Tag Archives: airplane

The First Big Trip — Part One

The motivation to get us on our first plane ride with the twins was a wedding; a glorious wedding, as it turned out, one that happened to fall on the twins’ birthday.  And this wedding was a non-negotiable because it was the nuptials of one of my greatest friends of all time, and I was in it.  It’s always good to show up when you’re a bridesmaid.

I did my fair share of fingernail chewing about having two infants on a plane, but it wasn’t nearly the endeavor it could have been because my entire family was traveling with us.  They adore Amy and Brian too, so they were every bit as committed to getting there as we were.

Off we flew to Philadelphia (direct, of course.  There IS no other way to fly with babies.)

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Fun Twin Flying Fact: one cannot have two lap-babies in a row.  Not just on one side, but all six seats across.  So at any given moment, all seven of us had to ensure that we passed the babies forward and backward so as not to break this rule.  Believe me, the stewardesses caught us more than once when we weren’t paying attention and the babies were adjusted accordingly.

Shocking no one more than me and Mike, the twins were virtually silent on the plane.  Perfectly content, happy with the novelty of the new sights (and snacks).  They didn’t cry once.  It was some sort of air travel nirvana.

Once we arrived, we had the joy of introducing the babies to their extended family, some of whom they’d already met (thank you aunties and uncle for visiting!).  The most important introduction was to my grandpa, the husband of Arden Charlotte’s namesake.  I had been anticipating their meeting since the day they were born.  I’m very close with my grandpa, so him meeting them was enormously emotional for me — it was like introducing the babies to a piece of my heart.

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They also got to meet little Avery, the newest addition to the family, daughter of my cousins Amy and Joel.  She’s so precious, and her hair makes my children green with envy — I mean, Arden won’t even acknowledge her.

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We had so much fun with them all together.  We plunged them into the pool in little floaties, because well, how could we resist this?

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This was the twins’ first real swimming experience, and they were timid but grew to love it.  Arden’s swim trick (Mike always holds her in the air and says “Swim swim swim!” and she does a perfect breaststroke that you wouldn’t believe) translated beautifully to actual swimming.

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Feel free to stop me if you feel your heart giving out.

Since the babies cleared their first bite of cake at their birthday party the previous week, we felt it was only fair that they try the local specialty: a Dunkin Donut.  Dunkin Donuts are sacred terrority in my family, with multiple runs to DD’s being made for breakfast in each visit east.  They didn’t get a whole donut, just a bite or two each, but it was all that they dreamed, I’m sure of it.

Their favorite place in the house was the kitchen, rustling up Great Grandpa’s pots and pans.  They never get to be in the kitchen at home, so this was like a theme park.

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Mostly we just soaked up time with loved ones we don’t see often enough.  It’s so amazing to be thirty years old and realize your heart is still feeling new emotions — this trip afforded me the joy of sharing my children with the family I’ve treasured my entire life.  My cousin Allie, pictured below, being silly with Arden, is a perfect example.

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It’s a joy coupled with pain, I soon realized, because Henry and Arden don’t get to see their wonderful great-grandpa and great aunts and uncles nearly enough.  I would love so much for them to grow up seeing each other every week.

I mean, look at the joy in these faces.

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My generous aunt Beth threw a birthday party for the babies, and it was so adorable — the accessories were everything.

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Henry!  Your eyes.  I could faint.  Arden, your cheeks!  It’s too much.

*Side note: Henry’s hat had to be cut at the side to fit over his head.  Further proof it’s larger than the average one year old.  Don’t worry, it’s just holding your huge brain, Hank!

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I know.  I can’t talk about my hair here either.  All I can say is: humidity + growing out bangs = lethal.

If you’re just dazzled by their enthusiasm, it’s because it was about 8PM and their bedtime is 7PM.  They were, shall we say, less than agreeable.

But we partied on!

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You’d think we’d just told them their cupcakes were made of quinoa and stuffed with spinach.  Or maybe they misunderstood what birthdays are and they think people arrive with packages to take your toys away?

We had some deja vu with the cake rejection here too.

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Henry: “Don’t you people learn?”

Arden: “No means no.”

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After several relaxing days spent with the family, we headed off to Lancaster for the wedding of the year.  Wait until you see this gorgeous couple and their wedding locale.  Oh, and Henry in a suit and Arden in a Parisian dress.  I can hear your toe tapping so I’ll get right on that.

