So here I am in the Atlanta-Hartsfield Airport and — my flight is canceled because of a massive snowstorm in the northeast! Really! It’s too funny. Not.
But here’s an interesting historical note, one that reminds me of something a now-retired senior colleague, Dr. Tory, used to say when he was trying to shoot down a job candidate. “History,” he would say with an evil smile, and a look of profound pity for the rest of us who did not understand what a terrible scholar we wanted to hire, “is change over time. And I just don’t see change (pause) over (pause) time (pause) in this work.”
Well, I am reminded of this because I am having the same experience I had ten years ago. And yet it is not the same. Why? Technology.
OK. So I was at the Carter Library finishing up my work this morning when my phone went off. “This is Orbitz TLC,” said a chirpy little voice. “Your flight is cancelled!”
Now I won’t bore you with everything in between, but it is simply true that in a crisis of this magnitude, where perhaps 100,000 people are trying to get somewhere, there is no point in trying to get information over the phone, which is what Delta always urges you to do rather than coming to the airport to scream at them for their relentless incompetence in the face of any small difficulty. I bet it was Delta that was in charge of getting General Hood and his troops out of Atlanta, and they finally burned the damn city down out of frustration. So you ask yourself: what would Rhett Butler do in this situation? And the answer is clear. You have to either steal a horse and buggy, put the fragile Melanie Wilkes in the back and the irritating-but-sexy Scarlett up front, and haul *** out the old Decatur road to Tara or — you have to go to the airport.
I went to the airport, as I could not locate Mrs. Wilkes. There I discovered, by standing in a line for two hours, that although I could not get booked to Hartford until Monday, I could get to Baltimore tonight. Step one.
Then I bought 24 hours of wireless Internet time for $7.95. Step two.
Then I logged on to Amtrak, and booked a ticket out of BWI train station at 2:36 tomorrow afternoon (which, by the way, turned out to be a very good idea: during the time I was online, three earlier trains sold out.) Step 3.
Then I went to Travelocity and booked a room at the BWI Red Roof Inn for tonight, as I am too old to sleep in the airport. Step 4.
So instead of being home by dinnertime tonight, I’ll be home by dinnertime tomorrow. Which is significantly better than Monday evening, which was the best Delta could do. Fools.
So you see, I’ve got to hand it to Dr. Tory, many years after those meetings where I would have gladly put a stake in his sorry heart: history sometimes really is little else but change over time.