My tale of woe.
I used to enjoy travelling by air and now I loathe it. Standing in line without belt, shoes and wallet waiting to be electronically frisked, I am reminded once again how deeply modernity has failed us.
I was at Pittsburgh International Airport for a quick jump to Detroit, then on to New Orleans. The skycap checked me in as if I was going around the block.
Four hours later, I was sitting on the tarmac at Pittsburgh waiting out storms in Detroit. Finally, they dumped us back in the terminal, but no more than 10 minutes later they called us back on board for immediate departure.
I checked with the agent at the gate if I could make my connection, and he told me that all the flights have been delayed, “so don’t worry.”
I landed in Detroit and the New Orleans flight was long gone. But still, not to worry. They told me that there was a flight going to Memphis that would connect me with another flight heading to the Big Easy. I’d get there only two hours later than scheduled. My answer: “Gee, that’s much better than I expected.”
As Bugs Bunny would say, “What a moro-o-o-n.”
We sat out on the tarmac in Detroit waiting to launch. I was getting fidgety, wondering if I would make my Memphis connection to New Orleans. I arrived in barely enough time and ran to the nearest departure board to see if I had a chance.
The flight was canceled. I was directed to a gate where there was a long line of similarly canceled souls. Which is exactly what I felt like.
When my turn came the lady smiled, took my ticket, plugged it in an automated kiosk and out popped a ticket for the next day, a local hotel address for the night, along with a $6 voucher for a meal.
I arrived at my designated lodging — with my luggage somewhere in the neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Detroit, Memphis or New Orleans. My only consolation was that other canceled souls were wandering the lobby, lost spirits on the way to nowhere trying to get a meal at a hotel with a $6 voucher.
I had a 2:15 p.m. flight the next day — from Memphis to Atlanta to New Orleans. I arrived at the airport early in case there was a problem. There was a problem. The 2:15 p.m. flight was canceled and the next flight to Atlanta was at 5:15 p.m. I sat at an airport bar in Memphis for five hours reading a book about the trials and tribulations of the Mayflower pilgrims. I was unsympathetic.
The plane from Memphis to Atlanta was forced to circle and I arrived 20 minutes before my connection was to depart. It was now around 9 p.m. I had been in the same clothes for 36 hours. I got to the gate in the nick of time. The flight was delayed for two hours.
I finally arrived in New Orleans and greeted my baggage at 11 p.m. local time Tuesday. My pilgrimage began at 10:30 a.m. Monday at the Pittsburgh airport.
I spent the rest of my Big Easy visit sulking.
The trip back home was uneventful. Except that right across the row from me was an 11-year-old boy petrified about making his first airplane flight. The steward asked him if he would like to see the cockpit and meet the captain. He vigorously shook his head no, announcing that he wasn’t moving a muscle until the plane landed safely.
The plane landed in Pittsburgh with the usual bump and braking. When we came to a stop, the boy suddenly shouted in unrestrained joy: “I’m alive!”
The Traveler of the Woeful Countenance across from him smiled. I got the message. Each day of our lives is a tender mercy of the Lord, no matter what gets tossed at us. So, celebrate what you can celebrate.
And stop sulking.
Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.