Last summer I took a trip to Europe – Germany and Croatia, mainly. The day of my departure, as I made my way to the airport by subway, I realized half-way there that I didn’t have my wallet. 99% certain that I’d forgotten it at home, I frantically found a cab (which of course negated the thriftiness of my having taken the subway in the first place) and told the driver my tale: flight. late. forgot something very important at home. I lucked out with a wonderful driver – the wallet was indeed at home and he whisked me there and back to the airport in record time. Still, I was running late so I called the airline to apprise them of the situation. Since my luggage was small enough to qualify as carry-on, I was told I would be fine. They’d even check me in over the phone. Phew. A short time later I sank into my seat on the plane, exhausted and with my nerves jangled from the exertion of the previous couple of hours, dehydrated and…starving. I hadn’t eaten anything all day. When the drink cart finally made its appearance 30 minutes later, I could’ve drunk the whole thing. And eaten 100 horrible little bags of peanuts. Just as it rolled up next to my seat, the Captain’s voice came over the PA system: “Ladies and gentlemen, there is no need for alarm but we have a situation with the air pressurization system. There is absolutely no need for concern, but I don’t feel comfortable crossing the ocean with this condition and we will be heading back to JFK.” I looked around and no one else seemed to react, or even notice this announcement. I looked at the flight attendants and they were absorbed in their drink pouring duties. Maybe I imagined it, delusional from thirst and hunger? Not to be. The plane started banking left to begin its U-turn. A short time later, the Captain came on again to tell us he was about to dump fuel and we shouldn’t be alarmed. It was an alarming sight – not to mention the thought of all that fuel being flung to earth. [I managed to squeeze off the photo below while leaning over the person in the window seat.]
After landing and learning that the flight would not be re-booked (!), but that we’d all have to find new flights, we entered into a 3 or 4 hour period of unsupervised chaos. Not enough airline employees, no organized system for lining up, nothing to drink, nothing to eat. (I must say, Delta did not handle the situation very well. At all). I finally got rebooked after calling the airline from my phone – and eventually made my way back home at 3am. Which brings me to the next day, a day I should have been in Berlin. It was a very odd and disconcerted feeling to be somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. After busily preparing to leave home, it felt wrong to be back there and I was unsure how to spend the few extra hours I had. I wandered around my neighborhood and wound up in a diner where I ordered something to eat. As I sat there, glassy eyed and dazed, I watched as a guy came in and started chatting with the woman behind the counter. Clearly a regular, he told her he’d brought her something and laid a big cluster of branches on the counter. On the end of each branch were several rose-coloured orbs. Lychees. I sat watching, the only person sitting in the back half of the diner. Before he left the diner 10 minutes later, the man looked in my direction, walked over, placed some lychees on my table and nodded. I considered telling him the cost of these lychees, how I wasn’t really supposed to be here at all, but that since I was here they were a sweet consolation prize. But I didn’t. “Thanks”, I said. And then I ate them.
[I did make it onto a flight to Berlin that day, but not without experiencing still more adventures – including being kicked out of a cab on the side of a city street because the driver was “having a bad day and was too tired” to make the trip to the airport – and thus I was late for my flight for a 2nd day in a row. But that’s another story.]