Kenwood Press

Serving the communities of Kenwood, Glen Ellen and Oakmont

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Publishers' Corner: 06/01/2018

Friendly skies

This is not an exaggeration. Elizabeth, our daughter, is a cursed air traveler. I can’t tell you how many times her flights have been delayed – weather, mechanical, no crew, you name it. She should be on the no-fly list for her own good.

So it was not without trepidation that we were flying with her from Austin to Boston last week, along with our son and daughter-in-law.

First stop was a puddle jump to Houston, then an easy connection (time-wise) to Boston. What could go wrong?

As we were getting ready for take off, the pilot announced that something was amiss with the air conditioning and maintenance had been called. Easy fix, 20 minutes max and we should be on our way, he said. Well, it was a more like a couple hours.

We finally took off, although the air conditioning still wasn’t working. About halfway through the short flight we started circling. It turned out there was bad weather in Houston, and we’d been in a holding pattern for so long that we were running out of fuel. So we had to turn around and go back to Austin. Then the flight attendant asked over the intercom if there was a doctor or nurse on board. There was, and they helped out what appeared to be an overheated passenger.

Back on the all-too familiar Austin tarmac, we were informed that the fuel truck had been called, but there were about eight other planes that also needed fuel and they weren’t sure how soon they’d get to us, but it would probably be 20 minutes… About two hours later, we were all set to go. We landed in Houston about six hours late, which meant we could have driven to Houston, had lunch, and gone back to Austin.

Three of us had been automatically assigned seats on a later flight to Boston, but two weren’t. They got to play that fun game of going to the gate for help, then being told to go to customer service, then being told to go back to the gate, then back to customer service. Then there was a gate change…

Believe it or not, I don’t write this to do the traditional bashing of air travel, or rip the airline that rhymes with “indicted.” We all have bad travel days, and delays are usually not the fault of the airline employees working the flight, though I do have a couple of questions for that maintenance crew.

Our sweaty compatriots on the plane were mostly good-natured, laughing when were told we were going back to Austin, and later breaking into applause when we finally landed in Houston. The steward said that in his 19 years of flying, he had never had such a crazy day.

Ann sat next to a nice, chatty woman who was on her way to Oklahoma City to help a friend who’d had some surgery. Turns out she had been on one of the 38 planes forced to land at Gander, Newfoundland, on 9/11 because all airspace had been closed. 6,700 people were stranded in a town of about 10,000. The residents of Gander took care of all these refugees for about five days, having a party for them in the local park and forcing them all to “kiss a carp,” according to Ann’s seatmate. There’s now a Broadway musical about that Gander experience called Come From Away.

Houston Intercontinental Airport, once we finally got there, was pretty nice, and those of us who already had assigned seats sat in the bar and watched a beautiful orange sunset that we would have missed had we gotten to Boston anywhere near on time. There was even a mesmerizing display of hundreds of gold Hello Kitty clocks all waving their little paws in unison – we took pictures. Silver linings.

And all five of us did eventually get to Boston, even if it was 2:30 in the morning. We often say that if you get to where you’re going on the same day you plan to, it’s a good travel day, although this one really put that idea to the test. And we’re never flying anywhere with Elizabeth ever again.

– Alec

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