Part Two coming soon!

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Filed under One WORD (Current Events)

To Pisa, One Way or Another

As our plane touched down at JFK a few weeks ago on our way to Italy, I was excited that our first leg of the journey was over, and I was about to see Amy and Brian.  We had coordinated our flights brilliantly, with them joining us at JFK from Philly to take the flight to Pisa.

I turned on my phone to text her that we had landed, and instead saw a text that read, “We’re not coming to JFK.  Our flight was cancelled.”

I showed Mike the text and rolled my eyes.  “She should know me enough to know I hate these types of jokes.  They’re not funny.  I’m not laid-back enough to think these jokes are funny.”

Another message popped through, this time from Brian, showing a picture of Amy apparently crying.

“Sheesh,” I said, “they really like to take these practical jokes all the way, don’t they?”

To put an end to this comedy hour, I called Amy.

“Ha,” I said when she picked up. “Ha. Ha.”

“I’m not joking,” she said with a meekness that could only come from crushing disappointment.  “Our flight is canceled so we’re not flying with you.  We are now booked on a flight to Paris, getting into Pisa about the same time you are.”

I looked at Mike with my hand over my mouth.  I was so shocked and sad I didn’t know what to say.  We discussed how we were both completely deflated from the burst bubble of flying to Europe together, and slightly anxious about having to find each other on the other side.

I consoled her and told her this was the most infuriating cancellation, but we both agreed there wasn’t anything to do but maybe drown our sorrows in a few brewskies.

The rest of the gang was getting ready to deplane so I did the awkward cross-aisle-mouth-words-and-half-speak to let them know Amy and Brian would not be on our flight.  They all sagged in disappointment as well, but said, hey, it’s not like they’re not coming on the trip at all — get a grip!

So we did — we had some lunch and drank a couple of beers to pass the five-hour layover.  Kelly and I led Erin and Sam in a brief barre workout along a terminal wall that had handrails.  We boarded our flight, took melatonin/Ambien/red wine to help us sleep, and eight hours later we landed in Pisa.

While the rest of the group went to retrieve our tiny toy rental cars, Kelly and I waited for our diverted travelers to arrive.  About 45 minutes later I got a text from Brian that only said, “We need address.  No bags.”

“Unbelievable,” I said to Kelly, while also noting in my head that responding to his text would cost me fifty cents.  Rather than replying we tried to find the baggage service area, and instead found a jail.

“Oh my gosh, that’s Bri!” I yelled when we saw him.  He couldn’t hear us; he was inside the little prison.  We saw his head through a window that looked like a teller window, with double-pane glass and a tiny open slot for paper and exchanging words.  The door to the room was a cylinder, which couldn’t be rotated from the outside.  Amy looked over at me with a mix of helplessness and rage as she tried to communicate with the baggage lady.

I slipped a piece of paper with the villa address on it under the window to Brian who handed it to the woman.  She asked a series of nonsensical questions like “Is this a real address?” and “What is the cell phone number of the owner?”  Amy gritted her teeth and said, “You don’t need the cell phone number of the owner of the house.  You need MY cell phone number and I’ve already given it to you.”  Kelly and I astutely observed that this was not going well.

When they were finally released from San Quentin, they came barreling out of the room with a level of frustration only known by those who have had a canceled flight and lost luggage in a foreign country.

It occurred to me then how laughable my original vision was of Kelly meeting Amy and Brian — everyone at JFK cheerfully meeting for a fabulous flight to Italy!  Instead, Amy and Brian were yanked around, luggage-less, and anything but excited.  Kelly would later admit to Brian and Amy that she was slightly afraid, given the thundercloud of anger hanging over their heads, but of course, who could blame them?

This is also why no one minded in the least when, an hour later, we were all standing outside of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Brian, Amy and Mike looked for ten minutes and then said, “People, we need to eat.  Peace.”  We all said please, do whatever you want, you deserve an award, please have a drink on me, etc.

However, my mom, Erin, Sam, Aaron and Kelly were not quite ready to leave.  We walked up to the Duomo and decided to go inside (the shade from the 95 degree heat was motivation enough).  It was stunningly beautiful, and we spent about fifteen minutes exploring the interior.

The building across from it was the Baptistry of St John, and we entered and were instantly somewhat underwhelmed.  It was still large and beautiful, and deeply impressive for a building completed in 1363, but it was very plain, with little adornment of any kind.

