Yesterday, at 3 pm, I left for the airport.
Armed with my glittery Rollie suitcase, my Vera weekender, and a gallon sized Ziploc bag filled with almonds, dried apricots, corn nuts, frozen grapes, two turkey roll ups, and an empty water bottles awaiting filling.
I parked my car at a friend’s house, transferred my belongings into her trunk, gave her my lettuce and some fruit, (it would just go bad in my fridge) hopped in and was at the airport in no time, though it was lightly raining and very, very breezy.
Having checked with the airline earlier by phone, I knew my flight was already delayed by two hours, but, I was advised not to come any later than originally scheduled because it was likely to take off on time, should the weather change. By the time I made it to security, the sun was shining bright, as I took note of my gorgeous view and snapped a photo of the plane just to my side as I awaited my turn and I marveled at how beautiful it was outside.
The line for security was manageable. I removed my sneakers and zip front hoodie, and placed it in a bin. I placed my two bags on the belt next to it, and then took an additional bin for my iPad, phone, and passport. I was advised to grab another bin for my small quart size bag of liquids, and snack bag. I joked with the TSA agent that I was willing to share, she smiled, and the scanning continued, uneventfully. I walked through, collected my belongings, put on my shoes, and headed on my way to gate 16A.
When I arrived to my area, there was a very long line for the ladies room, which I got on immediately….”always try”, I thought to myself….having heard this, and said this parentally, in turn, for years.
I then made my way to my gate, where two other flights were posted as delayed but expected to arrive and depart prior to mine. I asked the attendant at the desk, and was informed that my flight was still two hours delayed, coming from Orlando, and they would post this and an update, after the other flights departed. I looked around…very few seats available, but I found one, and luckily, right next to an outlet for my phone charger.
I settled in, grabbed my phone and charger, and a snack, got comfy, and waited.
The more I looked around, the more I realized the abundance of others awaiting their flights. I glanced at my watch, and knew that I already had two additional hours ahead of me. I listened as numerous cancellations were announced over the PA system. The guy next to me asked which of the two flights listed I was ticketed for, and when my response was neither, he told me he was on standby for either, and was hopeful for the first one. We spent the next couple of hours chatting, sharing our plans for each of our trips…him, meeting a friend and cousin for a few fun days in Miami, and me, checking on my parents and cousin…mom recovering from several crazy months and a recent procedure, and my cousin, in a cast, recovering from surgery.
There were numerous announcements further delaying each of his possible flights, and nothing regarding mine. After a couple of hours more, he checked in, and was bumped, as clearly noted by his thumbs down gesture to me from the desk. By now, I was really rooting for him. The first flight, now 6 hours delayed, came and went. He settled back in next to me, and advised me to check regarding my own flight; Nothing had changed, but I was becoming Leary.
There were children running around, tiring themselves, and I was pretty impressed with how cool most of these people were who had already been waiting for hours. People shared outlets and even chargers, and moved belongings and seats for other travelers, with the exception of one older, barefoot woman, who had to stretch out across three seats. (There’s always one in the crowd, and you KNOW She’ll be on my flight because you just know…)
Nonetheless, “Will” and I formally introduce ourselves, knowing we will now be spending even more time together. We marvel at this “seat needy” woman, share snacks, and pass the time. Finally, an announcement is made that my flight is further delayed, and they’re awaiting news as to what gate we will probably be moved to because of the high winds and limitations of airspace to depart and land. I’m just hopeful that I’m still flying and won’t have to go through security yet again. I have my doubts; I’ve seen this happen before, and then, in the end, the flight gets cancelled. Fingers crossed, that this is not the case, and I will fly and land safely way before my 82 year old father has to pick me up at some ridiculous hour. I know he’s keeping in touch with the airline, having forewarned him about the high winds. At this point, i won’t arrive before midnight, and I’ve already lost the entire day.
Overhead, they announce the other flight is also further delayed, having been rerouted to AC to refuel, which is really silly, but, given the scenario, that “fuel and go” adds another hour delay to Will’s hopeful flight. They also mention that they’ve put out water bottles and snacks for us, and apologize yet again. Everyone grabs snacks; Will brings back choices for both of us, and I swear that Phil Donahue is sitting across from us, but Will has no idea whom that is, and there’s so many people using the wifi, that I can’t show him a pic, or even verify if Phil is still alive. I worry about how Marlo Thomas is doing without him, and then chuckle out loud. After an hour of glancing his way, I just ask him if anyone’s ever told him that he looks like Phil Donahue, and he grins, but tells me no, and then smiles again. (I’ve GOT to get on that wifi!) it HAS to be him!
And then, after hours and hours, we get the news…my flight is taxiing to the gate, and will leave in the next 45 minutes once they clean, refuel, restock, and board us. There are applause, and I bee line for the ladies room to avoid the rush once on the plane. I return, collect the rest of my things and stand by. My flight is JUST now being put up on the board at the original gate. It takes longer than expected, and boarding is slow, but we do finally begin boarding.
Will requests a hug goodbye, as we’ve now spent 7 hours together, and we do so, wish each other safe flights and good trips, and I head for the line for boarding.
It seems as if everyone has a reason for priority boarding, as does the “seat needy woman” who manages to quickly cruise her way forward when those who are disabled or need extra time are asked to slowly, make their way forward….#nojudgement.
