So much for “simple”.

Last Thursday I was asked if I could be in Cambridge (Boston) on Tuesday (yesterday) for a demonstration of IBM’s Cyber Range, a facility where mock security incidents are staged.  I booked a flight from the Adirondack Regional Airport, flying to Boston on Monday afternoon and returning the following afternoon.  (I had been told that flying from Massena was also possible, but their flights were sold out.) So I flew Cape Air from Saranac Lake.

I got to Boston without incident.  We flew through clouds the whole way, which was boring—nothing to look at!  I texted the friend with whom I would be staying.  He was house/cat sitting just north of the city and said he would pick me up at the Oak Grove T station.  I texted him, “State Street” when I was on the subway and on my way up to Oak Grove.  Then something in my brain told me to check my text conversation with him in which I had worked out the details of my trip.  I had told him I needed a place to stay on TUESDAY night, not Monday!  Fortunately, he was also able to accommodate me on Monday night and happened to be home and able to meet me.  

On the way to Oak Grove I checked my email.  There was a message from Cape Air informing me that my flight the following day had been cancelled.  Crap.  I had packed extremely light, having showered, shaved, and dressed just before leaving for the trip, I planned to wear everything I had the whole time and only had a change of underwear in my bag.  My friend was there waiting for me.  I got in the car, thanked him profusely, offered to buy him dinner anywhere he wanted, and then said, “and since I know you have no plans for tomorrow…” and proceeded to tell him I’d need a second night, which was fine.  (Whew!)  When we got to his friend’s place I called Cape Air and talked to a very nice agent who re-booked me on their flight early Wednesday morning.  I was pleasantly surprised by the interaction.  The agent was very polite, apologetic, knowledgeable, and empowered to re-book my flight at no charge.  Wonderful!

Tuesday morning my friend dropped me off at Oak Grove and I made my way into the city.  The T station nearest to IBM was about a half mile walk.  That’s no problem for me on a good day, but Tuesday was not a good day.  I slogged down the streets in wind-driven, near-freezing horizontal rain.  It took me an hour to dry out once I reached IBM!

While on my way to the airport I was mentally inventorying the contents of my sling bag/purse.  I have 3 different battery packs for recharging my phone; small, medium, and large.  I had planned to bring the medium one because it can also plug right into the wall in order to recharge.  But I had forgotten it.  (I did remember to pack my multi-port charger, but it has no battery.) My phone’s battery isn’t what it once was and so I decided to check on its energy use to see if there was anything I could turn off that would let me eke out a few more minutes of energy before needing a charge.  Lo and behold I was told that my battery was severely degraded and needed replacement.  Since I now had time on my hands, and since there was an Apple Store in the mall around the corner from IBM, I went to see if they had a battery and could perform the installation right away.  I was stunned when I learned that the answer to both questions was “yes”!  It took a couple of hours, but a mall is not the worst place to spend time when the rain outside has a tendency to go up your nose!

After getting my new battery I made my way to Quincy Market for a New England Clam Chowder Bread Bowl.  And that made the hassle of this trip completely worth it!  SO DELICIOUS!  I have “clam” chowder elsewhere, but nothing compares to what I had yesterday!  I went back to Oak Grove and my friend stopped at a place he likes for dinner and I had clams casino and a beer.

When we got back to his friend’s place I checked my email.  Cape Air had cancelled my morning flight!  Crap.  I let Amanda know and she asked me what I wanted to do.  I checked the Boutique Air site and they still had a flight leaving in the morning for Massena, and they had seats.  So I booked a flight with them.  If they also cancelled, then I would call Cape Air and hopefully get re-re-booked on their afternoon flight the next day.  If Boutique did not cancel, then I would request a refund from Cape Air for my return flight.

Shortly after booking my 8:35am flight, I received a text and an email that it had been delayed to 9:55am.  No problem.  Then I got another text that the flight had been delayed again to 10:05. Seriously? 10 minutes? Hardly worth bothering about, right? But no—I also got a phone call from a real person letting me know that my flight had been delayed!