There were signs for silence throughout the circular room, and Erin nudged us that the ticket-taker was walking into the room, presumably to shush us.  He entered and gave a “shhhhh” that was practically deafening, and then he mounted the baptismal font to stand in front of everyone.  We had no idea what he was doing, and then without warning his voice rang out in a clear, deep tenor.

“Ooooooooooooooooooooooooh, ooooooooooooh, oooooooooooooooooooooooooh,” he sang, going deeper with each note.  He held each note about three seconds, then would change to a different key.  The most incredible thing happened: his voice never stopped.  He was showcasing the baptistry’s acoustics in an astonishing way — as he sang, each note lasted far longer than he held it, building on one another until it sounded as though a hundred men were singing around us.  It was spellbinding.

Kelly looked at me with eyes as wide as the font, and mouthed “I have goosebumps.”  I did too, so I gripped her arm as we listened together.  I closed my eyes to amplify the sound, which so filled the room it was as if we could see the music.

Just as simply as he entered the room, the man exited it.  Everyone stood there in stunned silence, unable to move.  Finally we burst outside and exchanged exclamations about what we’d just heard.

When we reunited with Mike, Amy and Brian back at the car, they were as refreshed as we were — the lunch and beer had treated them well.  We felt like we had been traveling for days, and we had — two plane rides and a tourist stop and we were feeling the wear and tear.  We all agreed we couldn’t picture anything better than getting to the villa for a swim, so we piled in the car and headed on our way.

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Filed under UpWORD (Beauty)

“Do You Think I’ll Need This Hoodie?”

I find it deeply ironic that my favorite activity in the world is preceded by my least favorite activity in the world. 

They are traveling and packing, respectively.

Nothing makes me happier than having a trip to plan for, anticipate, fantasize about and eventually experience.  But nothing fills me with more panic-stricken dread than packing for such an adventure.

As a well-documented commitment-phobe, packing is really my ultimate test of will.  We’re not just talking about a few decisions that have minor consequences; we’re talking about dozens of decisions that have the potential for dire consequences.

How many outfits is realistic for a two-week trip?  What is the likelihood I’ll need high heels?  The weather calls for 80 degree days, but what if it’s unseasonably chilly and I don’t bring a jacket and an entire evening is ruined?   This is the type of self-inflicted battery I endure.

It’s not all fashion-related, either.  It’s equally hard for me to choose which pajamas to bring as it is actual clothes.  I would never pack impractical shoes for a trip that involves lots of walking.  I am just as concerned with comfort as I am style.  

For me, packing begins days, sometimes weeks in advance of departure.  I make a master checklist, see what items I need to purchase (perfect — more decisions!), and begin mentally cataloguing my wardrobe.  Three days before, I start laundry and restrict myself from wearing any of the clean items so I can save them for the trip.  Two days before, I lay everything out on the bed, staring, moving, replacing, rejecting each item until I feel somewhat assured that the earth is not going to fall off its axis.

Mike packs in ten minutes or less, if you didn’t assume that already.

While living with roommates during and after college, they knew to come running at pack time, armed with snacks and wine and light-hearted music to get me through.  They’d hold up items from my closet and say “yes or no?” and I only had a few seconds to answer or they’d make the choice for me.  This worked remarkably well, apart from the hives it caused.

Nothing comforts me like being able to explain my neurosis to a willing party, in the hope that that person will agree with my sound logic or tell me I’ve lost my mind while stuffing my oversized hat back into its hatbox.

“But what if we have dinner out?  And it’s cold?  And I’m in a dress so I’ll need something with length?”

“Abby, you are going to Pennsylvania.  In August.  You will not need your wool trench coat.”

As it turns out, I’m not the only one fit for a straight jacket when it comes to packing.  One of my best gal pals, Jamie, recently wrote a blog post on her twin sister, Jen’s, new blog.  It’s all about packing, and it’s fantastic.  Every word of it made me feel like less of an insane person.  Jamie and Jen were in town last weekend and we swapped sob stories of packing gone wrong.  We are all recovering overpackers.

I have to boast that my personal best occurred in May of 2011.  Mike and I traveled to Europe for twelve days and we carried on.  Yes, every piece of clothing and every shoe and accessory were combined with Mike’s items into four small bags fit for overhead bin and under-seat stowing.  This, you can imagine, was a colossal feat that had me sweating all the way to the airport, convinced I’d forgotten everything essential.

