Thursday, August 12, 2010

Come Fly With Me...

...and by that invitation, I mean "come wait in the terminal 2 hours, then board the plane and sit on the tarmac for 2 more hours only to end up deplaning long enough to run to Starbucks, and then hop back on the plane so you can take off, fly through turbulence for 5 and a half hours to get where you're going and then circle the airport for another 30 minutes."

Doesn't sound so romantic now, does it?

That was basically our last day of vacation. A flight that was supposed to leave Dulles at 4:25, but ended up on the ground toodling around on the tarmac, back and forth to the gate, until after 9pm.

It's apparently common when flying into the giant bank of fog that is San Francisco; heavy fog makes for low ceilings, lousy visibility and lengthy delays. Go figure. We were also trying to leave DC in the middle of their thunderstorm season, so no surprise that we'd be grounded by lightning on that end. Super. The perfect storm of "I don't want to fly in that" weather to keep us twiddling our thumbs (or in my case, biting my nails down to the quick and taking deep breaths) for two hours in the terminal.

I am becoming a terribly flier, people. I used to love flying. Loved taking off and landing and even the swooping, amusement park feeling of a little bit of turbulence. Loved it. And then one day, with my very limited understanding of physics, I started thinking about how these behemoth tubes of metal stay aloft, 35,000 feet above solid ground & my stomach clenched a few times and I've never gotten on a plane again without feeling like I don't quite trust Newton or Bernoulli or the whole lift-thrust-drag trifecta. I realize it's about as foolproof as the sun coming up tomorrow, but still. Thirty-five thousand feet? Oh my God. If we could just find a way to hover at 100 feet, all the way across the country, that would be cool with me. I realize it is probably, statistically speaking, more deadly, but psychologically, it would make me feel a whole lot better.

After our initial 1.5 hour delay sitting in the terminal, the airline decided it was reasonable to pack us all on our plane and then taxi out to somewhere on the tarmac and let us sit there, in the aforementioned giant tube of metal and recirculated air. For two hours. Of course they didn't come out and tell us that's what they were going to do, but as Husband and I heard the engine power down once we were pushed way, way back from the gate, we knew. That engine whirring down from "we'll be taking off any second now!" to "you'll be awake until 3am, sucker," was really not the most welcome sound as the grown man sitting behind me tapped out some tune with his foot against the back of my chair. So, you know. That was pleasant.

Ethan was a trooper. Fortunately his love for The Beatles and his ability to conjure an audience of screaming, adoring fans in his imagination knows no boundaries, we simply popped his headphones on him, set the volume low on Husband's iPod and Ethan sang and air-guitared his way through the tarmac fiasco. Seriously, no tantrums, almost zero whining. Honestly, Husband and I behaved more poorly. We may have done a lot of heavy sighing and eye rolling and it's possible I might have sat forward and "gucccchhhh"ed a few times at the guy behind me, demonstrating my stellar passive-aggressive-on-a-plane skills.

Ethan did get me in trouble with a flight attendant, though. Almost 2 hours into our tarmac staycation, I emerged from the restroom at one point to find myself face-to-face with a "medical emergency" in the person of a tall, sullen looking model-type who was breathing into a paper bag in the galley, the flight attendants fluttering around her and pushing me out of the way so she could get to the bathroom. When I returned to my seat, Ethan looked up at me and said, "potty." Oy.

Sourpuss McPanicAttack, the coach flight attendants and an assortment of other passengers waiting to use the bathroom were clogging up the back of the plane (which was still on the ground. Did I mention that?). So I scooped up my behaving-like-a-freaking-angel child and whisked him & his 4 year old bladder to the front of the plane, to the first class bathroom. We used the restroom, washed our hands and left it as sparkly clean and for-rich-people-only ready as we found it. But upon exiting the restroom, the first class flight attendant was standing out in the galley, arms crossed, waiting to scold me. For allowing my son's coach class commonness to defile their bathroom. Which, by the way? Is NO DIFFERENT FROM THE COACH bathrooms. "From now on, you'll have to use the coach restrooms, ma'am." Um. "Ma'am"?! Don't get me started. I was about to point out to her that there was a line in the back of the plane and I was actually helping her out by, oh, I don't know, NOT letting my son pee all over the aisle of the plane when I heard a flight attendant from the back of the plane come over the loud speaker to ask if there was a doctor on board, as there was a medical emergency on the back of the plane.

