Saturday, February 13, 2010

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Surviging Snowmageddon

From the Parkville Luminary

I love that shot in the movie “Independence Day” when the evil aliens are attacking Washington, and the president zooms away in Air Force One just in the nick of time as flames from the attack kiss the tail fins of the plane.

That was me last weekend, except substitute snow and ice for flames. Also, I’m not the president, and our commuter jet bore little resemblance to Air Force One.

Yes, I am a survivor of last weekend’s blizzard in Washington, D.C. I heard one TV announcer call it “snowmageddon”. (And you think Kansas City weathercasters are overly dramatic!) I was on one of the last flights out of Reagan-National Airport before disaster struck.

Murmurs about the impending doom began upon my arrival for a meeting of the American Council on Education’s Internationalization Collaborative on Thursday morning. Our goal: to discuss how to internationalize our campuses and thus enhance the learning experience for our students. We had heard the two feet of snow forecast, but didn’t really believe it, or, as macho international travelers, cavalierly dismissed the potential for mayhem. After all, this was a truly cosmopolitan gathering (yours truly excluded) of international educators and travelers. I’m pretty well traveled, but my adventures pale in comparison to the participants at this conference.

Given this peer group, panicking about snowageddon would have looked uncool (to the max!), given that the attendees had coolly braved everything from wars to earthquakes to salmonella to abominable snowmen (ironic!).

Thus, as the conference unfolded, I made it my task from a strictly sociological perspective to check for any small signs of panic or even concern among this seasoned group. On day one, Thursday, the day before the blizzard, everyone was calm and collected as we learned about how to set up an Internet class with students and professors from another country. (I’m going to try this). However, when the conference officials announced that the meeting would be extended into Thursday evening so that it could end five hours early on Friday, I began to see cracks in the armor of some participants.

On Friday, or D-day, a much smaller group assembled to hear a terrific speaker talk about technology and its implications for educators. I didn’t see anyone sweat, but almost everyone could be seen nervously glancing at their Blackberrys, checking weather information and flight schedules. Of course, I did not succumb to this temptation, since my Blackberry is still in the planning stages, as in I’m planning to get one when I can afford it, which at this rate will be when I’m 83.

It goes without saying that Friday’s intrepid ACE conference attendees were the toughest of the tough, the true survivors who summoned the grit and commitment to brave the weather and attend the seminar. Also, some of those attending on Friday may have had cancelled flights and no where else to go, while others may have had afternoon flights that allowed them to attend the Friday morning session. Nonetheless, we were tough.

As the seminar ended, I bravely made my way to Reagan-National Airport using an airport shuttle that took about five minutes and managed to navigate around several puddles. (It hadn’t started snowing yet). I squeezed through security, found a seat, and sat and watched the snow begin and then flourish over the next two hours while I waited for my flight to be cancelled. It wasn’t, underlining my good fortune in being able to re-book in the midst of the pandemonium. I was scheduled to leave Sunday, about the same time the snow was supposed to quit falling. One can guess my chances of actually leaving on Sunday.

As we rumbled down the now runway in the midst of a near white-out, there was probably a huge wall of snow bearing down on us, licking at our tail fins, as we escaped skyward just in the nick of time. I say probably because, of course, I couldn’t see behind us. It’s also possible that there was an abominable snowman clinging to our landing gear as we lifted off.

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