Here is how her adventure unfolded: Her flight was supposed to arrive at 2:15 p.m., but kept circling for more than an hour above the airport. “Everybody looked so calm. Maybe they knew about the storm already,” Yang recalled. “The captain did not explain much but I can tell that the plane was circling around. There were several abrupt drops in the end, which was terrifying.”
It was 3:50 p.m. when the plane finally made a shaky landing—and then the sky went dark. The first thing Yang tried to do was to turn on her phone and search for signals. She had bought an American SIM card online for $30 before coming here, and planned to call for a Chinese taxi service to the apartment she had rented in Chinatown, Manhattan. She had heard that there are several Chinese taxi companies that serve the Chinese communities in New York at a cheap price, and the drivers could gave first time visitors some thorough introductions about the city, in Mandarin. But the SIM card did not work at all, and Yang could not spend much time on it. She followed the crowd to pick up her two 36-inch trolley cases and went through the U.S. customs, which took about an hour.
“I saw many folding cots when I passed through the arrival lobby,” Yang said. Most passengers were looking for a way out of the airport, while some decided to stay there overnight and the airport provided some beds. While Yang was thinking about how to connect her cell phone, two little girls skipped around her and ran to their parents, who were camping in the lobby. She managed to find a vending machine and bought an AT&T prepaid card for $20, but still couldn’t make a call. Fortunately the card could connect to 4G networks and she was able to send her boyfriend in Canada a message on WeChat, a popular SNS app among Chinese people. But unfortunately, the strategy didn’t work. “My boyfriend called a Chinese taxi service for me, but got refused. The responder said that he could not recognize my boyfriend’s Canadian number. They were too busy and only available for local calls,” Yang explained.
The subway was not a good option for a foreigner with heavy luggage and zero knowledge about New York transportation system. Yang went to a taxi stand, where two cabs arrived and picked up two groups of passengers, leaving a long line of people who were expecting more cabs to come. In front of Yang was a man wearing a backpack with his head, shoulder, and back covered by thick snow. Her ears began to ache from the cold.
A mid-size car stopped by the taxi stand and a man with a hat came out of it. “Manhattan,” he yelled. Yang rushed to the vehicle with her trolley cases bumping behind her. She did not ask the price because all she cared about was to get a ride. It took less than a minute before the gypsy cab was full. Yang shared a ride with a couple and two middle-aged men. They did not talk much and just stared at the window during the ride. The streets were nearly empty, so it only took half an hour before they made it to Manhattan. One man and the couple got off first. The other man was planning to go to a bus station in Manhattan and take a bus to Brooklyn, but when the driver got to the bus stop, he found that bus service was suspended, so he stayed in the car. Yang arrived at her apartment around 6 p.m. The driver charged her $90, including a tip.
“You are not going to the airport, are you?” A passerby jokingly asked her as she waited with her trolley cases for her future roommate to come downstairs. Approximately 7,500 flights were cancelled nationwide from Monday to Wednesday due to the blizzard, and 1,100 were delayed, according to flight tracking website flightware.com.
“No, I’m not,” she replied.
Yang said she was learning new things each day since she came to New York. “I thought Walmart would be the place to go in New York if you need things for daily use.” She took an example, “I found, however, that the nearest Walmart from Manhattan is in New Jersey.”