On February 20-23, 2001, I flew once again to Boston, MA, for a series of meetings for my work at Palm. In the evenings, I met up with old friends from Stanford. At the end of my trip, I experienced the wonders of flight delays and learned about deicing airplanes.
Another flight to Boston. Another redeye flight to Boston. I think that I’m starting to get used to taking these night into day flights across the country. It is interesting to note that because of tailwinds, the flight from the West Coast to the East Coast is remarkably shorter than the reverse flight. Typically, Flight 138 from San Jose to Boston leaves the gate at 9:30 pm and is suppose to arrive in Logan International at 6:07 am. The past two times, however, the plane arrived around 5:30 am, meaning there was only about 4 hours of travel and 3 hours of time change! On the other hand, the return flights typically take 6.5 hours to travel east to west.
At the San Jose airport, I was pleasantly surprised to see some of my co-workers from the Cambridge office were also taking the flight. It turns out that they were visiting the Portland office and were taking the red-eye flight home. What was funny was that I was carrying a package that I had to deliver to someone who was on the flight! I was figuring that Mark was going to be in Boston, so I was surprised, pleasantly so, when he just appeared in front of me at the airport. Airborne Express never delivered faster!
In my previous trips to the Boston area, I didn’t have enough time to do anything in the evenings. This time, I was fortunate that I had two nights with which I could spend some time with friends from Stanford. It was short notice, but a few of my former classmates were able to make the time to meet me on Wednesday and Thursday nights.
When I was a junior at Stanford, I studied in Paris, France with Clara Lu. Fast forward over five years later, and Clara is now working in Boston as an interior designer. We went out on Wednesday evening for a few hours of chatting and modeling in front of the camera over drinks at a bar called Trio. In addition to the typical talk about love and relationships, we discussed at length about photography; Clara’s experienced behind the camera lens, and she urged me to take some real classes on photography; you know, the ones with real camera and real film? I think that one day I’ll do that, but right now, I’m happy with learning through experience with my D30.
Irene Chan lived in the dorm next door my freshman year. We kept in touch over our collegiate years, though we’ve seen each only only a handful of times since graduation. When I learned that she too was studying at Harvard Law, I had to give her a call. We met a couple of stops down from Kendall Station where my hotel was situated and went over to a tea shop called the Tea Tray. There we discussed, over a hot pot of berry-flavored tea and expresso-flavored cookies, what’s been up in our lives recently.
Stop for a minute and think about the number of pictures that you have of yourself over the years. Which one of those pictures resonates most with you as being representative of you? Or, is the best picture of you the one that you see with your own eyes in front of the mirror? The advent of the disposable camera and the point-and-shoot hasn’t made taking such representative pictures any better, with the proverbial deer in the headlights look being the typical result of many such cameras, especially in night shots. I think the reason why I enjoy the D30 camera so much is because it allows me to bring out the personalities of my friends and family, something I could rarely, if ever, do with my previous digital cameras or film-based point and shoots. With Irene, as well as Tamar and Clara, I was fortunate that she wasn’t camera shy!
Around 10:00 pm, I say my goodbyes to Irene and went over to Tamar’s dorm just a few blocks down Mass. Avenue. Like Clara and I, Tamar studied in Paris, France, during her junior year at Stanford. In her warm room, Tamar and I spoke about our mutual friend, Supriya, and her current adventures in Israel, which is where Tamar is planning to go following graduation from Law School later this year.
It was nearing 11:30 pm when I bid Tamar a good night. She gave me directions to the Harvard T Station that took me through the heart of the Harvard campus. I saw that blue building that I shot during my Return to Boston trip in November, 2000. This time, although it was covered in snow, the building’s blueness continue to shine through in the night.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to see everyone on this trip. For instance, scheduling conflicts prevented me from seeing Dave Sohn during this trip. Dave and I lived together at La Maison Française during my senior year. Like Tamar and Irene, Dave is studying Law at Harvard.
As a California Boy, I never really experience snow as some of my friends from the East Coast have. I never really got into the skiing or snowboarding fad, preferring drier sports like rock climbing or cycling. The only time that I went skiing was during an 8th grade cross-country skiing trip; since then, I seen snow only a handful of times, primarily during my travels to France and Boston.
