Monday, June 1, 2015

Escape from Bradley

The joy of being stranded for hours on end is the experience of every seasoned traveler, and the reasons for the stranding diverse.  Here's mine: flying standby. 

Morning came early, with a 6:00 wake up call, and arrival at the airport by 7:30 am.  I headed for the nearest cafe for cappuccino and a bagel, and read a psalm.  I was struck by a verse and wrote it down.  A meditation on my iphone followed, with more notes.  I could decorate those notes, I decided, and so I did.  Quotes, feet, ladies' heads, graphic sidebars as I contemplated doing a modern-day illuminated page.

When it was time, I headed to my gate, A12, which would become way too familiar in the hours ahead.  I hoped to get on a flight at 9:30 am, flying standby.  Nope.  No problem, next flight in a couple of hours, which would still allow me to make my connection.  Um.  If I get on, which didn't sound hopeful.  And wasn't.   Now I would miss the connector to Brussels.  Double dang.  

full, and the next one, and the next, all day long until the 6:30 pm flight, delayed due to thunderstorms.  And yet the boarding came, the flight left, the 12 hours concluded.  No rhyme or reason, just life.  Or was it?

How do you pass 12 hours in an airport?  If you're a child, you run, scream, jump on chairs, laugh, poke your sibling, defy your parents, eat junk food, step on the power cords of your fellow travelers, who were in no mood.  

"Alex!"  a harried father hissed, "Sit DOWN!!!" 

I moved.  How is it that a family of five is traveling standby?  Not my business.  I know why I am, because of finances, and imagine they're in the same boat.  

If you're almost everyone else, your head is bowed, your face intense, as you gaze into a smartphone, laptop or book.

If you're a writer or artist, a secret glimmer starts shimmering inside: there are hours unfolding and nothing required of you but to sit and wait, watch a departure screen, and sit back down.  The sketchbook comes out, or the laptop.  The gaze is equally intense, but to a different purpose.

I warmed up in between the first two missed flights, writing emails, notes in my new journal and Facebook.  By noon I was full on into a writing spree that lasted the next 8 hours.  Seriously.  Interrupted but productive.  Then the thunderstorms came.


A friend was stranded in New Jersey, trying to get out to UK, also delayed by thunderstorms.  Where was I and could I meet her?!  

"Nope, stranded in Connecticut!" I texted back.  "Phone call?"  We synchronized watches; while I checked on the 3:30 flight, she got lunch and took a bio break. 

Not only did I not make the 3:30 flight, but the 5:20, my first real hope of getting out, was delayed.  This put in jeopardy an 11:00 flight to Amsterdam.  Gaaaa.....

"But," chirped the very helpful gate lady, "if you jump in a car right now, and drive to JFK, you can get on that Amsterdam flight!  There's one at 7:00!"  Adrenalin rush.  Flight?  I checked my watch.  New York.  During rush hour.  On a summer Sunday, in a rainstorm.  Nope, not doing it.  Don't even have a car.  I sat down in a heap. 

How does one fill 12 hours in an airport?   

Scrutinizing the gate screen, conversing with fellow stand-by-ees, trips to the bathroom, or to get food or drink.  Phone calls, texts, email updates, recalculating...will need bed and breakfast, a pickup and a ride tomorrow.  Can I connect with my team?

5:30 flight delayed till room in the inn.

6:30 flight delayed to 7:30, but I "should" get on...did I mention the thunderstorms? 

YES!  As the boarding finalized and I approached the counter to hear about standbys, the gate crew bantered in the post-boarding euphoria that might make them a tiny bit forgetful.  One caught my eye and a flash of panic crossed his face.

"Go!" he shouted.  "You're cleared!"  

I dove for the moveable corridor, and entered the plane.  Like a familiar shoe to a weary foot, I sat in the window seat of aisle 13 and counted my blessings.  I made it. 

A few minutes passed and my instincts told me we had a delay. 15 min. later the plane pulled back and taxied way too slowly down a tarmac.  I watched the rain start again.  May we not be delayed now, Lord.  But my instincts told me...3...2...1..."Attention ladies and gentlemen...we have a groundstop.  We hope to be cleared by 9:15."  To the collective groan of everyone on the plane, and no one's surprise who is well-traveled.  

"Alex!"  a harried father hissed, "Sit DOWN!!!"  The family was seated two rows ahead of them. 

How do you spend 12 hours in an airport, and two on a tarmac?  Anyway you can.  Ipads, smartphones and laptops pulled out lit up the fuselage with the lightening, as we tried to make the hours pass without noticing.  


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