The flight to Detroit was uneventful. I tried getting some sleep to try to counteract the impending jetlag (Beijing is 12 hours ahead of EST), but couldn't get any sleep. I arrived at noon Detroit time (midnight Beijing time), my flight to Boston wouldn't leave until 7 PM (7 AM Beijing time).
Detroit Metro Airport is not a very interesting place. Culture shock set in. American currency seemed so dull and green. There was Burger King, Taco Bell, Cinnabon, and a bookstore with English magazines.
I checked the departure screen and noticed something slightly disturbing. Literally two thirds of the flights were being cancelled. But there was nothing that could be done about that. Around 5 PM (5 AM Beijing time), I headed for the terminal that my flight was scheduled to depart from. Ten minutes later my flight was cancelled.
Everyone began to swear and curse. Of course, I trumped everyone at misery poker. You've been waiting a day to get home from your business trip? I've been waiting a year. We all headed back to the ticket counter and waited in line so we could reschedule our flights. After more than four hours of waiting in line, at about 10 PM (10 AM Beijing time i.e this was like staying up all night and still being up at 10 AM. No sleep. Not a wink.), it was finally my turn. Over the summer, I had developed a vast reservoir of patience in regards to travel delays. I spent three days on a bus going from one village to another. To me, waiting in line for four hours was nothing. I asked the lady in a too-groggy-to-be-cranky tone of voice for the quickest flight to Boston. She seemed grateful to have been talking with someone who wasn't going to yell at her for delays she didn't cause. She punched her keyboard, furrowed her brows, typed some more, furrowed some more, and finally told me, "Well, you can do this. You can fly tonight to Minneapolis, sleep in Minneapolis airport, take a 7 AM flight to Memphis, wait for several hours in Memphis and then fly onto Boston, where you'll arrive at 4 PM." I asked about flying into Manchester, NH or Hartford, CT. No dice. As a last ditch effort, I asked her about setting me up with a hotel room for the night.
She first gave me a skeptical look, but then looked at my ticket again. She then told me, "Hold on. I can give you a room for the night. Why didn't you tell me you were coming from Beijing?" Apparently it's Northwest's policy to accommodate people who are coming in on international flights and have their connecting flights cancelled, but not to accommodate people trying to connect on a domestic flight.
Before I left, I stopped by Burger King for a quick meal. I ran into a couple who was waiting in line ahead of me. They were connecting from San Francisco and were also going on to Boston. They had no choice but to pay for a hotel room for the night. I waved my vouchers in their face, which probably wasn't all too polite. They could afford a hotel room anyway, unlike myself however, so I didn't feel too bad.
I took a taxi to Ann Arbor. The taxi driver was of Pakistani descent. Because of his non-American accent, I constantly tried speaking Chinese with him. I arrived and checked in at 11 PM. My room voucher was worth $50, which was $45 more than the most expensive hotel room that I stayed in that summer. It was incredible. The bed was as wide as it was long and had clean sheets. I had my own bathroom, with complimentary toiletries. I had a TV with many English channels. Instead of collapsing like any normal person would, I watched two more hours of TV before finally zonking out.
I woke up at 1 PM the next day, awoken by the front desk telling me to get out of my room. I headed down to the hotel restaurant, which took my hotel vouchers. It was a shock looking at the menu. $1.39 for a glass of iced tea? Shit, I was getting dinner for $1.39 in Beijing. But the vouchers covered it all so I ordered a rueben sandwich and an ice cream sundae. What's up, domestic flight suckers?
I leisurely got a taxi back over to the airport. I ate again at the airport sports bar. I ordered my first ever legal beer in America, a $5.50 Sam Adams (it was in a large glass) and a tuna sandwich. I even had enough vouchers left over to get a package of cinnamon rolls from Cinnabon. At 5 PM, I lined up for the flight, got on, and we departed for and arrived at Boston without any problems. My mom picked me up and that was end of my arduous yearlong experience.
I spent August being gainfully unemployed, reading a bunch of books, and hanging out at my friend's house playing NHLPA '93 and drinking 40s of Miller High Life. And that was the end of my summer break.