I flew today. For 2 hours I surrendered myself to the airline, read my book while wedged between strangers, and tried not to let the hassle erase a fun weekend. This was preceded by 3 hours of train and bus travel to cross a few miles teaming with people and traffic. Once at the airport, my progress was slowed by the family trying to get their kids through airport security, and the couple traveling with way too many carry-on bags. I sprinted through the airport, hearing them call my name to “board now!”, and barely made my flight.
Once on the plane, I recalled my first experience – a short flight in a prop plane. My parents arranged this before I flew alone to visit my grandmother. Except, a small plane flying under the clouds is more like a crazy carnival ride where you can tell exactly how far above the ground you are. The jet to Detroit weeks later was much calmer, and I got some pilot wings to pin on my sweater. Over the years, I’ve flown a lot. For business, when it was often enough to become routine; for trips with the family, where entertaining small kids for hours was its own challenge. Overall, it’s been fairly drama-free. Sure, there was the loud barfing guy on a cross-country-trip, the inconsolable baby on a flight to Europe, and weather delays, with repeated de-icing treatments before we could take off. But never anything really bad.
In the early ‘80s, we learned that the flight my dad was on had been hijacked to Cuba. My first response was disbelief – did people really still do that? He had been in Key West for a fishing trip, and on the way home, the plane was diverted to Havana. Somehow, a guy holed up in the lavatory was enough to influence the pilots. After they landed, all of the passengers got off the plane and were taken into the terminal. After a few hours, they got back on the plane and flew to Miami. We never learned the objective of the hijacking, but during the time on the ground, my dad managed to buy a bunch of Cuban cigars. Telling us about the ordeal, he never seemed scared. Instead he just chuckled and lit up a stogie.
So who am I to complain about delays, and inconsiderate travelers? There were no mechanical failures, no emergency landings, and no one caused a scene on our flight. I got a free drink, and we even arrived early. But I’m glad to be back on the ground, and home.