Fermilab Today Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Made it!

The travel misadventure of Fermilab Director Pier Oddone

Director Pier Oddone found himself stranded in three different airports Tuesday night on the way home from ICHEP2008. He returned to find a tree blocking the driveway to his home. For the first time since he began writing the Director's Corner in July 2005, he was a day late.

It is 4:30 in the morning and the taxi driving me to the director's house is going through the forest to finally reach my house, home sweet home after what seemed a trip without end. Alas, a fallen tree was blocking the way. The taxi driver and I could not budge it so the last hundred yards were on foot dragging my luggage, no longer surprised at anything.

I had arrived at the airport in Philadelphia to return from ICHEP2008 only to find my flight cancelled. The following flight by the same airline was fully booked and I was offered a flight the next day. Annoyed (little did I know!), I was able to book a flight on another airline leaving shortly after 5 pm. With no explanation, some time after the scheduled departure time, we were moved to another gate given a new plane and a new time of departure after 6pm. When this time came and went, we were told the second plane had a flat tire that would take too long to change. So we were then moved back to the original gate with yet a new plane that would leave some time after 7 pm. When this actually happened, I patted myself on the back for getting out of Philadelphia not too far behind the original schedule As we approached Chicago, however, the pilot explained that airport was shut down because of a tornado warning, that we should take a look at this fantastic storm out the window on the right, and that we were being diverted back to Louisville, Kentucky.

Dinner at this point looked like a distant prospect with all food establishments at the Louisville airport closed by this time. At 10:30 pm we were cleared to start back for Chicago where we circled for about one hour waiting to land as a new storm closed in on the airport and the pilot marveled once again at the great view and light show. Running out of fuel while waiting for the storm to clear, we were then diverted to St. Louis, Missouri.

There, after a wait until 2 am, we were cleared again to take off. This time the storm had passed and we were able to land in Chicago. The airport was a beehive of activity at 3 am in the morning as passenger and airlines disentangled the chaos produced by the storm.

A call to the limo service only yielded the information that the limo driver had waited until 2:30am and given up. The taxi line seemed semi-infinite and after nearly an hour in line I was able to get on a taxi. On the way home, the taxi was also about to run out of gas so we had to divert to a gas station. Now, fully tanked and almost there, we found the fallen tree.

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