Welcome to the new Probabilistic Publishing Web Site!
This page is still under construction, however...
1) Here is a link to a guest blog that I wrote for Pat Leach's blog on the Decision Strategies website: The Smith System as an Allegory...
2) Here is a true story I wrote about 10 years ago called "Of Angels and Demons." I hope to post all kinds of items on this page.
My wife, three children, and I were traveling from Gainesville to Philadelphia to go to a good friend’s wedding on Saturday. At 4:20 PM on Wednesday, I checked Delta’s web site for the final time and the web site said that both of our flights were "On Schedule." We were to find out later that this was the first interference caused by a demon, but at that point we believed the web site and drove to the airport. I stopped at Subway and we got two big subs to split between us to eat on the way to the Airport. This turned out to be a good decision.
When we checked in, what we thought was an angel behind the counter told us that our flight, scheduled to leave at 6:05 PM, was "late" but that we could all get on Flight 4050, which had been scheduled to leave at 3:40 PM but was really leaving about 6 PM. We were told that "all flights in Atlanta were about an hour late, so we would have no problem making our connection to Philadelphia." So we switched to the "earlier" flight (big mistake!), a turbo-prop that left for Atlanta at 6:47 PM. We discovered later that we were really receiving demonic advice. "Our" flight was cancelled, which would have been a better outcome for us.
At 8:10 PM we landed in Atlanta. The angels in the cockpit told us that we were going to have to wait on the ground for "45 minutes to an hour," as (the demons in) Operations had no gate for us. Being demons of the tormenting sort, they were apparently unwilling to push back another plane temporarily so we could deplane or send a bus to get us. We had two flight attendant angels, who tried to keep everybody comfortable by giving out the rest of the water and drinks that they had on the flight. The couple ahead of me had three children, the youngest was 18 months old and he expressed his unhappiness with the situation loudly and frequently, much to his father’s dismay.
Forty five minutes went by. It had stopped snowing – there was about an inch of snow on the ground. An hour went by. The angels in the cockpit announced that they had no word from (demons in) Operations, but they had been talking with another ASA plane which had already sat on the runway for 2-1/2 hours. Somebody in the cabin called her brother, a Delta pilot, on her cell phone and found out that Atlanta could only de-ice 22 planes an hour, which was causing the problems. However, we saw only a few planes take off – nowhere near 22 planes per hour. Apparently demons were deicing the planes and were doing it very slowly. I called my friend in Pennsylvania (who was to pick us up at the Airport) and told him what was happening. He said the he thought the Gators (Go Gators!) were ahead in the Orange Bowl – 21 to 10, but he wasn’t sure, as he’d mostly been watching the Weather Channel.
Two and a half hours went by. They put on the "fasten seat belt" sign, so everybody sat down. We taxied down the runway but then stopped again. About this time my four year old daughter, who had been mostly sleeping, had missed an opportunity to go to the thoroughly depleted rest room on our commuter plane. With a "mama bear and hurt cub" look on her normally calm face, my wife headed back (despite the lit sign) with my daughter. The angel flight attendant understood the problem. We eventually moved to sit between terminals C and D. Several times I tried calling Delta’s 800 number, but the demons prevented a human from answering. At 11 PM I called my friend in Pennsylvania again. He said that the Gators were up "forty-something to ten" and wanted me to wake him up when we knew what was going on. I told him that I’d call him in the morning and let him know where we were.
Sometime after midnight, the angel in the cockpit announced that they had called numbers on their cell phone and had tried raising (demons in) Operations but had no explanation why we couldn’t park and deplane. They too were frustrated, apologized, and asked for our patience. We did move about periodically to allow other planes to push back or go around us. Then at 12:48 AM, we pulled into the parking area, the tail stand was put under the airplane, the engines were shut off and we all stood up and waited in the aisle for another 10 minutes while the carry-on bags were unloaded. About 1 AM, we got off the airplane and proceeded inside Terminal C.
Inside, the queue lines to talk with an Agent were 50 yards long. I thought they might be shorter in the main Delta section, so we went to Terminal B. They were 200 yards long in Terminal B. So I found a wall for my family to crash beside and ran back to our arrival gate in Terminal B. There were two Agents who had apparently worked our flight’s passengers, and I got in one line. While waiting in line, I called National’s Emerald Club 800 number. An angel actually answered the phone and said that yes, I could reserve a full size car and drive it back to Gainesville. She must have thought me to be a bit strange, as I kept asking her if they really had a car available. I booked the car. My line defied the laws of physics and nature and moved faster than the other one. I talked with the angel behind the counter and she went through our situation. She said that the soonest we could depart for Philadelphia would be 3:45 PM that afternoon, but she wasn’t sure whether we’d get out or not. She gave me a phone number to call to try to get the tickets refunded. I thanked her and told her we’d drive back to Gainesville. So I ran back to Terminal B.
