See part 3 here.
After a late night at Fenway, there wasn’t much time to sleep. I had to be up and out of the hotel by 6am to catch a 9am flight from Boston to New York. I’d planned to use my jumpseat priveleges to ride down on a JetBlue A320, but as I arrived at the airport, I discovered that flight had been cancelled. All passengers from that flight had been moved to the 11am departure, and that meant there probably wouldn’t be a seat in the back for me to ride in. At first, this didn’t bother me, as I can ride in the cockpit jumpseat. But I shortly discovered that there were two JetBlue flight crews that were being relocated by their company to JFK in order to cover other flights. They, of course, would bump me out of the jumpseat in order to avoid having to remove paying passengers to make room for them in the back of the airplane. That’s a totally logical move, of course. It just meant that my chances of getting down to New York on JetBlue that day were pretty well shot. I will say that the two customer service agents that took care of me at the JetBlue counter were as helpful and friendly as they could possibly be, and I’d like to thank them!
I spent a half an hour or so in the terminal, researching flights on my laptop. I called several other airlines to inquire about their passenger loads. Nothing looked very promising to either JFK or LaGuardia, so my anxiety level began to increase greatly. My first opportunity to jumpseat down to New York was on an American Eagle flight to LaGuardia, so I started walking towards their terminal in Boston. Twenty minutes later, I arrived just as they were finishing up their boarding proces. Armed with more of that Ghirardelli dark chocolate, I asked the two American Airlines gate agents if there still might be a shot at me getting on the airplane as a jumpseater. It was my lucky day, they said, as there was one seat left in the cabin. Turns out it should have been given to an American Airlines pilot, but he never showed up and it was departure time. That meant it was mine for the taking! I ran down the jetway, checked my roll-aboard planeside, whacked my head on the low door of the EMB-135 jet that was waiting to whisk me to LaGuardia, and introduced myself to the flight attendant and pilots. Then, I snuggled into a VERY tight seat next to an American Airlines flight attendant who was commuting down to pick up a trip.
An hour later, I was on the ground in New York. I’d been through LaGuardia once before, at the beginning of my airline career (Mesaba sent me to the Flight Safety training center there to learn to fly the Saab 340), so it wasn’t altogether unfamiliar. After a quick lunch and a nice chat with a Frontier Airlines crew who’s First-Officer I recognized, I set about trying to find transportation to my hotel. The hotel itself didn’t have its own shuttle service, so I arranged to have a Super Shuttle van pick me up. About a half hour later, my name was being called and I was jumping into the front seat. Little did I know that the ride to the hotel would be the ride of my life.
The trip took about an hour. Speeds varied from about 10mph on the highway to about 80mph on the narrowest of side-streets we travelled. I’m not sure why the driver loved to go so slow on the freeway and so fast on the surface streets, but I’m thinking it might have something to do with Bernoulli’s Principle, since the narrower the street was, the faster the car travelled. Bernoulli didn’t take into account any parked cars having their doors opened suddenly or people jaywalking between them, though. We must have nearly ended about a dozen lives during that trip! The driver never even flinched…just sat there in the driver’s seat singing along to the Bob Marley he had playing on the stereo. Finally arriving at my hotel, I paid the driver and told him to “drive carefully.” He just laughed.
After checking in to the cramped little hotel room (cramped but FREE, so I’ll stop complaining…but seriously…we had more room in our hotel in downtown Tokyo), I caught a quick catnap and then arranged for a cab to Yankee Stadium to pick me up around 4:45pm. The fee was ASTRONOMICAL, but it was either that or take the subway. Under normal circumstances, I’d have done that, but since I was carrying a rather expensive collection of photographic equipment (I had to carry it out in the open in a photographer’s vest since Yankee Stadium doesn’t allow bags or backpacks to be taken inside), I elected to take the car.
