Adventures at Newark Liberty Airport, New Jersey
29.06.2006 - 01.07.2006
When I worked in California back in 2002, there was a small town just outside of San Francisco called Lodi. Whenever I saw the highway sign for it, I always thought of the song by by Credence Clearwater Revival called Lodi. I thought to myself, back in 2002, that the small town in California must be the place that John Fogerty was singing about. Recently, when driving in New Jersey, I came across another town that shares the name with the CCR classic. I don’t know which Lodi CCR got stuck in, but I like to think it’s whatever Lodi I happen to be closest too at the time.
The song contains the line, “Oh Lord, stuck in Lodi again,” which popped into my head as I arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport yesterday. It had been stormy all week, and driving in I could see streaks of lightning hitting all along the waterfront of Newark’s industrial port. I was assuming that my flight, at best, would be delayed. I arrived at the airport to find all the flights to Toronto cancelled. Toronto was getting thunderstorms, just like Newark, and no planes were going to be landing there tonight.
(An aside, as every good blog entry deserves some pictures, but I didn’t have my camera with me, I have replicated my adventure in stick figures).
”How am I getting home now?” I think, looking at the big board with the cancellations.
As the Air Canada agent told me that I had been rebooked to fly out 2 days later on Saturday morning, that is when the line from Lodi jumped into my head. Partial the reason was because I was stuck in New Jersey, and there is a Lodi in New Jersey, so it’s fitting that way. But mainly the song popped into my head because of the last word, “again.”
The previous Thursday, I spent 2 1/2 hours sitting on the tarmac of Newark Liberty Airport waiting for my hour long flight between Newark and Toronto to take off. We were delayed because of thunderstorms in between Toronto and Newark. Due to the weather, greater spacing was required between planes, and so all the planes scheduled between the New York area and places to the north-west were delayed.
I was speaking with an ex-Air Canada pilot last weekend, and he said that the system, especially in the north-east USA and Ontario/Quebec area was basically close to it's limit. There was no more space to add planes into. More airports can alleviate gate crowding and takeoff slots on the ground, but can't help getting more planes in the limited air corridors that exist today. There is talk of a more flexible situation to move away from the current "air highway" system to open up more routes, but there's limits to that to.
Eventually my flight from Newark to Toronto was cancelled, and I had to wait until Friday morning to get out. That week, Air Canada was nice enough to put me up in a hotel (something they didn’t do yesterday, as they said the cancellation was weather related and therefore not their fault). We returned to the gate, deplaned and I spent the night in beautiful downtown Newark at the 5-star luxury resort Robert Treat Hotel, complete with luke-warm running water, lumpy pillows and a view of the park in which the homeless sleep.
Beautiful downtown Newark provides multiple types of sleeping arrangements. For the business traveller, the Robert Treat Hotel. For the homeless, the sidewalk outside the Robert Treat Hotel.
In fairness, the Robert Treat hotel wasn’t actually that bad. Truth be told, I’ve certainly stayed at places that were a lot worse when backpacking. But I find that I hold my travel accommodations to a different standard when I travel for business. I want comfortable beds, free high speed internet access and a hot buffet breakfast. Strange how I demand so much more when it’s not my money.
One of the things that kept going through my head during both these events was the fact that flying from New York to Toronto with no delays is only 1 hour in the air, but takes 4 hours when you consider the time it takes from downtown New York to the airport, time to clear security, plane loading time, taxiing, the flight, and all same the stuff on the other end in Toronto. A high speed train, averaging 250 km/h from New York to Toronto via Albany and Buffalo would take a little under 4 hours. Which means it's a very viable option, if someone would build the infrastructure. It’s a hang over from my European adventures on the TGV (train à grande vitesse, French for "high-speed train").
Of course, to prove to me that even trains get delays due to weather, the same thunderstorms that have caused the delays over the past couple weeks flooded out train tracks in Pennsylvania, causing many of the Amtrak trains running in the Boston-New York-Washington corridor to be delayed. So I suppose no form of travel is perfect.
So, flipping back to yesterday and my second cancelled flight to Toronto in just a week, Air Canada didn’t offer up a hotel, so instead I called my travel agent and discussed options. I ended up getting the same hotel I usually stay in down here, the Renaissance Meadowlands in Rutherford, New Jersey.
Upon arrival to the hotel that I had just checked out of 10 hours earlier, I am given the keys to room 519, which turns out to be the Premier Fitness exercise suite. Walking in the door, I am faced with a bed, a desk, a TV and 3 pieces of exercise equipment. “In room exercise,” promises a placard that comes with the room.
Is this an exercise room, S&M bondage chamber or my hotel room?
Of late, I’ve not been keeping up with my appearance or fitness, and have put on a few pounds and rounded out around the belly. It comes from driving to and from work every day (instead of walking) and eating out at T.G.I. Friday’s and Wendy’s for dinner every night. Alternating my gaze from my expanding belly to the elliptical walker and free weights, I couldn’t help but think that Marriott’s demographic profiling really failed this time. Of all the people to put into the Premier Fitness suite, I was probably not the best choice.
To further the irony, I went out and got 10 White Castle burgers for dinner, eating them in the shadow of the weight bench. At least I was drinking a Diet Coke.
Oh, I don’t feel so good now.
So, here I am, stuck in Newark again. Driving into the office in Nutley this morning, I was flipping around the radio stations and happened upon the song “You and I” by Celine Dion on 106.7 Lite FM. The song, which contains the line, “you and I were meant to fly,” is used by Air Canada as the jingle in their commercials.
“You and I were meant to fly…”
…as long as it’s not out of Newark, New Jersey.