start giving vouchers for taxis. I get in line and get two voucher packets, with vouchers for the hotel, breakfast in the morning, and round trip vouchers for the taxis. I am told it is about 45 minutes to the hotel.
1:00 am- We are in the taxi line. Dozens of flights have come in and everybody needs a taxi. There’s about sixty people in line and none of them look familiar. When the rest of our flight comes down the line will be stupendous. Only a few cabs stop, it’s late on Sunday night and nobody is cruising the airport. Later I learn that it costs $4.50 to come through and if a fare isn’t found then the cabbie is just out the money.
1:15 am- We get two cabs, the luggage is loaded. Sherry, Zachary, and Jenna go in one cab. Al, Amy, Laura, and I are in the second cab. My cab driver is Haitian. I tell him that we need to go to New Hampshire, and we have a voucher. He says, “Sure, mon. Which way?” I tell him Merrimack up highway 3 and 93. “Okay, mon”
1:30 am- The cab driver looks in his official cabbie directions which tells him that Merrimack is 6 miles past Nashau. Drive I-93 until Nashua, then exit. His concern is in finding the hotel in Merrimack. He has rarely been in New Hampshire.
2:00 am- The cab driver has been doing a steady 70 miles per hour. We haven’t seen any signs mentioning Merrimack or Nashua. I have no idea where Sherry is. The signs tell us we are nearing Manchester, New Hampshire. There are no signs of anything open on any of the exits. We take an exit for the purposes of turning around and get caught in a maze that leads us further into the New Hampshire countryside. We see a light about a mile off that might be a gas station. At the station there are two men sitting in chairs, leaning against the building. As I roll down my window, one of the men rocks forward. I ask him where Merrimack is. He tells me that we are the second Boston cab to ask that question tonight, and gives a detailed answer. The printed cab directions are all wrong. I have the vision of dozens of Boston cabs, driving all over the New Hampshire countryside all looking for the lost Hotel Merrimack.
2:15 am- My cab driver has turned around and followed the new directions but has stopped the ask the state police as well.
2:30 am- We find the hotel. Laura is asleep in a lobby chair, Al is contending with a luggage rack and the hotel’s double doors, I am holding Amy and standing in line behind five people trying to register. I’m hoping that Sherry has already registered, and our rooms are waiting for us. The clerk tells me that no Diestlers have arrived. I send Al and the girls up to the rooms to sleep while I wait for Sherry.
3:00 am- Still no Sherry. There are six or seven cabs hanging out in the parking lot. They are planning to take the people that need to get back to the airport for the 7:00 am flight. They plan to start leaving at 4:30. I ask if they had any news of a missing cab. Their two-way radios don’t reach this far. One of them calls in with his private cell phone. No information.
3:30 am- Still no Sherry. A cabbie tells me that he will be back here at 12:00 to pick us up if I would like. I tell him that would be great, providing I can find the rest of my family by 12:00. I am in massive prayer.
4:00 am- Sherry pulls up in a different cab than the one she left in. Her driver got lost as well, then the cab blew up. A friend of the cab driver comes in his cab. He doesn’t speak English. He gets even further lost. Sherry has been driving all over New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and perhaps parts of Canada.
We finally get to bed.
We are all up by 10:00 am, some more grudgingly than others. The hotel has a nice buffet breakfast. I go to the desk to see if arrangements have been made to get us back to the airport. I don’t trust that last night’s cabbie will be there at 12:00. The hotel personnel tell me that the airport sent a van to pickup passengers at 9:30 am but didn’t say if they were coming back for us. She calls the company and they say that a van will be there at 11:30 sharp. I go back to finish my breakfast.
At 11:30 we gather our luggage and head out the front door to wait for the van. The cabbie is parked right in front and waves to us. The van will hold us all. The cabbie has a station wagon and says that he can take all of us if the little girls sit on our laps. I wonder about the luggage but he fits it all in. Fine, maybe the van won’t show. The van pulls up exactly at 11:30. I try to be Solomon and place three people in the cab with the luggage, and four people in the van. Everyone has room and is comfortable. The van driver calls in to tell the dispatcher that he is only picking up four passengers. The dispatcher says fine and reminds him that he needs to stop at Andover to pick up more passengers. I don’t like the idea of splitting up the family, and I don’t like the additional stop. The dispatcher gets nasty and says if I don’t like it I don’t have to go, its their van, basically love it or leave it. We get out and everybody gets into the cab. I give the cabbie the additional voucher.
Cab driver is interesting, 6 jobs, 19 year old wife. Buys vouchers from other cabbies. Very intense.
We get to the airport a little after 1:00. Our luggage gets checked and we find some lunch at an airport deli. The flight leaves on time and we settle into our seats. The kids love the views of the ground and the clouds. We use our coupons for the headphones. Everybody enjoys the various audio channels, particularly Laura. The movie is Primary Colors. Zachary and I had just seen it in Cape Cod. It was still fun the second time around.
We land in Phoenix to wait one hour until our next flight to San Francisco. The flight is delayed coming in from Dallas. The plane arrives but the flight crew is delayed coming in from Kansas City. A passenger goes berserk about the delays and the lack of signage. She appears to be very tired and distressed. After an hour delay we finally board.
Short flight to San Francisco is trouble free. We land at SFO and I head off to long term parking to pickup our van. I pay $180 dollars for two weeks of parking. It drives funny and sluggish compared to the nice rental van we had. After fifteen minutes I am back at the airport to pickup everybody. We load up the luggage and pack everybody in, then another person waiting for a taxi tells us that we have a flat tire. It’s true, but I am too tired to change it so I drive a few miles until I can pump it up, and then continue to Lafayette. End of vacation.