As I was walking towards Tamar’s residence on Thursday evening, I marveled at the snow falling down all around me. I even drew little happy faces in the snow in front of the her dorm’s main entrance. Later, as I was leaving, someone had written the phrase, “Are you happy?” in the snow next to my happy faces. Yes, I definitely was happy at that moment! Walking in the falling snow through the campus of Harvard University made me wonder what would things have been like for me had I went to the East Coast for college. After all, the worse Stanford ever got was a few months of hard rain during the winter months. As I trudged slowly in the bitter cold, with snow falling down all around, I remarked to myself, “Man, this is… this is rather romantic!” I can only imagine what it would have been like to walk along the cobblestone streets of an Ivy League college, with a warm and bundled person next to me.
Still, I don’t regret going to Stanford; while the snow is nice, I am not sure if I could handle it year in, year out. I guess I’ll be a no-season California boy for the rest of my life, you know?
Deicing and Flight Delays
One thing against snow and the winter weather is that it often makes travel much more difficult and lengthy. Flight 145 from Boston to San Jose via American Airlines was supposed to depart Boston at 11:00 am on February 23, 2001. I arrived at the airport following a morning meeting around 9:50 am; I had driven to the airport with two of my colleagues, who were both taking the 10:50 am flight to San Francisco, via United. At the airport, I figured that I would be able to check in about 10:00 and then wait 30 minutes before beginning the boarding procedure, right? Unfortunately, due to the snowy conditions, this was not the case. American was struggling to get its airplanes in and out of Logan International on time and Flight 145 was not going to be an exception. A long delay ensued while we waited for the plane parked at our gate to leave so that ours could arrive. I kept myself busy looking at pictures on my D30, reading the newspaper, and watching CNN Headline News over and over.
We finally boarded the airplane some time after 12:00 pm. Before we could leave, however, we had to deice the plane. I don’t recall ever taking a flight where we had to deice the plane before taking off, so I whipped out my camera and began taking pictures of the wing, which was covered slightly with snow and ice. When the truck with the deicing crane came to my side of the airplane, I was educated on how ground crews handle deicing an airplane.
When ice forms on an airplane, it changes the aerodynamic makeup of the plane, which affects the handling of the craft during takeoff and flight. The airline disaster of Air Florida Flight 90 in 1982 was the result of ice forming on the airplane’s wings. To counteract the potentially dangerous effects of ice on our airplane, the ground crews probably sprayed our airplane with heated, glycol-based deicing fluid; deicing fluid melts and prevents ice from forming on the wings of an aircraft.
Here are some additional resources regarding icing on airplanes that I’ve found on the Internet:
After deicing the plane, we took a slow taxi to the runway before finally taking off. The rest of the flight? Interminable. I figured that we would make up some time by flying fast, but that thought was quickly put to rest when the captain informed the cabin that they were experiencing 145 mph headwinds and had to fly at a lower altitude. Both of these factors contributed to the plane flying slower than 450 mph in heading towards San Jose. The other thing which contributed to the tortuous feeling of eternity on that flight was the fact that I couldn’t sleep very well; typically, I can shave a few perceived hours from every flight by taking a nap. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do that and the seven plus hour flight felt quite lengthy, almost as long as my flight to France at the end of December, 2000!
We finally arrived in San Jose just a few minutes before 5:00 pm, nearly three hours after our scheduled arrival. Because we were very late, there were no airport gates at which we could park, so we had to wait another 15 minutes! I was planning to get some errands run after arriving, and was a little disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to accomplish them all due to the lateness of our arrival. I shouldn’t have been so distraught, however, as I didn’t have it nearly as bad as the captain of our flight! I was speaking to him while we waited for the airport shuttle to take us to the parking lot. He had to reach a black-tie event in Vacaville in 45 minutes. Vacaville is over a two-hour drive during rush hour on Friday night!
As I was starting to drive out of San Jose, nearly four hours after I was supposed to land, I checked my voice mail and found the message of one of my colleagues who went with my on my trip to Boston. When I later spoke with her on the phone, I learned that her United Flight was not delayed at all, and that they reached San Francisco around 2:00 pm! Maybe next time, I’ll take United, but I’m locked in with American, primarily because of all the frequent flyer mileage I’ve accrued on my trips to Boston and France (which, incidentally, was purchased through American Airlines but was for a United flight!).