The attendants thank me for my patience, and I, in turn, thank them for theirs, and they are stunned and grateful. Hey, they don’t make the decisions, they just deliver the news.
I make my way onto the plane…people take their time stowing their belongings, but are actually helping each other. Having just recently seen “Come from away” on Broadway, I wonder how many of them have as well. It’s all about the kindness of strangers, and the planes that were welcomed to Newfoundland, to Gander, specifically, when the air zone was cleared during 9/11 and all flights were grounded. Oddly enough, later on, I spy a commercial for just that Broadway show on another passenger’s inflight screen.
I’m proud of my fellow travelers, and feel a strange camaraderie and kinship with them for some odd reason that I can’t put my finger on, but I’m MORE than ready to go. I buckle myself into the middle seat (of course, and it’s a completely packed flight) and the older woman to my right, whispering on her phone begins sobbing. I’m not really sure why, or what to do, but I find my packet of tissues (always the therapist/support supervisor) and hand it to her. She takes it, continues to talk quietly, dabs her eyes, and hangs up. She thanks me profusely, and gives me the remainder of the packet. I hand her one more, just in case, and she smiles. She says nothing throughout the remainder of the flight.
The older gentleman to my left settles in next to me and next to his wife across the aisle, and then we hear the PA crackle.
We are welcomed aboard by Zach, a very young flight attendant, maybe 21?….maybe…. 18?….who introduces the flight crew, who all appear to be old enough to have parented him. He’s excited to have us aboard this plane, which he refers to as “the big blueberry”.
He apologizes again and again for the multiple delays, cancellations, and says that he feels solely responsible and will do what he can to allow us to rest, regroup, and safely arrive at our destination. I realize then, that our captain, Brooke, is a female, and with the exception of one flight attendant, the rest of them are all males, and I’m thinking how cool this flight is. Again, I’m proud, but now, proud of the flight crew too.
I can’t help but think that this is a great combination of people and marvel at where I now am, and where I was not.
But, it gets even better. They truly have fun through the safety presentation, immediately offer free movies on 3 or 4 channels, and pass out water bottles and snacks as soon as we are sky-bound. Naturally, only our 3 screens don’t work, but I am content watching Eat, Pray, Love on my iPod classic, which was my initial plan anyway, but they offer the three of us some kind of voucher by email, and complimentary wine. (Perfect!)
More apologies, limited turbulence, wine, water, cranberry juice, pop corners (my new favorite snack) and Julia Roberts on a 3 inch screen, living my adventure.
The plane full of people settles down in the night sky, and then Zach comes by to check on each and EVERY one of us, reintroducing himself, shaking our hands, and apologizing again, and asking if there’s anything at all that could make us more comfortable. I’m really fine…no….good, and I’m grateful. This young (very young) man, who clearly is challenged by, and working VERY hard on his social skills, is a pure delight, and really feels badly. He tells me how upset he is that things like this ruin people’s plans and this airline really strives to create just the opposite. I thank him for his attention to detail and intention, and he thanks me for chatting with him, before he moves on to the next row of people. He’s authentic with every person he chats with. This clearly isn’t protocol, but rather, personality. I’m so glad the airline chose him, and clearly, because of his heart, and my faith is restored in big business.
After three hours, we begin our dissent, and he apologizes for waking us, but needs to be sure we are safe and he knows we’ve all had a long day, want our bags, connections, and easy access to exits. Our landing is effortless, and Zach leaves us with a proverb. He says it’s “his thing” that he likes to do at the end of every flight, and then reads something right out of the end of one of my yoga classes. The other flight attendants seem to be listening as well for his words of wisdom, and nod along in affirmation when he is done. The woman on my right is astonished and says she will never fly any of the other major carriers again, who could care less when she’s been inconvenienced, and her faith in humanity has been restored on numerous levels after this flight, how it was handled, and, specifically, this in-flight crew.
No one rushes for the exit. Again, everyone is helping others retrieve their belongings from the overhead compartments, women are discussing chivalry and heart, and I realize, that it’s not just me that feels this camaraderie. We all exchange niceties, allow each other to pass, and head down the aisle to leave the plane. The last person I see as I leave, of course, is Zach. Proud, content, beaming, as he’s accomplished his mission to make us comfortable, and get us to our destination, as if he, single handedly, guided the plane. He looks like he’s barely old enough to ride a bike, but he’s clearly meant for this job, and I make a mental note to email the airline and let them know. He wishes me a nice night, and now, after almost 11 hours, it’s around 1:30 am, and I roll through the deserted airport, having safely made it to my destination. I make my way through the airport, down two levels, and toward the exit, and there’s my mom, super excited that I’ve arrived, and acting like I’m “right on time”, and we embrace, and head to the curb where my dad awaits, and is beaming with contentment. He asks how my flight was, and I tell him it was really wonderful, and he mentions how amazed he was that I even got off the ground. I agree, and then mention a bit about my flight. They are both as amazed as I am. I am here, safe and sound, with both of my parents, and have not just flown the friendly skies, but have been lifted higher than I thought possible after such a long haul. It’s odd, but I feel like I’ve truly arrived…and right on time.