The actuality: Morning flight and Metro trip went as planned, though if I'd only thought to check my work email via the iPad I could have caught Eric's message that he was ahead of me at the Metro station and waiting at Quizno's. Instead I hung around the upper plaza for 20 minutes while he sat in (air-conditioned) Quizno's, until the 10 AM rendevouz time when he came up and found me. 'S OK. We sat in the EPA lobby and planned our meeting strategy before meeting with the EPA at 11.
Meeting with EPA guys (ended up being 2 people on their side) went fairly well--we didn't get everything we'd really liked to have had (discussion was on sharing 'sensitive' data, and what we can do with it and how we have to protect it after they give it to us), and was over at noon when EPA Guy #1 had to go. Eric and I found a sandwich shop, grabbed one of the last 2 inside tables (A/C! It's July in Washington...) and discussed the meeting over lunch. Then it was back to the Metro, and Eric split off to go to the train station while I went to DCA.
It was shy of 2 PM even after I made the very long hike from where the Metro bridge comes in to the Airtran counter. (I turned the wrong way in the Metro station to make it the longest possible hike--last time I took the Metro to DCA I was flying out on the Delta shuttle, and Delta is right where the Metro comes in. AirTran is in the hinterland.) So, check the board, see an earlier flight (2:53, to arrive at 4:46), ask if my gov't fare ticket will change without a fee (yes), and even got an aisle seat. Excellent!
Better yet, when I complete the hinterland hike through Terminal C security and out to the actual gate, the plane is boarding and I can walk on. We push back on time and....go sit on the tarmac because a thunderstorm is in the area. Optimistic predictions relayed by the pilot are no good, and we sit on the plane while the rain pounds, the wind shakes the plane, and the thunder rolls overhead. Then the rain decreases a little, but the storm has moved south and no southbound traffic is being allowed to take off.
After an hour and a half or so (make it 4:30, or past the time for my original flight to depart) we go back to the gate for a potty break and maybe some refueling, then we quickly reload when it looks like we can take off. Push back, and....go sit on the tarmac while Traffic Control continues to study the line of thunderstorms. The potty break did let me strike up a conversation with someone in the gate area who informed me I was still better off on this flight than on my original, as it had mechanical problems in Atlanta and the plane still wasn't in Washington at that point.
We eventually took off at 5:35, and landed in Atlanta at 7:15. 12 hour gate-to-gate trip, just about on the dot.
Oh, and my original flight? Still hasn't landed in Atlanta--the status page says it left DCA at 8:20 and is due here at 10:20 PM. Guess I'm glad I caught the earlier plane despite the storms...