NSNC conferences are a whole lotta fun, full of great information and advice, and not to be missed. But what they don’t tell you when registration time rolls around again can be the most memorable part: the leaving.
I’m not talking about the Glad-I’m-Going-Home part, I’m talking about the adventure continuing long after the happy event has shuttered. For example, there was New Orleans, where nobody wanted to leave, Grapevine, where writers were too sore from riding Bronco the Mechanical Bull to leave, and Philly, where writers were unable to leave.
Here are a few actual email exchanges among those who may still be languishing at an airport somewhere, hoping to get out in time to come to Los Angeles next month:
“George Waters and I are still in Philadelphia. Unintentionally. After sitting on the tarmac for nearly four hours while ‘our technicians repair the smoke detectors,’ we were finally told we could deplane because the FAA doesn’t allow the crew to stay longer than they already had. Then we waited another couple of hours while USAir continued to deprive us of any information.
“One bald guy freaked out after waiting another hour and a half on an unmoving line, only to see the USAir lady behind the desk walk away with no explanation. He used such language that even I, old and jaded as I am, had never heard such word combinations before, a few actually involving the lady’s mother. They had to call the cops on the guy.
“Two women had screaming and crying fits. I hope they received the necessary medical attention they deserved. They may still be involuntary patients at the local Rubber Ramada.
“George, a very smart guy, double winner of both Will Rogers contest and Benchley contest, and a bulwark of patience, got some information: “No direct flights tomorrow or maybe two or three days,” as all future flights were full. He got vouchers for three meals for each of us, and overnight at the local Quality Inn, but the Quality Inn shuttle driver said they “don’t take no vouchers so why don’t youse try a Quality Inn in Camden.”
“We tried to get our luggage but it was “locked up for the night,” and when I said I need my pajamas, USAir rep told me I could have one of their toiletry bags. What, and wear it to bed? I’d had too much coffee and not enough patience to continue, and checked into the Marriott at the airport, at my own expense. Will try to catch a flight home tomorrow. George will look for something to eat and a place to sleep, fly out tomorrow via Raleigh NC and another stop in Charlotte, and eventually get home to L.A.
I got booked on a non-stop to L.A. by accident, and will land at 7 pm. My luggage, comprised of makeup, pajamas, Sofitel jelly jars and free hotel shampoo, is already on a flight to Indianapolis, so SNAFU as usual.
” I got back to LA and was hanging at the airport awaiting my luggage on a later flight from Indianapolis, when I heard the P/A system, “USAirways flight so-and-so from Charlotte now arriving” and I thought” Could that be George??” so I waited with all the limo drivers holding up their name cards, and sure enough, here comes George. When he saw me, his face got totally white and he looked befuddled. Turns out he thought they had rerouted him back to Philly.”
Suzette Standring to Maggie:
“George just happened to see me sitting there waiting for my Boston flight and waited with me til I boarded. Never did I realize I was leaving him behind on the brink of a nightmare.
“[compared to USAir, and Philly airport] I flew 20 hours to Seoul and baggage pickup was a dream. Literally, I never had such a good dream concerning airports. Streamlined, smooth, polite, FAST. USAir in action draws parallels to our goofball actions in Iraq.”
Smiley Anders to Maggie:
“Yo Maggie: Damn! And I thought WE had an air travel horror story … our little escapade with Delta. Katherine was stuck with warm water and a nut.
We spent the week at a B&B in Blue Ball, a little town in Amish country east of Philly. We should have known things were going bad when we tried to drop the car at Avistar near the airport on Sunday … arrangements had been made in advance, but they had no idea what we were talking about.
“After struggling through security (they finally determined that my shoes were no threat to the aircraft), we entered the Delta terminal, to find that there was no restaurant or anything resembling one. A bar sold hot dogs and sausage sandwiches, and there was a Burger King and a place that sold wraps. Period. We got a couple of wraps and settled down in the bar with our $7 beers.
“We got on the flight to Atlanta at around 5 pm and headed out to the runway. Then the pilot told us the weather was bad in Atlanta and he couldn’t take off. So we sat there for a couple of hours. They handed out bottles of warm water, but couldn’t serve beverages. We did get a free movie though (Wild Hogs).
“They finally took us back to the terminal and let us out. By then the bar had stopped selling hot dogs, so we dined on peanuts and Slim Jims. We got back on the plane but still couldn’t leave, so we saw another movie (Breached) . We got off at around 9:30 and got into Atlanta at midnight, sure that our flight to Baton Rouge had already left. But the poor devils expecting to leave Atlanta at 8:30 for Baton Rouge were still sitting there at 12:30, so we were in time for our flight.
“BUT lightning had knocked out the radar in the nose cone, and they had to replace it. So at 2:30 a.m, we’re still sitting in the terminal, with all food and beverage service closed. I did manage to catch Starbucks just as they were shutting down. They offered coffee period, or not tea, period. Ever see a Starbucks with THAT menu? We rolled into Baton Rouge at 3:30 or so, and were home at 4 a.m.”
And these adventures don’t even include the time the NSNC bus left me in the Grapevine lurch, and I had to be rescued by Dave Astor, who appeared out of nowhere, just like Superman.
Or the time the tour bus left me standing high up on Rocky’s steps in Philly while I watched it power off full of giggling columnists who could run to catch it faster than I could.
I can’t even tell you all the raw adventures to be had post-conference. It’s just that there’s as much writing material to be had from the downside as there is from the scheduled talks.
It’s like all the weddings you’ve ever gone to. — They’re really great, but the ones you remember forever are the ones when the bride falls into the cake.