Sunday, March 29, 2009

Eruptions (the volcanic kind) and Excuses

It was bright and early on Monday, March 23, the morning I was scheduled to fly back home to Salt Lake City, when Rebecca told me that Mount Redoubt, a volcano about 100 miles south of Anchorage, had erupted five times during the night. Fairbanks is about 350 miles north of Anchorage, and was not in the path of the wind, so we didn’t see any evidence of the eruption around us. However, my return flight was scheduled to go through Anchorage, so it was cancelled.

I sent the following email to my coworkers:

I was scheduled to fly home from Alaska today, but because of the eruption of Mt. Redoubt near Anchorage today, my flight was cancelled. I'm on the phone trying to book a new flight, and it looks like I won't be able to get out of Alaska until tomorrow. So, I'll be missing our Tuesday morning meeting.
Thanks, and I'm guessing I'll see you on Wednesday morning.

Some of them wrote funny emails back, like:
Excuses, excuses. :-) Have a safe trip home.


It's not every day that you can blame an extension to a vacation on a volcano. Well done! ;)

Sort of reminds me of the time that a baseball game was canceled unexpectedly in Idaho Falls. The paper the next day listed the cause as 'game canceled on account of squirrels'. If that sounds weird it was because it was a night game and some squirrels accidently had a shock and short circuited the main light poles behind home plate. Not as cool as a volcano. :)

Be safe.

That meant I had a bonus day in Alaska, which I’ll write about in a later post. The best part about it, though, was that this extra day gave me the opportunity to see the Northern Lights.

The following morning, Tuesday, I again got up bright and early to the news that the volcano had erupted again, and my flight had been cancelled again. So, again I wrote to my coworkers:

Ummm...I know I used this excuse already, but the volcano erupted again and my flight got cancelled again. They currently have me booked on a 10 p.m. flight tonight, flying home overnight, so I'm pretty sure I won't be back for Wednesday.
See you when I'm looking at you (hopefully sooner rather than later),


Rebecca was concerned about me missing two extra days of work, and so she decided to write a note to my boss and coworkers. As a teacher, she had seen all types of excuse notes, filled with all types of excuses, and she drew upon that experience as she hand wrote this note:

To Whom It May Concern:
Please excuse Cindy Conlin from work March 23-24 due to the Mt. Redoubt volcano eruption.
She was not sick.
Her "grandmother" did not die.
And the dog did not eat her plane ticket.

We just didn't count on the volcano erupting . . . and erupting . . . and erupting. (Any future Alaksa trips will be booked via local cruise lines to avoid this problem.)

Thank you for your time and consideration of her work absences.
Rebecca Clack
(English Teacher 1983-84)

Once I made it back to Salt Lake City, I scanned Rebecca's note and emailed it to my boss and coworkers, and they loved it.

I was able to board a Fairbanks-to-Anchorage flight at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

As we were descending into Anchorage, we had quite a bit of turbulence. That made me more nervous than turbulence usually does, until the woman seated next to me, who frequently traveled around Alaska, told me that turbulence was very common for flights descending over the Anchorage inlet.

When I arrived in Anchorage, I looked around for evidence of the eruption. The skies looked clear around the airport, and so I went to the check-in counter and asked the employee to point in the direction of Mount Redoubt.

She responded: “You won’t be able to see any ash. If you did, we wouldn’t be sending any airplanes up there.”

Ash in an airplane engine is a REALLY BAD THING, so I was okay with not being able to see it. Even so, I did keep my camera with me as my flight out of Anchorage took off. Near Anchorage, it was very clear. Here’s a photo from the airport:

Here’s a photo I captured as we were taking off, over the Anchorage inlet:

Here’s what the skies looked like in the first fifteen minutes of flight:

Much further into the flight, I did see a lot of gray looking clouds, but I have no idea if they were related to the volcano or not. We had been in the air for over an hour at this point. Here’s a photo of that:

I arrived at Seattle after 10 p.m. and learned that my flight to Salt Lake City wouldn’t be leaving until 6 a.m. the next morning. I asked the airlines for help, and they gave me a phone number I could call to get a discounted rate (the “distressed traveler” rate) they had negotiated for hotel rooms in situations like this.

I sat down to make hotel arrangements, and was reminded of a unique drinking fountain they have in that area of the Seattle airport. On the way to Alaska, I found this fountain so delightful that I took this video of it:

On the way home, since it was late, and I was trying to book a hotel room from my cell phone, while being frequently being interrupted by bathtub sounds, I found the fountain annoying. I'm sure I’d like it again if I went back under different circumstances.

I found a hotel room, arrived there at about 11:30 p.m., and got up again at 4:15 a.m. to catch my flight to Salt Lake City. Although it was a short night, it sure beat sleeping on the airport floor.

The volcano erupted again on Thursday, and several times after that, so I was just thankful to be able to get home.

When I finally made it back to work, my coworkers greeted me warmly. At the end of the day, as one of them was leaving for the night, he stopped by and said “Be sure to stay away from any volcanoes tonight, okay?”

I’ll be sure to do that!


Lori said...

Cool. I don't think I would have loved the drinking fountain at that part in my trip either.

Paige said...

Your excuse note was priceless. Great photos too. Love ya!