We gathered up our stuff and rode the train to Baggage Claim. I was going to go get the car and pick everybody up, but we decided we wanted to stay together. We went outside – it was cold and starting to snow again – to wait for the bus. Now in normal circumstances, in order for a National bus to come by, three Hertz busses, two Avis busses, three Budgets, a Thrifty, and an Alamo must pass through first (this is a Federal Law). However, an angel in a Big Green Bus came (after only one Hertz, one Avis, and two Budgets) and we headed for the rental cars! As we stopped at the Emerald Isle, I noticed that there were several minivans in the Emerald Isle that night.
I got into another queue at the counter. The angel behind the counter looked at my Emerald Card and told me I could go to the Emerald Isle. I picked out a nice warm (the angels had left the engines running on a few vehicles for us) Astro and picked up the family. Katie (4) and Michael (8) had never seen snow before and were having a merry snowball fight. We loaded up the van. As we slid around the parking lot, I asked my wife whether Astros were front wheel or rear wheel drive. She said rear wheel, as she had researched this thoroughly before buying her Plymouth Voyager. So we drove around to the Emerald Isle and an angel had just pulled up a Dodge Caravan, which was to be our chariot home. It was 2:30 AM.
The roads were slick, it was lightly snowing, and I-75 had quite a bit of truck traffic. We proceeded southward – sometimes at 20 mph, sometimes at 30 or even 40. We stopped at a convenience store for drinks, potato chips, and a pit stop. But then we passed the Johnston Road exit, half way to Macon. I remarked to my wife that once before I had become stuck in a traffic jam and had exited at Johnston Road. This was a bad omen, as the demons of I-75 had already caused trucks to wreck a few miles ahead of us. At 3:30 AM all of the traffic stopped. We could see three lines of cars and trucks down our hill and up another hill – all were stopped. After a half hour, I got out of the car and talked with a semi-driver. He told me that there was a wreck involving trucks two miles ahead of us. So we sat and waited. About an inch of snow accumulated on the pavement. At 5:30 AM we saw brake lights. Then a few vehicles started to move slowly. We started up and moved south – 5 mph…10 mph. Eventually we got up to 25 mph. By the time we got past Macon, traffic thinned out.
We found a Burger King that had opened so we got some food. The roads gradually got better: the snow stopped somewhere north of Valdosta, GA. My wife was able to drive for about 45 minutes, but I drove the rest of the way. An angel must have kept me awake, as when we got home (there’s no place like home) at 10 AM, I could barely walk upon exiting the Dodge. After an indeterminate time of sleep, I called the Delta 800 number. An angel answered (a real voice!). I told her our story, albeit more concisely narrated than here. She said that she thought she could get the 100,000 frequent flyer miles I had cashed in for my family’s tickets put back into my account. She put me on hold while she wrestled demons on my behalf. After several intermediate reports, she told me that she had been successful. She said that for my ticket (which had been purchased) I would have to talk with the "Refund Desk" and that she would try and patch me through. I thanked her and she patched me through. However, a demon intercepted the call and announced that "all lines are busy." So I still have the "Refund Desk" to deal with, however, I am very relieved that we didn’t lose the miles.
Then I took the Dodge Caravan to the Gainesville Airport to return it. On my way to the rental counter, I noticed that the demons had cancelled two of two inbound flights from Atlanta and one of two outbound flights. Upon trying to check the rental car back in to National, the demons in the National computer had detached my vehicle from its card, and the angel behind the counter made several calls trying to re-attach it. This time the demons won, and she told me that she’d have to mail me the receipt. I smiled, now knowing the ways of demons, and thanked her.
We went out to our favorite restaurant that night, the Millhopper Café, and upon saying grace we thanked God for helping us return home safely and we prayed for the thousands of our fellow travelers who were still trying to overcome the demons and get home. I’ve been flying for over 25 years now, and this was my worst experience ever. I don’t understand why Atlanta couldn’t designate a gate on the end of each terminal as a "contingency" unloading gate for planes to pull in, unload, and pull out again during times with no gates. Perhaps the demons of Operations won’t let them do this – I don’t know. As for the wedding, we will miss the main event and have to wait for the video.
© 2002 by Dave Charlesworth All Rights Reserved