Fast forward to this morning.  I made my way to the airport and was on my way to the TSA Pre-Check line when I got a text.  Boutique was asking if I was flying with them this morning!  I said yes and then was asked if I had bags to check.  I said no and that I was in line at the security checkpoint.  They said they’d see me soon.  I believe that was a real person on the other end.  When I got to the gate, I received another text that they were at the gate.  Well, I could see the gate and was actually just about to check with someone because the gate in question was labeled “Air Canada”.  But as I looked up I saw a couple of people putting up a temporary “Boutique Air” sign!  I replied to the text, “so am I.  We are still departing at 10:05?”  I was assured this was true.  And then a minute later, “Would you please come to the gate?”  They wanted me to check in!  Wow.  I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such attention to detail from customer service.

I made it to Massena.  Boutiques planes are also much nicer than Cape Air’s.  If ever I want/need to go to Boston and get more time to plan, I will be flying Boutique!

My takeaways from this experience:

  • I probably ought to pay some attention to weather forecasts when I am traveling.  I normally do not pay much or any attention to them because, well, I don’t care.  But had I done so I might have packed clothes or an umbrella.
  • The older I get, the more a creature of habit I am becoming.  My “every day carry” (EDC) bag is a beast.  It’s a backpack, carefully curated and packed, that has “everything” I need or might need on a daily basis.  It goes with me wherever I go.  For this trip I decided to downsize.  It was mostly fine, but I forgot a couple of things I would have liked to have taken (but did just fine without).  But the experience of doing so (downsizing) was interesting.  Not “anxiety” inducing, but I realized just how much of a pattern/routine my life has become and what a disruption this experience was.  I’ve gotten used to relative “sameness” day-to-day, week-to-week; and having this thrust into my routine was more frazzling than I would like to admit to myself.


I’ve been an audio/video geek since elementary school.  I always wanted to be the kid who got to turn the filmstrip projector, run the 16mm projector…I could go on.  I never met an A/V receiver I couldn’t find a use for and must have at least 4 of them around the house.

Amanda and I are at the new house in Keeseville this weekend.  Whenever we come we try and bring more stuff from the house in Potsdam.  This trip I packed up my “occasional use” stereo set from upstairs–the one I use when I want to hear vinyl.  It’s comprised of an RCA receiver from the 90s or 2000s and two Harmon Kardon floor speakers I found by the side of the road shortly after moving to Potsdam.  I brought this and the TV from my den to the new house and got it all hooked up last night.  Amanda and I watched some TV and went to bed.

This morning while we were enjoying some coffee I turned all the gear on and noted a slight buzz coming from the speakers.  It was annoying, but not unbearable; and you couldn’t really hear it while content was playing.  Then all of a sudden the audio started cutting in and out and the amp was making clicking noises.  I got out of my chair and proceeded to do the things once does to such equipment when one doesn’t really know what’s wrong with it–you know; turning it off and on again, blowing dust out of it, hitting it, etc.  While I was doing this, Amanda exclaims, “did you see that?!”  I hadn’t, and asked her what she was talking about.  She had seen a spark come from the right-hand speaker.  I looked over and saw some wispy smoke coming from the speaker, which I thought was novel.  After all, this wasn’t “This Is Spinal Tap” and I certainly hadn’t dialed anything up to 11!  And anyway, amp was still buzzing, so I should probably pay attention to that, right?

Wrong.  10 seconds later I noticed that the smoke wasn’t going away.  There was more of it, and as I stared at it, the speaker burst into flames!  The cloth grill very quickly started burning along with the speaker cone.  I blew on it, but that was no good so I shrugged, picked it up, and told Amanda, “get the door!” and brought it outside tn tossed it face down in the snow.

That receiver and speakers have now been replaced by Dad’s old Fisher receiver from the 1960s and the KLH speakers he bought from the Hi-Fi shop when at college in Potsdam.  I never thought that speakers could/would catch fire like that.  But I’ve learned a valuable lesson: If there’s AC voltage going IN to something, then there is the possibility that that voltage can come OUT of it on any kind of wire if the right things go wrong; and that this is why equipment should always be unplugged whenever you are making any kind of change to connections.

One of these things is not like the other…

Closeup of the dead speaker.

Burnt speaker cone and cloth cover.

CLoseup of speaker cone without cover.