The first time I ever got on an airplane I was 14 years old. 1954. I flew from Detroit to Florida to visit my grandmother, who was ill. My mother, who was petrified of flying, had already put her life on the line, gritted her teeth, girded her loins and survived what she described as a jaw-gripping terror-filled five-hour journey. She swore she would never-ever-in-a-million-years do that again.
I was flying alone and determined not to follow in my mother’s scaredy-cat footsteps. I got dressed up, boldly climbed aboard and – although I was a bit nervous (remember, airplanes were kind of "leading edge" in 1954) – I worked hard to look calm and sophisticated. I planned to feign a nap, just for the cool-as-a-cucumber I’m-not-afraid-of-flying image it would project to fellow passengers. The plane was probably not a jet, because I remember it took four or five hours to get to Sarasota. People on the plane smoked. Lunch was served up on real china plates with solid, substantial silverware. The flight attendants were exclusively women in those days and were required to meet rigid standards of weight, height and attractiveness. Their hair could be no longer than collar length. They wore high heels in the terminal, but were allowed to change to flat shoes once the plane took off.
I survived without incident. My mother gave me a tearful, extra-firm, extra-long hug when I arrived.
Last Monday I was scheduled to fly from Detroit to Boston to be with one of my daughters, who was scheduled for surgery on her left knee on Tuesday. My plane was to leave at 5:51 p.m. and arrive in Boston at 7:42 p.m.
In Detroit, that morning, snow began falling. It piled up all day and eventually broke a record for so much so early in the season. Seven inches. Earlier in the week, I had decided not to drive myself to Metro Airport. I hired a driver. Good decision, as it turned out.
Theresa got me safely through some slushy, slow traffic on the freeway and I was dropped at Delta departure with time to spare. As I waved goodby to Theresa, I got an alert on my phone -- departure was delayed two and a half hours.
Pshaw. But I love airports. Lots of stores to browse in; Starbucks coffee; people to watch. I would be able to have dinner, too.
Soon, I got an alert that my plane was delayed another couple of hours. I was getting anxious. My daughter’s surgery was the next day and she was going to pick me up at the Boston airport.
I stopped at one of those airport spa places and got a chair massage. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try. Forty-something dollars for 15 minutes.
It was underwhelming. And I wish I had looked at my watch when she started. Fifteen minutes, my foot!
The plane was delayed again. I was getting even more anxious. Took a Xanax. It helped.
I spotted a wine bar. It was quiet and out-of-the-way. I paid double what I usually pay for a glass of sauvignon blanc and watched true wine buffs sniff their wine and swish the first taste around in their mouths and fondle the stems of their glasses. I managed to make my wine last nearly an hour while I scrolled through old emails. I wanted to find a nice place for dinner – someplace with real flatware and real chairs and tables where I could sit down and a waiter or waitress would take my order, then bring dinner.
No such thing. Shoulda stayed at the wine bar, where they had some interesting hors d’oeuvres on the menu.
What was available to eat at Metro Airport? Fast food. Mostly fatty fast food. Chicken, chicken and chicken, all deep fried and slathered with hot sauces. Or, I could have gone to a restaurant decorated with huge longhorn cow heads and ordered a 16-oz. man-sized steak accompanied by piles and piles of fries.
Or I could get some yogurt. Or bagels. Or a fancy 600-calorie coffee. None of the restaurants or take-outs appealed to me.
I passed up the Chick-Fil-A, just because, and ended up eating at Popeye’s on a wobbly stool pulled up to a greasy shelf. I had some over-battered tough chicken pieces (pieces of what? Breast? Thigh? Wing? Foot? Beak?) but pretty decent Cole slaw.
Plane delayed again. This time, we got an explanation. “Our captain has just taken off from Cleveland and we will begin boarding as soon as he gets here.”
What? They don’t have a standby captain? (And it seems to me he should be called a pilot, not a captain, but never mind – just get him here.) Wouldn’t it be prudent during snowstorms and inclement weather to have a couple of standby pilots ready to jump in and keep air traffic moving? Or how about the co-pilot? Couldn’t he take the wheel and enlist a new standby co-pilot?
Our captain finally arrived. We boarded and he assured us we were on our way. We first had to taxi to the de-icing pad.
By the time we reached the de-icing pad, I swear we were closer to Cleveland than Detroit. It must have taken a half hour. We were third in line for de-icing, which takes about 15 minutes per plane.
We finally took off. Landed at Boston’s Logan Airport some time after 2 a.m. Didn’t get to bed until 3.
As I said, I’ve been pretty lucky and have never been delayed for so long, at least not while I was by myself. When you’re with someone else, you can always play cards or gossip or sit at the airport bar for hours, talking.
My daughter’s surgery went well and I’m home again.
I was surprised and pleased to note that none of the passengers on my delayed delayed delayed delayed flight were visibly angry or aggressive. I guess we all know that weather can’t be controlled.
Weather is weather.