I have a rule that I try to live by: Don’t fly into or out of airports in the southeastern United States in the late afternoon or early evening during the months of June, July, and August.
My rule comes out of the knowledge of the climate of that part of the world. This Humid Subtropical region has very unstable air in the heat of the summer, meaning that the air has a tendency to rise if slightly heated. The intense rays of the sun during the summer months during the day start this upward motion as as the day progresses–convection. By late afternoon, the air has risen in the atmosphere to the level where it reaches condensation point, giving off even more heat energy which reinforces the upward movement and builds quite violent afternoon storms. That is the scientific reason for my rule.
There is also a practical reason for my rule illustrated by the way that my week unfolded.
On Monday I left with a group for North Carlina to spend the week visiting campuses. We arrived mid afternoon and only had to drive through the late afternoon storm en route to our hotel several hours later. On Wednesday I had booked a round trip ticket from North Carolina for the day to go to D.C. for a meeting. As I left the hotel at 5:30 a.m. to drive to the airport, leaving my suitcase and computer and everything behind, I thought briefly about taking my toothbrush and phone charger with me, but quickly pushed the thought out of my mind. The meeting went well, and ended in plenty of time to get back to the DC airport. The plane loaded on time–5 p.m. and left the gate. Two hours later we were still sitting on the runway waiting for a route to be established that would take us around the storms that had developed in the southeast. We finally went back to the gate, were told we had 20 minutes and then would reload, but the flight was soon cancelled. After standing in line I got booked on a flight that left at 10:40 p.m. It was eventually cancelled.
After standing in line I was finally informed that I had a flight from North Carolina to Boston on Friday–I already knew that. Given that reality they were trying to figure out why I was in DC. After much searching, I was told that the only flight to North Carolina was the next day, Thursday, and it went from DC via Boston, stopping in Philly and reaching North Carolina at 10 p.m.. But, I said–I live in Boston and my luggage is in North Carolina!–circumstances that again, could not be easily explained.
I asked–How about just sending me to Boston this evening or early tomorrow? No can go–my ticket was for DC to North Carolina so it had to be written to get me from DC to North Carolina no matter where it took me in-between. All this time I was monitoring the power left on my phone, worried that I would not have enough left to finalize arrangements for a hotel. I knew I needed to go buy a power cord for my phone if I was staying overnight but as I headed toward the stores, they were shutting down for the night.
Finally around 11:30 p.m. I had my ticket to North Carolina via Boston and a hotel booked. I went out to the taxi stand to find 91 people in line (as reported by the teenager in front of me). I scribbled the name of the hotel down and its address before my phone died.
Arriving at the hotel at midnight, the desk clerk was confused by my lack of luggage-. It is a long story, I explained, reporting that I was from Boston but my luggage was in a hotel in North Carolina. He let me plug in my extra battery for my phone into his phone cord for the night while I went to my room to unwind and try to sleep.
The next morning I received an email from an un-named airline, reminding me that I was booked on the 10:40 p.m. flight the night before. Strengthened with a Starbucks cappuccino, I took the subway back to the airport, got on standby for an earlier flight to Boston, arranged for a colleague to get my luggage and empty my hotel room in North Carolina, and arranged for a shuttle to pick me up in Boston. I purposefully did not make my connection in Boston.
I am glad to be home because my colleagues are returning today from North Carolina on a late afternoon flight…