Ah, yes, let us gather and tell the legend of the great airport. It is a place of magic, disease, general discomfort and overpriced water bottles. The seats are illogically small, the lines unnecessarily long and you wonder if driving wouldn't have been a better choice. The mythical "lines of security" are a gauntlet designed to test every person's psychological strength and physical dexterity; for as you hop from one foot to another, trying to get your laptop in a bin while one shoe is stuck on your foot and the angry businessman is closing in on you from behind while the TSA people are glaring at you from ahead, you learn something about yourself. Ah, yes, the airport is not for the faint of heart, but for those who dare discover the truth within.
I was stuck in a plane for three hours on Saturday the 9th of March. I'm a bit peeved about said experience, and you, my lovely readers, get to giggle at my frustration. It's taken me a full two weeks to truly process the massacre of my self-control and inner tranquility. For those of you who attend an out-of-state college and enjoy misadventures traveling to and from home, I'm sure you'll be able to relate with this experience.
Let's set the stage.
It is Saturday the 9th, and I roll up to the Dallas Fort-Worth (DFW) airport feeling relaxed. I left Waco, Texas with plenty (or even too much) time to arrive, found a satisfactory parking place with my bag that is heavy enough to lean on, but not too heavy to push. I navigate my way through security with ease, using the skills and wisdom from travels past to expedite my woes. Personally, I like to think my superb airport outfit (it was spectacularly cute) saved me from the fiery trials of bad airport experience. Little did I know what would happen next.
Using the little coinage I had left to secure life's most precious commodity, coffee, I made my way to a sun-lit gate with excellent corner-seat choices. I cozied up with my Cliff bar selection of the day and a steaming Starbucks goblet and caught up on my Cicero reading like the true erudite I am. All was well: the Cliff bar was good, but not too good and the coffee was filling but not too filling. Cicero was pleasantly dull, but not too dull. I foresaw a pleasant flight and a fantastic reunion with my beloved dog. That's when disaster struck.
It began with a distinct rumbling in the intestinal region. I've never ever been sick in an airport. I have a gut of steel (or so I like to imagine). Apparently, coffee, banana and a Cliff bar is a combination to avoid. Needless to say, an over-priced airport stall received my business for the purpose of securing yet another of life's commodities: tested and true, the pinkest of the pink, beloved Pepto-bismol and a diet Sprite. (Never underestimate the power of pink.)
In summary: Woe to he who dares combine the coffee, the banana and the Cliff bar.
Moving on from that particular unpleasantness, my dilemma was averted. I was prepared to board the great sky-beast that would bear me back to my distant homeland. Boarding was on-time and respectable, the window seat was warm and roomy. I settled in, mentally calculating how many more pages of Cicero I could handle before I would have to switch to Nelson DeMille or Dean Koontz. I texted a few friends and my beloved mother, letting them know we were settling in. Still, I never saw my doom coming.
We begin our taxi out to the runway and then after moving for about twenty seconds, we stop. Initially, I think nothing of it, texting a few seconds longer and perfecting my Snapchat selfie angle. We move forward a few more yards, then stop again. Then, the process repeats. And then it repeats again. Finally, realization dawns on me.We haven't moved in twenty minutes. The lovely young woman sitting next to me shared a confused look with me. "How long have we been on the runway?" I ask."We were supposed to be in the air by now," she says, and suddenly, with the magic of the airport, we are united in our quest for justice in our travel time. My newfound friend, who I will call Atalanta here (Atalanta: a famous female warrior and runner of Greek mythology), points out the window. "Is that a line of planes?"
Verily, my friends, it was. Now a line, I can handle. We quickly realized there was another line of planes cutting across our own line. We began to count. 5, 6, 8, 10, 12 planes cut across our own line, and they each take five or ten minutes to take off. "We were supposed to be gone an hour ago," Atalanta cries, and my perfectly-penciled eyebrows lift. Excuse me? Quick as a flash, airplane mode is abandoned and the furious texts to mother and friends begin. We're still on the runway." "It's been an hour." " It's been an hour and a half."
To make matters worse, I have the need to use a restroom, immediately. We've been immobile for twenty minutes, so, with my courage screwed up, I vault across my row and march to the back of the plane. Lowering my chin to alert the staff I was prepared to charge, I set my jaw, ready to fight for my right to a restroom.
The flight attendant, who will hold a grudge against me for the rest of the flight, tries to tell me I can't be up. "It's been almost two hours and we haven't been told anything," I snip back. Eyes narrowed, I thump the butt of my metaphorical spear into the ground. "I shall not retreat!" I say. (Translation: "I'm going to use the lavatory and if you try to stop me I hope you're ready for the cat fight of your life.") The fires of my revolt spread. Passengers followed my lead and took charge of their lavatory experiences, and the flight attendant eventually throws her hands up in defeat. I mean, it'd been nearly two hours on the plane at that point. People have needs.
My mother, bless her, shares my relatively-short temper. Throughout the duration of this quest, we're confused and irritated, eventually I get hungry, too. (For obvious reasons, I dare not eat my second Cliff bar yet since horror haunts me at every turn.) At long last, we pull up to the "on-deck" position on the runway. We are preparing to leave; the passengers on the edge of their seats. The plane picks up speed, the turbines roaring--and abruptly slows to a crawl, diverting back toward the airport.
"What is happening?" Atalanta declares, holy rage in her eyes. We exchange a flurry of angry yet witty remarks. The pilot crackles onto the intercom, the first time we've heard his voice, and he says, "Due to the weather, we've been stuck on the runway for a while, and now we're out of fuel. We've got to get back to the gate to refuel before we can take off."
Atalanta is livid. After a terse conversation with her husband on the phone, she turns to me. "My husband's calling the airline," she declares. "We're going to get to the bottom of this."Meanwhile, I give in and eat my Cliff bar. It's delicious. Atalanta gets off the phone with her husband. "He's military," she informs me, "and I'm trying to get back before he gets deployed. He called the airline and said the pilots didn't put fuel on the log; they only reported having to delay for weather purposes. The guy my husband spoke with said they can't keep us in the plane for more than three hours." My brows furrowed, and I glanced at my watch. "That gives them twenty minutes," I said, and my companion's eyes narrowed. I asked a flight attendant--the same one with an anger complex: "Are we still in the process of refueling?"She purses her lips at me. "If you look out the window, you can see that we are," she quips. "I think fuel is a good thing to have; don't you?" The righteous anger of my ancestors flowed through my veins. Believe it or not, we actually refueled and managed to take off before the three-hour window closed. It was nothing short of a miracle.
But I should've waited to eat my Cliff bar. By the time we landed I was starving. Note to fellow quest-ers: Always prepare back-up snacks. You never know when your sky-beast will fail you and you'll wind up late for dinner.
What did we do to deserve the great establishments known as airports? They test and try us; teaching us the wisdom of patience and peace in the midst of turbulence (pun intended). May the legend of the airport go with you always; and may it teach you to book anything other than American. I hope my out-of-state students get a bit of a giggle out of this read, and I also hope you never experience this. I'll never trust the airport again. It's a battle field.
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash