I’ve always loved flying.
I remember sitting in those big cushy seats, all the passengers watching the same movie together like in a theater.
You might even have a whole row to yourself to stretch out. Airlines served food in cute little trays. Oh how I would love to have some of that overcooked “Beef Stroganoff” now.
Lately I’ve found airplane travel to be as predictable as predicting the weather. Today it’s more like riding in a Yugoslavian bus out in the countryside where everyone is packed in tight, elbow to elbow. People holding “support” pigs, hens, chickens, ducks in their laps as if they’re going to the marketplace to sell them.
Their lunches are wrapped in old newspaper with the headline, “THE WAR IS OVER” or used oily wax paper with tongue and salami sandwiches.
The recycled air is infused with odors of cheeses, tuna fish, curry, hot dogs, sardines.
“Honey, you vanta bite?”
I recently had to fly to Pittsburgh for work. It was a tricky mission involving close timing with connecting flights… in other words I was set up to fail.
The first leg I arrived on time.
One hour later… we were still on the tarmac… waiting, waiting for a gate to open up.
Were they not expecting us? Are we the odd ball relative who just shows up for Thanksgiving uninvited with a store bought pie?
Finally, the hatch opened up and with hope in our hearts everyone grabbed their bags, scattered, trying to make those connecting flights. I arrived at my gate just in time to see my plane backing away.
“I need to get to Pittsburgh.” I said to the agent.
“We will put you on the next flight that leaves at 4:00 and arrives at 10:30 tonight.” She said it so calmly, so caviler it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
My flight was supposed to arrive in Pittsburgh at 3:00.
“Hell no!” I said, “This is your fault, not mine. You know if you had held all these planes by 5 minutes this all could have been avoided.”
She looked stunned. The Emperor is naked!
“We have schedules to maintain. The planes must run on time.”
“We should rebel against this tyranny. Just remember what happened to the last country who made sure their transportation ran on time.”
Eleven hours later I arrived in Pittsburgh.
My week went by and now it was time for me to do the trip in reverse.
What could possible go wrong? The planes must run on time…until… there was an announcement.
“Passengers going to the Phoenix Airport your flight has been delayed 5 hours because we are waiting on a flight attendant.”
Wait a dog gone minute, they wouldn’t hold a plane for 5 minutes so we all could make our connections and now we have to wait hours for a flight attendant?
Did they not know we were flying a plane today?
“Excuse me but…”
“Yes, your flight will now arrive in Phoenix at 11:00 pm. If you have a connection to Burbank Airport you will have to spend the night and we will get you on the first flight out that arrives in Burbank at 11:00 tomorrow morning.
“Sorry you’ll need to go down to the ticket counter.”
Disgruntled, I made my way, traversing over endless moving walk ways, escalators and bumping down stairs until I finally arrived at the ticket counter.
“I can’t spend the night in Phoenix.”
“Sorry, but that is the solution.”
“What?!” I was starting feel there was going to be no way out of this nightmare.
“I have kids at home alone and tomorrow morning we leave for our family vacation to New York City at 10:00 in the morning on a nonrefundable flight. I cannot arrive at Burbank at 11:00 when I supposed to on a flight to New York at 10:00!”
“That’s really not my concern. We’re offering you a solution.”
“Spending the night is not a viable solution. This is not an act of God this is a management problem.” I retorted.
“I’m sorry miss but this is more of a you problem than a me problem.”
This can’t be right. I took a very deep, long breath, “Maybe you can help me wrap my head around this logic. So, you provide a service, correct? I, in good faith, bought that service to be provided. Similarly, I sell very expensive cookware. People buy the cookware in good faith that it is fully constructed, ready to use when they pull it out of the box. But let’s just say, the guy who puts the handles on the pots doesn’t’ show up for work that day. We still have a production schedule to maintain, so the handle-less pot goes in the box. You buy this pot in good faith and put it on your hot stove. You can still cook in the pot. It is a solution. But when you go to take this handle-less pot off the stove you singe your hands by wrapping them around this red hot pot. So logically that would be a you problem, not a me problem, right?”
Irony: noun – feigned ignorance designed to confound or provoke an antagonist.
She returned to her keyboard and started clicking. “No. No. Sorry no flights available.”
“Try San Diego, Ontario, Long Beach I don’t care anywhere in California.” A hopeless panic was setting in. Our first family vacation wasn’t going to happen.
“I’m sorry we have nothing. Try other airlines down there.”
The long corridor was deserted, just counters with people in uniforms idly standing by.
My secret truth was that I had gone through personal heartache during the past week and had held it all together. But this? This was more than I could bare. At that moment I felt like a 5-year-old child who had just spend 5 minutes too long at Disneyland. I burst into tears, “I JUST WANT TO GO HOME!” I sobbed.
A younger woman employee, her uniform starched looked at me horrified.
Dragging my bag behind me, like a Teddy Bear and wiping my face. I walked up to the Spirit Airlines ticket counter.
“No, I’m so sorry everything is gone for tonight.”
Then to the next, and the next and the next… my shoulders hunched lower and lower…down trodden. This is a disaster. What am I going to do now?
“Hello, hello miss miss…” The voice was faint, echoed at first as that younger woman in her starched uniform came running toward me down the long corridor, running as fast as she could, waving a piece of paper.
She stopped, out of breath, “A person just canceled their ticket to Dallas. There is a connection to Los Angeles Airport but it arrives at 2:00 in the morning. I have kids at home too, I understand.”
Zing! I lit up like a Christmas tree. “THANK YOU!”
“It leaves in 20 minutes. You have to go back through security.”
“I can make it.” I snatched that ticket and hugged her, turned and sprinted through the airport.
From the back of the line I looked at the TSA agent who had gone through my bag earlier and held out my tortilla press which had been the culprit. He looked at me oddly.
“I have a plane to catch in 20 minutes to get home to my kids, do you want this?” My face still streaked with mascara. He remembered me and took pity on my soul and ushered me through with old fashioned kindness, “Let’s get you through and on that plane.” He said. “Hey, hey,” He flagged down an airport employee in a golf cart. “This is a VIP and she needs to get to gate C16 fast.”
I hopped on and we zoomed through the crowded terminal.
When I landed at LAX that morning I kissed the ground.
It is with great hesitation that I post this now… because I’m getting ready to board another plane to Phoenix!
Live with waffletude!