The real conversion moment happened upon our return home.   As I unpacked, I reached into the bottom of my bag and realized there were two dresses I forgot to wear.   I was struck dumb by the fact that my micro-packing not only worked, it worked so well that I didn’t even miss my extra clothes.  This, my friends, was life-altering progress.

However, for the trip to Italy we are taking in two days, I will be checking a bag (it’s free…hello).  There is only one layover, and it’s for five hours, so I’m counting on the airline’s ability to move my bag correctly in that amount of time.

So for the next 36 hours, the pressure is on.  My personal Olympic event is underway, and I’m limbering up.  I’ve got my snacks, wine, music and my decision-making game face on.  I’m not aspiring to medal, but I am hoping to finish in one piece (which reminds me: swimsuits…two piece or one? Both? Oh my word…).

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Tragedy or Rescue?

Last week I flew to Bethlehem, PA for my grandma’s memorial service (I will post about that when I’m finished writing it).  Oddly enough, both flights were easy and on time, which I can’t say has happened often in recent memory.  Nice work, Delta.

The sticky widget was the connection.  The layover in Detroit was only 30 minutes.  Perhaps they were just being kind by moving me out of Detroit as quickly as humanly possible.  If that was their intention, then I tip my hat to them.

For the flight out of Seattle, I was seated next to an outspoken woman in her sixties, and an outspoken woman in her thirties.   They had managed to bond in the ten seconds before my arrival and welcomed me into their sisterhood, even though I usually make a point of ignoring all people on planes.

They had just switched seats out of mutual preference, and when I took my seat in the middle (imagine, no one wanting to trade my seat) they were quick to cheerily ask each other and me, “Which would you rather be?  The person who is inconvenienced, or the person who is inconveniencing others?  I’d rather be inconvenienced.  Definitely!”  They each nodded in agreement, affirming their mutual self-sacrifice.

What is this, I asked myself, Girl Scout tryouts?

Before I could respond, the older lady turned to me and said the usual, “Where are you traveling?”  After I replied, like clockwork, she exclaimed, “Me too!”

Fantastic.

“Weren’t you thrilled by the fares?  I mean, what a steal.  Isn’t Delta the absolute best?” she inquired further.

Maybe it’s just me, but one does not typically compare airfare once airfare has been purchased, because most people understand that ticket prices fluctuate by the hour, and one is sure to either feel terrible about her own price or make someone else feel terrible about their price.  This woman did not know this.

“Actually,” I replied (because why not make her feel a little remorse for starting this conversation?) “I am traveling for a funeral, so I had to purchase my ticket just last night, and I paid three times as much as you.”

“Oh!” she gasped.  “Oh I’m sorry.  Well did you at least take advantage of Delta’s fantastic bereavement program?”

Again, why ask this question when the opportunity for me to take advantage of it has already passed?  What could possibly be gained?

“Um no, I’m afraid not,” I replied.  “I called another airline who said they don’t offer those types of discounts, so I didn’t bother calling for Delta’s.”

“Oh that’s such a shame, because they do.  They do!” she said.

I reached for my People magazine.

Four hours later we were about to land, and she turned to me and said, “We only have thirty minutes to make it to our gate, and I’ve already checked the map of the Detroit airport and it’s going to be quite a haul.  So we’re really going to have to make a run for it.”

We?  Did I fall unconscious at some point during the flight and say in my sleep that I needed a travel partner?  I smiled sweetly and agreed that it would be close.  As soon as the plane landed, she barked at me to get my bags, and then we filed out of the plane.  I didn’t see her for a moment, and thought I’d be able to navigate the airport in peace, when I looked ahead and saw her up the galley waiting for me.

The walk that followed was ten different kinds of awkward.  Since she set the standard by waiting for me, I had no choice but to stick with her the rest of the journey.   And it was a journey.  Long walk, moving walkway, escalator, air tram, escalator, moving walkway, escalator.

At every escalator or moving walkway, we’d do this horrifically awkward shuffle of not knowing whether we should get on side-by-side and openly acknowledge each other, or whether we should split up and each take our own, pretending we were not really together.  Please don’t forget that in this whole “traveling companion” exchange we had not even learned each other’s names.

