Surviving the Polar Vortex (Thanks, Will!)
It is currently snowing outside and roads are slick around the Indianapolis area. Again. Wasn’t it just a week ago we all dug out from the polar vortex and 2014 Stormageddon?
Yes, it was, and with that in mind, I have an Indiana Fever corporate partner that deserves some well-deserved thanks, for an employee who went well beyond the call of duty during the deep freeze of Sunday evening, January 5.
You see, on that night, I actually flew from Denver to Indianapolis on a non-stop flight with Frontier Airlines. No, the airport wasn’t closed as many may have believed. It almost was. Perhaps it should have been. Not even the Pacers were allowed to fly in from Cleveland, but I know that I was somehow one of a random few whose flight was NOT canceled on that fateful evening … despite emergency travel restrictions once on the ground.
My flight was delayed a few times and I eventually landed at 12:30 a.m. Temperatures were already at 13-below-zero and wind chill was being reported as 40 degrees below zero. It was not until 3:30 a.m. that my wife and I reached our front door after carefully navigating our Honda Accord over treacherous I-465 and I-74 roads between Indy and Brownsburg. Having to dig ourselves INTO our driveway with more than a foot of snow and the frigid whipping winds is another story for another day.
But for now, I want to tell the story of Will McCain.
While still in Denver, I spent much of that Sunday trying to discern whether our flight would be canceled; when we could re-book our flight; and if we somehow DID manage to fly, how were we going to get home? As a backup measure, we had a hotel room and rental car reserved when we learned that our next available flight out of town was going to be the following Friday.
The need for backup measures never materialized.
On my way out of town December 30, I had taken advantage of the valet service at Ace Rent A Car, where the Fever players and staff usually leave vehicles during road trips in the summer. However, while planning from the kitchen table on the outskirts of Denver, I envisioned my car under a foot of snow. I also imagined the Ace parking lot not yet plowed, or my battery not starting or any of a number of other obstacles.
Once we were through security at the Denver airport and it appeared we really were going to fly, I called Ace. Will answered. He was the only employee on duty and no drivers were scheduled. “There are no flights,” I was told.
Or so was the thought on the ground in arctic Indianapolis. I, however, was on my way, I told him. “Any chance of somebody available to pick me up just after midnight?”
This was NOT on Will’s radar. He was scheduled to go off-duty at 11 p.m. ET, and the overnight manager at Ace was scheduled without a driver. My call had indeed been wise, but still didn’t guarantee our transportation. I called again, inquiring about any update, when we actually boarded the plane about 8 p.m. MT.
In short, the overnight manager arrived and Will stayed for my eventual call from the Indianapolis airport. Risking life and limb (not an understatement given the truly hazardous road conditions) and venturing onto roads in his personal 4-wheel drive, Will collected my wife and I and we inched over frozen, drifting, vacant highway to the Ace Rent A Car location on West Washington Street.
Upon arrival, my car had been started and left waiting for me, warming at the entrance.
The dark, eery drive home was another adventure through drifts, trenches and blowing snow — best left to the imagination. I am sure that neither the state patrol or IMPD want to hear about my early morning drive despite their restrictions. Safely and with extreme, white-knuckle caution, we made it home.
I’d have slept the night at the airport with dozens of other stranded travelers were it not for the dedicated service of Will McCain. Taxi and other shuttle services were not running that night. Ace and Will McCain provided their shuttle service purely for sake of accommodating the lone traveler they’d heard was actually flying. I readily understand that Will probably shouldn’t have driven to get me that evening. I am not even sure it was wise for either of us to be driving that night. But I thank him and Ace for the commitment to serve this customer.