Tag Archives: airplane

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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Filed under One WORD (Current Events)