To add to the unbearable awkwardness, we had to keep up this fake I’m-waiting-for-you-but-I’m-acting-like-I’m-not charade.  She’d fall behind, and I’d walk like a sloth until she caught up.  We had to navigate the tram system together, with each of us telling the other where we thought we should get off and where it would lead.

One doesn’t realize how intimate these minute traveling decisions are until one has to perform them with a stranger.  We’re actually pretty vulnerable when we’re in an unfamiliar place, and suggesting the wrong route or acting more calm than you feel is something we usually only share with those in our inner circles.

After about a ten minute walk/ride/sprint through the Detroit airport, we approached the last escalator.  After doing what was by now our practiced dance of choosing which escalator to ride, we chose separate ones.  We couldn’t see the top of the staircases, and there was only one major sign that said the escalators lead to our B gates.

All of a sudden, the few men in front of me started getting shorter.  That’s weird, I thought.  Are they all bending down…no, instantly I realized my escalator ride was ending much too soon.

I looked over to my traveling companion and she was already ten feet above me.  She saw what was happening too, and shouted, “I’ll turn around!  I’ll come back down for you!”

Suddenly all of our faking and subtlety and aloof attitudes were proven to be the lie that they were, and I was shouting back, “No!  You go!  I’ll find my way!  It’ll be OK!”  Desperately, she yelled in response, “I’ll hold the plane for you!”

At this point everyone around us knew for sure that I was an absolute idiot.  Who doesn’t realize the escalator only goes two floors?  To which I might reply, how often does this happen?  When on earth are two escalators literally side-by-side, and one stops halfway up?

Immediately it was quiet and I was left standing in a much smaller space than the one I was sure my friend was walking onto, and I searched to no avail for a down escalator.  I found an elevator and it opened to reveal several handicapped people.  I felt like an absolute jerk as I interrupted their ride for my one floor gain.

As I exited the elevator and walked toward my gate, I realized my view of my seatmate hand changed.  I couldn’t believe a stranger would embarrass herself by shouting in a public place, all for my comfort.  Sure, she probably knew that I could find my way to the gate alone, but she acknowledged that together we’d gone ninety percent of the way there, and she didn’t want to let me walk that last ten percent alone.

After I arrived at the gate with minutes to spare, she found me and said, “You made it!  Terrific.  I’m going to go get a snack.”

And that was that.  Our journey had ended.  I sighed with relief that she probably wouldn’t be sitting next to me on the ride to Bethlehem.  We would no longer have to overcome Lewis and Clark-esque challenges.  I also realized, a little sadly, that no one would be by my side the rest of the way.

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Filed under AwkWORD (Humor)

Switching Seats

As Mike and I boarded our plane for Cabo two weeks ago, we prepared ourselves for the battle to sit together.

I was 23A and he was 25F.  We thought that since neither of us was a middle seat, we had a pretty strong chance of someone trading.

When I arrived at my seat, however, it was already filled.  With a four-year-old.

I politely told the gentleman next to the boy that I was 23A.  He looked up at me with the most pleading eyes I’d seen since Mike last saw a puppy.

“Would you mind sitting across the aisle next to my wife?” he asks.  “We’re trying to seat the family together.”

That’s when I notice a six-year-old boy next to the four-year-old, and across the aisle a smiling woman and a two-year-old girl next to…my new empty seat.

“Sure!” I reply quickly.  “I totally understand.  In fact, we were trying to switch too.”  I said “were” because of course now I had zero chance of anyone trading with me to sit in day care.

Mike leans over to me and says, “Who cares? I’m going to ask somebody to switch you anyway.”

I exchange hello’s with the wife next to me, and five minutes later from behind me I hear, “BABE.  IT’S NOT GOING TO WORK.”

I look back to Mike’s row where two grim-faced elderly people made it perfectly clear that they had no intention of joining my row of potential screamers.  I decide to make the best of it.

The husband turns to me and asks if this is our first time to Cabo, and I tell him no, my husband has been many times.  His mouth falls open.

“Your husband?!”  he replies.  “Oh my gosh you must be newlyweds!  You look so young!”

“Actually we’re not,” I answer, because I get this reaction all the time.  “We’ve been married for three years, and I’m 26 years old.”

His whole demeanor changes.  “That’s fantastic!  We’ve been married five years and we come here every year!”