It was another E-Ticket ride through Harlem and The Bronx to arrive at Yankee Stadium at around 5:15pm. I was simply amazed at the crowd that was already jamming the turnstyles, especially since it was nearly two hours prior to game time! I waded through the crowd toward Gate 4, and entered the ballpark. It truly is an impressive place! Walking into the field level tunnels and out into the seating area, you’re greeted by a striking panoramic view of Yankee Stadium. The lights were already on, since the sky was well clouded over. There was lots of people milling around in the aisles (which were VERY narrow with often uneven footing) while batting practice was going on. I managed to walk around a while, taking pictures the whole time. I even caught a newly-married couple shortly after their wedding vows took place right in the stands! About a half hour after I arrived, the groundskeepers began scurrying around hurriedly, taking down the batting practice equipment and unrolling the tarp to cover up the infield. Looking up at the sky, it was very obvious that a line of thunderstorms was moving in from the West, and the groundskeepers rushed to get the infield covered before the rain arrived.
And arrive it did! It was an absolutel torrential downpour! Most of the fans retreated to the covered seating areas or back into the walkways behind the stands. I raced upstairs to get under the overhang on the top level in order to keep dry. But some die-hards came prepared with ponchos or umbrellas to wait out the rain, which lasted nearly an hour and a half! Just as I was beginning to worry about not being able to see a game played due to the rain, the downpour began to subside. After the rain let up, the groundskeepers came out to remove the tarp and ready the field for play. This brought a HUGE roar of applause from the fans who were waiting patiently for the game to begin.
Finally, the home plate umpire yelled, “Play ball!” and the game was underway. The Yankees lost to the Royals that night, but it was still a great experience for me. I’m glad I was able to make the trip to see Yankee Stadium before they demolish it during the coming off-season and move the team to the new ballpark next door. I’d like to say that I think Yankee Stadium has about the best food of any ballpark I’ve been to, and at a good value, too. As I milled around during the later part of the rain delay, I made my way up to a server and asked what was good. He suggested the chicken strip basket, but when I found the item on the menu display behind him, it had two numbers after it. The first was 9.50 and the second was 2200. Confused, I asked him what the difference was between the nine-dollar and fifty-cent chicken strip basket and the twenty-two dollar one. He laughed (undoubtedly thinking I was as dumb as a stump) and said in a rather thick Bronx accent, “Duh Twannytwo hunnert is haow manee CALories it hass innit.” Apparently, New York City passed a law that requires restaurants to print the caloric content of their food next to each item in their menus. How depressing!!
I got back to the hotel at about midnight. Knowing that Super Shuttle would be picking me up and giving me a ride to JFK airport at 4:30am, I got right to sleep. A whole three hours later, I rose, showered, packed up, and got downstairs to meet the shuttle van. Arriving about an hour later at JFK, I checked in with JetBlue for my flight to Burbank and set out to find some breakfast.There was a Dunkin’ Donuts right there in the terminal, so I walked over toward it, finding a line that was about thirty people deep. After waiting patiently for about fifteen minutes to get to the front of it, I ordered 850 calories worth of their chocolate glazed donuts and a 400 calorie cup of hot chocolate. I figured that’d hold me until about three-quarters of the way to Burbank.
I ended up running into a JetBlue first officer that I knew from college and it turned out he was working the flight to Burbank. He introduced me to his captain (who looked very familiar to me for some reason, but I couldn’t figure why) and they both told me that they’d do their best to get me on the flight. Turned out that it was no problem at all, and the gate agent assigned me a VERY comfortable seat in their “extra legroom” section. In typical JFK fashion, it took us about forty-five minutes to taxi out and get airborne, but once we were on our way, I settled in and enjoyed their free XM radio and satellite television services. I even rented the movie Iron Man (my second time seeing it…just as awesome as the first) while I ate my complimentary blue potato chips. The cabin crew was very attentive to everyone on board, and I found myself complimenting them as I walked off the airplane five hours later. JetBlue has a great product they offer!!
The trip was a real whirlwind. I ran short of sleep the whole time, but I got what I wanted from it. I got to visit two very historic ballparks, and I added two images to my collection of ballpark panoramas that I sell on my eBay store. It was done relatively inexpensively, since I didn’t have to pay for air far or hotels. I’m glad I was able to put it all together so quickly, and I’m glad I have a wife who was so supportive of my desire to do this, even though she wasn’t interested in going.