So Sourpuss McPanicAttack made it official and when our flight proved to be entirely devoid of a medical professional, we ended up taxi'ing back to the gate. Where we could see ambulances racing along side of us. And where the paramedics stormed the plane. Aaaaand, where the sullen-faced woman who caused the whole medical emergency debacle walked off the plane, of her own accord, looking mighty healthy and inconvenienced. I have no idea if she had a real medical emergency or had just had enough of being stuck in that recirculated air--who knows, maybe the person behind her was kicking her seat, too. Or maybe she was truly deathly ill, but not in a way that rendered her unable to saunter off the plane on her own two feet. I don't know.

There were lots of jokes about how if the delay lasted much longer, someone was going to grab two beers, pop the inflatable slide and tell everyone to fuck off. Because of this guy. But no one did that. Instead, they let us off the plane for a few minutes. Because nothing says, "go stretch your legs!" like shuffling down the aisle of the plane and jetway like a bunch of battery chickens, only to turn around 10 minutes later and get back on the plane. I did manage to sprint to Starbucks to order a giant soy chai tea latte. So that worked out nicely, I guess.

FINALLY we got off the ground. At 9pm. Four and a half hours after we were supposed to have left. Ethan plopped his head down on Husband's leg and slept for almost the entire flight.

Having discovered early in my vacation that the book I'd checked out of the library was one I'd already read (clearly super memorable, right?) I opted instead to watch hours upon hours of Khloe & Kourtney Take Miami. My brain is still a little numb. I think you lose even more brain cells when you watch them at 35,000 feet, people. It's not pretty. I'm not sure why I insist on the mindlessness of trash TV when flying, but it's my pattern. I spent a semester in London during my junior year of college and I distinctly recall watching 5 hours of Ren & Stimpy on my flight over the Atlantic. Yay for college educations! I'm wicked smart!

Five and a half hours later, I switched over to the onboard entertainment system's map to watch our approach into SFO. And noticed that we had turned around. "Hey now, what the?! Why are you going south?! SFO is up there, go back!" Husband and Ethan were both sleeping, so I was basically talking to myself until the pilot came on and informed us that we were, in keeping with our flight's motif, delayed. And we were circling the airport. At midnight (which felt like 3am).

I may have cried a little teeny bit. I also may have been annoyed by the guy in the next row over who had been kicking back tiny little airplane adult beverages all night and was laughing embarrassingly loud at something on his personal TV. I threw a few "ggguuuuccch" looks his way (I can rock the passive-aggressive-on-a-plane no matter what time of day or night, people), and pouted until we FINALLY landed, just a little bit after midnight (read: 3am).

There's also a chance that I tweeted so furiously about the whole experience that the airline is currently following me on Twitter and requested that I send them a detailed account of our experience. Which, really? Aside from the snob-o-rama elitist "your 4 year old will just have to pee his pants next time" flight attendant? Wasn't really their fault.

But, I have to say, a free drink would have been nice.


JadeLD said...

Uugh flying can be a nightmare, it seems like it's so much quicker than other methods of transport until you take into account the delays, faffing around at the airport etc.

The worst I ever had was when I got stuck in Italy during the ash cloud and got back a week late. There were also a couple of extra nights stay over in Singspore. But at least I just had myself to look after.

Hope you are back home and relaxed now.

lonek8 said...

I hate when airlines make you wit in the plane - inexcusable in my opinion. I get that delays happen, but to trap people in the plane for two hours before even taking off on a 5 hour flight is cruel and cause for boycott.

I am also impressed that you never said anything to the flight attendant about Ethan needing the restroom - I would have ever so sweetly asked where she would have rather I let my kid pee so as to not taint the high class receptacle.

Corinne said...

I cannot even imagine. I would have lost my shit.
Glad you made it home though!

Becca said...

You should have told them about the time one of my kids (I'm not naming names) POOPED on the floor of the plane. Right in the aisle. We could tell who had seen it happen by the way they made exaggerated huge steps over the affected area as they passed by. I almost hurt myself I laughed so hard.

And making you wait on the tarmac is CRUEL. We were delayed out of Dulles also. For an hour. For no good reason. My kids made a spectacle of themselves in the airport Pot Belly.

Hyacynth said...

I hope we can still be friends after I tell you this, but I would have been the lady who was transported via ambulance off the tarmac because I'd hyperventilated from the stress of dely mixed with my stupid fear of flying. Because, honestly, you summed up my feelings perfectly when you said, "I've never gotten on a plane again without feeling like I don't quite trust Newton or Bernoulli or the whole lift-thrust-drag trifecta."
It all sounds a little fishy to me.
And thus, I hate flying like I hate NOTHING else.
I'm glad you arrived home safely to tell this story because it's simultaneously hilarious and absolutely terrifying even just thinking about your ordeal.

Anonymous said...

You really shouldn't fly anymore. for everyone's sake.

cicadalady said...

ethan gets some serious credit for behaving well. can you even imagine how much worse that would have been?? glad you made it home!