Tuesday, October 07, 2003

I'm leaving, on a jet plane

Okay, here's the last story I promised you. I've been trying to get it out of my head, pretty much since it happened, but it's one of those life-changing moments (don't laugh - I have minutes of "touchy-feely" just like everyone else). For business reasons, I have to fly about 3 times/year. We have meetings in DC, Boston, and in December - Alabama. I'm not crazy about flying - not phobic exactly, but I do chant to myself as the plane is taking off and landing ("Fly plane fly! Land plane land!"). My co-workers have been known to chastise me whenever there's turbulence on a flight, "What's the matter, did you fall asleep? That was a pretty rough flight!"

So, we're near the end of an almost 7 hour flight from Lisbon to Newark. The head flight attendant comes on and says, "Umm, ladies and gentlemen, the captain has just informed me that we're having 'flap issues'."

Me: "WTF? Flap issues? What the hell does that mean?"

Head Flight Attendant: "Weeeell, what that means is, our flaps aren't working. Now don't worry [!], this kind of thing happens frequently. We will still be able to land. However, don't be alarmed if you see fire trucks on the runway when we touchdown. This is just a precautionary measure."

Me: "Precautionary measure? In case we burst into flames?"

At this point, I think, "Hmm, my mother will be comforted by the fact that 'at least they died together.'" Completely untrue Mom! Hub's in the front of the plane and I'm in the back (where I have a fabulous view of the flaps and their issues). Plus, it's NEWARK - who the hell wants to die in Newark! I'm gauging the attitudes of the flight attendants and they're not looking calm. They have that air of forced calm that I assume they're trained to wear when something goes wrong. I see that they're conferring a lot with the people in the exit rows.

Later, Hub (who was sitting a row in front of the exit) tells me that there was a small, older woman who refused to give up her seat. The attendants were trying to impress upon her that the door is heavy and she may not be able to move it, should the time come. She adamantly tells them that she "is indeed able to carry out the duties of sitting in this row." The final response from the flight attendants is, "Well, okay. You can stay there, but don't do ANYTHING until we tell you to. Don't touch the handle, don't touch the door, don't touch the window - don't touch anything until we say so."

I sit, in the back of the plane, feel the approach to the runway and watch the flaps kind of swing back and forth like those doors on saloons in western movies. I watch the back of my husband's head move back and forth as he talks to his seat mates. I chant my "fly plane fly, land plane land" mantra and hold my breath. We hit the runway, don't slow one iota, and I think, "We're going off the runway into whatever makes the plane stop quickly and we'll all have whiplash at the very least." Slowly, very slowly (or is it quickly, very quickly) we come to a stop and the people in the plane burst into applause. I, however, burst into tears. The older couple next to me is holding hands and saying, "We made it." All the other people on the plane are joyous and all I could think was, "My children almost spent the rest of their lives without parents."

Hub and I were on separate flights from Newark to Detroit. I asked, "Should we see if I can get on your [1 hour earlier] plane? Then you won't have to wait." He looked at me and said, "I'm pretty comfortable with us being on separate planes today. I'll wait for you in baggage claim. Have a safe flight"

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