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Virginian stranded at Tampa International Airport learns value of patience

Business traveler Peter van Aartrijk has been stranded in the Tampa Bay area since his flight to Washington was canceled Sunday. He has been at the airport every day since.

WILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

Business traveler Peter van Aartrijk has been stranded in the Tampa Bay area since his flight to Washington was canceled Sunday. He has been at the airport every day since.

TAMPA — Here's what being stranded at Tampa International Airport teaches a 51-year-old businessman:

Oatmeal from McDonald's is actually pretty good.

You can buy clean underwear and a laptop charger at Walmart.

Patience really is a virtue.

Peter van Aartrijk, a marketing company owner from Virginia, has been grounded five times since Sunday because of the blizzard that blanketed the Washington, D.C., area.

So he's working from a high-top table next to the Harley-Davidson gift shop at TIA — making calls, hammering out a budget, spending some time on Facebook.

With another snowstorm expected Tuesday night and early today, Aartrijk (pronounced Are-trike) isn't sure when he'll get home.

"The worst is the not knowing," he said. "That's always the worst, you know?"

• • •

Aartrijk arrived last Wednesday for a two-day conference and the weekend with his mother and mother-in-law in St. Petersburg.

He was supposed to fly home at 11 a.m. Sunday. By then the yard of his house in northern Virginia was covered in three feet of snow.

His flight was canceled.

He tried again Monday morning.

Canceled.

He decided to make the best of it, went to happy hour at Central Cigars in downtown St. Petersburg. Just then the airline called to tell him a seat had opened. But his rental car was locked in a parking garage that closed at 5 p.m.

The plane left without him.

Aartrijk showed up at TIA at 7 Tuesday morning ready with his luggage and sport coat for a 9 a.m. flight.

Grounded.

He got booked on an 11 a.m. flight.

Never mind.

• • •

Aartrijk headed back to his makeshift desk to plan a conference in Austin in October, trying to ignore bustling tourists and the airport intercom. At least he has a good excuse to skip his meetings, he joked.

"You work on the problems that you can, you stay as calm as you can, and sometimes you have to just simply wait."

With his flights scrubbed today, he's leaving at 7:20 a.m. Thursday.

Maybe.

Kim Wilmath can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3386.

Virginian stranded at Tampa International Airport learns value of patience 02/09/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 9, 2010 11:32pm]
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