Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The take-off that wasn't.

I don't mind flying. Really, I don't. So long as there are no unexpected occurrences. I want everybody to be happy, no turbulence, smooth take-offs and landings, baggage where it's supposed to be, and a Starbucks in every airport. Free Wi-Fi would be nice too, but it's not a necessity.

Last week we did a lot of flying. Richmond to Atlanta. Atlanta to Pensacola. Pensacola to Atlanta. Atlanta to San Antonio. San Antonio to Atlanta. Atlanta to Richmond. It was enough to make a person dizzy.

Most of it wasn't bad at all, but there were a few issues. I was flying with a claustrophobic.


Have you been on the inside of an airplane lately? Roomy is not how I would describe it.

We had selected our seating assignments in advance for the first two flights, and chose exit-row seats. There's more than an extra foot of room between the seats. Lift a 41-pound door? Sure thing. Help the flight attendants get everyone out? No problem. Just give him that extra room so he doesn't feel panicky.

For the second round (Pensacola to San Antonio), however, we were stuck in the next-to-last row, between the engines and the aft lavatories. Ah, yes. Noise, odor, and 1.2 inches of room between my knees and the seat in front of me. Add to that the guy sitting behind Ben who kept snapping his newspaper and hitting Ben in the head with it, and you have the makings of airplane-rage. We were lucky to get out alive.

When we boarded the next flight, our seat assignment was the very last row. We got to the back of the plane and found people in our seats. Armando the flight attendant told us to take the seats across the aisle. We did, and would have made the best of it. But when two other passengers looked at us and said, "Those are our seats," Ben offered to take the exit row. Armando was beginning to get confused, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "Go ahead."

Have you ever tried to move forward while an airplane is being boarded? Somehow we made it to the exit row and buckled in. You'll never guess what happened.

Yes. Two more passengers came and said, "Those are our seats."

Isn't it amazing that today's technology can put a man on the moon and send text messages to Mongolia, but we can't assign one person to one seat on a plane?

After another round of musical seats, we wound up in the exit row across the aisle, for which Ben was eternally grateful.

You probably think this is the end of the flying saga, don't you?

In the words of the infamous Billy Mays, "But wait! There's more!"

It's now the end of our week away, and we're leaving rainy San Antonio for the fresh spring breezes and thick pollen of Virginia. We've got our exit row seats guaranteed for both flights home. We're settled and buckled in, sharing an iPod. There are a few thunderstorms, but Captain Calm (the pilot) assures us we'll be taking off before long.

After waiting 20 minutes on the tarmac, we head down the runway at breakneck speed. Then, just seconds before the nose is supposed to come up, Captain Calm slams on the brakes, we all get thrown forward, and takeoff is aborted. He makes the turn to taxi us back to the other end of the runway to try again. Somewhere in there I begin breathing again.

CC announces that they had a warning indicator that made them abort the takeoff, because as you know, safety is our number-one concern, everything is reset and just fine up here, and we'll be taking off shortly.

My heartbeat is now down to 240 bpm, and Ben is moaning and massaging the hand I was squeezing.

We actually get airborne on the second try, and aside from some nasty turbulence (and more soft-tissue damage to Ben's hand), we make it to Atlanta in one piece.

After all that, are you aware that there is not a Starbucks in the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport? Isn't that one of the biggest airports ever? And no free Wi-Fi. We settled for a grossly overpriced, completely mediocre roast beef sandwich and sweet tea that was so over-sugared it would have made Willy Wonka a diabetic.

I kept saying to Ben, "I just can't handle those aborted landings." (I meant aborted take-offs.) He reminded me that aborted landings are crashes. I pshaw-ed him with a wave of my hand and a "Whatever."

But now I have proof. Pioneer Woman experienced an aborted landing last week and lived to write about it. Go read her account and then decide which one you think would be more scary.

Be thankful ~


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