I look at the three children surrounding them and realize this couple has had three children in five years.  My mind reels.

“Oh and we’re pregnant so we have one more coming!” he adds.

Suddenly I felt the need to defend our lack of children.  This also happens often.

“Oh wow!  That’s amazing,” I tell them.  “We don’t have any kids yet…we’re just having too much fun!  I mean, once you have kids you can’t just jet off to Cabo…or…um…” I stop myself mid-sentence because jetting off to Cabo is exactly what they are doing — with 3.5 children.

The wife smiles at me and leans in to give sister-to-sister advice.  Suddenly I feel as if we’ve been friends for a decade and we’re discussing family matters over margaritas.

“You know what?” she says.  “Your kids are the ones joining your family.  You didn’t join theirs.  Once you have them, you have to keep living the way you want to, and they just come along for the ride.  You don’t suddenly lock yourself in your home and orbit around your kids.  Believe me, we are still loving our lives.”

I wanted to kiss her.  Or hug her very hard.  Her words were like a happy birthday present from Jesus straight to me.

I don’t discuss it often, but one of my biggest fears about having children is that my life will turn into a scene from The Shawshank Redemption — starring me as the prisoner.  I’ve just met too many moms who complain about how fun their life used to be.  But meeting this woman punched that notion out of my mind.  She’s right; Mike and I are going to continue to live our lives even if little people are in them.

…though it may be slightly more complicated; after all, they were carting approximately 57 pieces of luggage.

And then it dawned on me: my sister-in-love was doing the exact same thing.  She was meeting us in Cabo with her three kids.  She didn’t have to stay at home in single-digit temperatures to appease her kids; she packed her bikini and got on the plane.

The point was really driven home with her next question.

“And how long are you guys in Cabo?” she asked.

“A week,” I replied.  “And you?”

“Three weeks!”

Blink.  Blink blink.  You have to be kidding me.  This woman isn’t just my hero, she is officially my idol.

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Filed under The WORD (Faith)

My Homeland Security

After handing the gate agent our boarding passes at LAX, Mike and I headed down the little gangway for the plane.  There were still 50 people ahead of us, so we had to wait in the tunnel until the line moved along.  We were small talking, the kind of talk when you know everyone around you is listening to your every word.  All of a sudden, the gangway jolted.

Jolting is not a preferred feeling when boarding an aircraft, particularly when it’s a mere 48 hours after a near-major jolting over the Atlantic.

We gave each other a worried look, and then looked at the other passengers who were just as bewildered as we were.  One midde-aged Chinese-American woman turned around to face us.

“Did you feel that?” she asked, somewhat panicked.  “I felt that!  I saw the plane move too!”

“Yes, what was that?  Why did this tunnel just move?” I asked in reply.  “Like we really need this sort of alarm after the scare on Friday.”

Apparently I thought it would be smart to remind everyone of the danger we were surely encountering.  I’m sensitive like that.

Neither Mike nor I gave much thought to flying despite the thwarted Christmas day terrorist attack.  We both have a very practical, somewhat unspoken agreement that we won’t live in fear of the things we can’t control.  Do I have control over the odds that I will board the same plane as a terrorist?  No;  I am too busy controlling the hyper-increased security check to make sure none of my orafices are searched.

It was all the more surprising then that the lady in front of us told us she DID have control over the terrorists.

She replied to my statement, “They’re not taking ME down.  We fight back,” she said assuredly.  “If there is a terrorist on this plane there is no way he would get away with his plans.”

Suddenly I felt a surge of love for this woman, this small person who was in no way small, who represented the collective anger and strength the US has endured the last eight years.  Here she was, knowing in all certainty that no person hell-bent on hurting her would ever succeed in doing so.  She was ready to give her life to prove a point.  She would go down fighting.

Her “FEAR NOT!” stance didn’t look anything like our “fear not” stance.  We choose to assume that what will happen will happen, and we’ll deal with it as it comes.  This lady has a battle plan laid out, practically daring a radical to be assigned to the seat next to her so she can show him what’s what.  That is courage.

This lady is one reason why I board planes without trepidation.  I know there are hundreds of thousands of people like her, people who would never sit in fear while an extremist lights a fuse in front of them.  Just last Friday passengers saw smoke and pounced on the offender before any harm could occur.  Why?  They’re angry.  They refused to be treated like sheep hunted by wolves.

