April 25, 2007

Like Peter Pan

The last leg of a nerve-wracking journey, story left hanging over a month ago...

So yes, we come in for a landing at Orlando. It's a gorgeous sunny Florida evening as we do, and I can see the Orlando airport from miles away, for at least 15 minutes before we actually get on our landing approach. As we descend, I check my watch: 25 minutes to my next flight, the one to Salt Lake City. I should make it though I expect to have to run.

We descend. Lower and lower we get, coming in over large marshy ponds and occasional boats and a few homes; then the wall around the airport and the runway, another Delta flight waiting to take off. Lower and lower, our shadow racing along to where, like Peter Pan, it will soon be attached to us again; lower and lower and I even remember thinking, we can't be more than 5 feet off the ground right now ... suddenly, we hear the engines roar, feel the plane buck, the shadow begins receding, and just like that, we soar into the bright sunny Florida sky once more. Up up and away, banking quickly to start on a huge circle round the airport.

It's another 20 minutes before we are once again over the marshy ponds and boats and coming in to land, our shadow once again racing along ... I check my watch and there are 5 minutes to my next flight. This time we do land, then taxi interminably, then park and I'm up and trying to get out of the plane as fast as I can. The Salt Lake flight is only a few gates away, so I'm still optimistic about getting there. I run and run and run ...

... at the gate, the flight has still not left. But the attendant will not let me, out-of-breath me, on. "The gate's closed!" she says firmly. No amount of pleading works. She can probably see that I am about ready to tear my hair, and any nearby hair, out by the roots. (Once I catch my breath, that is). But she will not let me on.

"Look," she says after the Salt Lake flight has long soared into the Florida skies, "I can send you to Atlanta and overnight you there, you catch the first flight tomorrow morning to San Jose. I'll also put you on standby for the San Francisco flight tonight out of Atlanta." So it is that I get on the Atlanta flight an hour later.

In two days, I've gone from Washington to BWI Airport to Washington to Richmond to Orlando to Atlanta -- up and down the east coast, all while trying to get to northern California. To think I once made fun of exactly this possibility.

In Atlanta, I hang around making misery-filled faces at the woman manning the gate for tonight's San Francisco flight. (No, I really don't want to overnight in Atlanta). The faces must work, because I am the last passenger she allows on board. Six hours later, close to 1am California time, I touch down.

My bags don't. Wasn't there a previous time on this US trip that I was left sans undies and a change?

No comments: