Okay, so having to make a business trip to New Jersey, by way of the Philadelphia airport, was reasonably easy. Getting to Philadelphia was reasonably uneventful, and time in New Jersey was, for the most part, delightful. Getting out of Philadelphia, though…
Time for elaboration. The original schedule was to arrive in Philadelphia on a Monday, travel directly to the job site, set up in a hotel, and work away until late Thursday morning. At that point, cohorts, manager, and I hopped into one of the only rental vehicles available in the Tri-State area that didn’t have “U-Haul” on the side (and speaking from experience, that wouldn’t have been an issue, either) and made a beeline for the Philadelphia airport. Unbeknownst to us or anybody else, a weather system built up just west of the airport, turning from “potential rain” to “definite rain” to “thunderstorm” to “Texas-level Wall O’ Water” within minutes, We only discovered this as our phones melted down halfway to the airport, informing us all that our existing flight had been cancelled and we were being rerouted. The others, besides the driver, immediately attempted to reschedule other flights: me, one of the many quirks I picked up from my mother’s side of the family was an inability to read in a car without getting carsick, so I figured “I’ll work it out when we actually get to the airport.” This, of course, is when God started laughing and didn’t stop for 12 hours.
Firstly, the phone meltdowns didn’t stop: the airline informed me that my flight had been rescheduled to a transfer to Hartford, Connecticut, and then the Wall O’ Water hit Connecticut. By this point, Philadelphia was halfway to being renamed “Atlantis”: not only could pilots not take off in the waves of rain, but since we couldn’t see planes from the gate windows, one can presume that the pilots couldn’t see the gates. Hartford signaled that nobody was getting there today, and then it kept bouncing. Cleveland. Pittsburgh, Detroit. The adventure started at Terminal A in Philadelphia, and it then went to Terminal F, at the other end of the surrealist praying mantis that is the Philadelphia airport. Every time anybody looked out the windows, we’d just shake our heads and hope that terminal seats could double as flotation devices as well. And the shiftaround kept coming.
Finally, another text: quick transfer of my flight to a puddlejumper flight to Cincinnati. At this point, I was expecting to find myself in Calgary if we didn’t wash into the Atlantic Ocean, so one more switch of a boarding pass and a mad rush in the one break in the storm, and I found myself airborne and on my way to…Ohio. As it turns out, the flight from Cincinnati to Dallas was switched twice while waiting there, and the informative text saying “your terminal has changed” came right as the call for final boarding came on the intercom, so staying overnight in a Cincinnati hotel wasn’t necessary. I was lucky: the rest of my work party had to spend the night in Philly, as all of their flights were grounded by the beginnings of the Tri-State Noachian Era, and fly back the next day when everything finally dried out enough to allow takeoffs.
Two things to be said about the CVG Airport: firstly, it’s one of the smallest airports I’ve seen in nearly 30 years. One end to the other is a brisk walk, and half of the restaurants and shops were already closed for the day by the time my flight arrived. The second was the discovery that the CMC Museum of Natural History & Science was undergoing an extensive renovation, leading to some escapees from the Ice Age Gallery being on display at the airport for the time being. Finding a flat-headed peccary (Platygonus compressus) skeletal mount right outside my arrival gate was neat enough, but it just kept getting better.
This was neat enough, but with nearly three hours until departure, and other displays further down, it was time to go exploring. Whoo boy.
And then a touch of American history to go with the natural history. American statesman and future third US President Thomas Jefferson had purchased fossil claws of what he believed to be of a giant lion, which he named Megalonyx, and his correspondence with French naturalist Georges Cuvier insisted that because the Almighty would never allow any creations to become extinct (a then-new idea promoted by Cuvier to explain why animals and plants known in the fossil record couldn’t be found alive today), the secret to finding Megalonyx was looking further afield. Hence, when sending off the famed Lewis & Clark Expedition to explore the American West, Jefferson advised them to keep an eye open for animals known to be extinct in the eastern part of the continent. Lewis and Clark never saw giant lions, and Jefferson later acknowledged similarities between those fossils and the bones of South American sloths, so he probably would have been just as disappointed in learning that he’d missed seeing his namesake Megalonyx jeffersonii by only about 9000 years.
Jefferson might have been slightly disappointed, but not I: I’d wanted to see a Megalonyx mount since I was seven years old, and a resin cast nearly fifty years late was more than good enough. Now to wait for the museum restoration to finish up, in order to see the rest of the collection.