Me?  I’d like to believe that I would leap from my seat and attack a terrorist with whatever I could get my hands on, and if nothing, then just my bare hands.  But when I’m honest, when I really picture a large man yelling at me in a foreign language with explosives in his hands, I hesistate.  I fear.  I see a more accurate picture of pulling myself under a seat so I can just pray or escape being shot.

And that’s not a pretty picture.

After all, since I know my soul lives eternally, why do I fear death?  I considered this for some time, and realized that it’s not death that I fear.  It’s much more that I love my life.  I love my husband and family, and I would hate to see this rich adventure come to an end so soon.

I never learned where the jolting came from, and the flight proceeded smoothly.  I was able to obsess over my glossy People magazine without worrying about my safety, and that’s exactly how every flight should be.  But unlike every other flight I’ve taken, this one reminded me of my God-given right to demonstrate courage.  Thankfully, I didn’t have to; we made it home safely.  But that initial shake-up did serve a purpose — it jolted me awake.

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Etiquette for Awkward Situations — Vol 3: On a Plane

Today I board a flight to LA toting both my carry-on luggage and hopefully, my best behavior.  I always brace for the impact of encountering airline passengers; when people are treated like cattle, they can hardly be blamed for reacting like baboons.  Here, rules of engagement for the most ruthless form of travel.

Pre-flight
Awkward Situation: Despite the airline calling for people to board by seat rows, 150 people are clustered around the gate, jockeying to get to the front.  You seem only to have two options:  shove your body through the masses like a teenager at a Jonas Brothers concert, or literally be the last person to board (forfeiting your access to overhead bin real estate).

Solution: Follow traditional traffic rules.  My brother-in-law, Phil, (who will be traveling with us tonight) works at Swerve, a driving instruction company.  He says most people on the road should already know the common-courtesy rule of “Each one lets one.”  The same applies here.  As you move like so much human sand through the hour glass, let one person go in front of you and then someone else lets you in.  We hope.

Takeoff
Awkward Situation:
You are finally seated and prepared for takeoff, when the person next to you reveals the undeniable fact that they are a Chatty Cathy.  Your eyes glaze over at the prospect of speaking for two hours with a total stranger whom you will never see again in your life.

Solution: Engage in minimal small talk until takeoff, wherein you pull a book from your bag and show it to the Cathy, saying kindly, “Have you heard of this author?  She’s supposed to be fantastic.  I’ll let you know how it is!”  And then promptly open it.

Beverage Cart
Awkward Situation: It’s your first official day of “Christmas break” and you and your friends are eager for a little yule-tide cheer — in the form of a beer.  Or wine.  Or cocktail.

Solution: Plane rides are not the time to party-hardy.  When you’re stuck in a stationary position and can’t even converse with more than the two people next to you, you’re not in a place to have too good of a time.  Just have one drink and pay with cash.  Order quietly so you’re not obnoxious.  Don’t ask twenty questions to see what brands they carry — check ahead of time by looking in the airline guide in the pocket in front of you.  Then raise a glass and cheers to a safe flight.

Switching Seats
Awkward Situation: The person next to you asks if you would please switch seats with their spouse so they can sit together — but said spouse is 15 rows behind you and in a middle seat.

Solution: If you can swing it for a short flight, consider it your good deed of the week and say you’d be happy to help.  If you are already sitting with your own spouse, kindly explain that you understand their situation but you would like to stay with your traveling companion.  Also, even if you aren’t traveling with someone, you’re under no obligation to move seats.

Bathroom Break
Awkward Situation: You’re practically bursting at the seams after four diet Sprites and two hours of resisting the urge to visit the dreaded airline bath-closet (how could we call that a room with a straight face?).  But there are three people already clustered around the stewardess area waiting their turn.

Solution: It depends on your seat.  If you’re middle or window, get up as soon as possible to expand the amount of time between disruptions of your seat mates.  If you’re aisle, wait until there is only one person or no line at all before hopping up.  Also, keep in mind that the people in the unfortunate seating of the last few rows of the airplane shouldn’t have to stare at your backside that hovers directly in their faces as you wait for the bath-closet.

Warm thanks to those of you who sent in great etiquette conundrums.  For those of you who have yet to inquire, feel free to ask about your awkward situation at wordsbecomeone@gmail.com.

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Filed under Good WORD (Etiquette)