Friday, January 07, 2005

Notes from the Delayed

Dec. 24th, 2004 (transcribed from my handwritten* journal.)

A winter storm in the midwest has delayed or cancelled all of the early morning flights from the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Airport, including mine. I arrived at 5:30 for a 6:30 flight; I have to wait in line at the ticket counter until 7:35 to even speak to an agent. Fortunately, I get a crafty booking agent, who gets me on an unlikely series of flights (detailed elsewhere).

Since my new routing doesn't commence until 12:30, I sneak over to Tech Aviation, the general aviation FBO at the airport; trading on my amateur-pilot status, I go to the empty pilot's lounge and nap away a few of my delayed hours in a comfortable recliner, rather than in the terminal with a lot of unhappy holiday travelers.

Back at the gate (one of two at this small-town terminal) the commuter flight to Philadelphia is delayed a further half-hour. So I sit with my carry-on, and since they are my neighbors, I begin to chat with some of my fellow Delayed. We swap travel plans, our most obvious common ground; since I am traveling to visit my fiancée, I show the rings to a few of them, and three college girls and someone's grandmother ooh and ahh. Then an east Indian man smiles and says hello; he had heard me complaining about the lack of world cuisines in Scranton, and recommends an Indian restaurant that I hadn't known of.

As we finally begin boarding, he - Ajay, a doctor - turns out to be my seatmate, and we continue a lively conversation. From world cuisine, we spiral outwards to world customs and traditions, and marriage traditions. He recommends the movie "Monsoon Wedding", which I recall that Gail has in our Netflix queue. As we travel I point out landmarks, as the flight from Scranton to Philadelphia takes us at a relatively low altitude over my aerial "back yard".

In Philadelphia I am to spend two hours until the next leg to Chicago, so I find my gate and pick up some Cholestero-Chinese food for lunch and settle in to people-watch. In the airport food court, a brass quartet is playing languid Christmas carols; the trombonist, in particular, looks stricken, wishing he were someplace else. I suppose an airport gig on Christmas Day is not what anyone dreams of in the conservatory. They play on as if the iceberg has hit, and the lifeboats are receding into the night.

Look at all the people coming and going. Here's a young boy in grey sweatshirt - on it, a Nike swoosh and the legend "Just Jew It: Brian's Bar Mitzvah, 2004". At the next table, a flight crew sits down, and I note that somewhere in US Airways' pilot roster is a virtual twin for Tom Jones, Welsh singing phenom, complete with muttonchop sideburns. Fun, fun.

My next two flights go off as scheduled and without much further delay; I arrive in Seattle 20 minutes late, and my luggage arrives on another plane (and another airline) an hour later. A holiday miracle, as I later discover there are thousands of pieces of lost luggage today. So I count myself lucky, in Seattle only nine hours late but at least on the same day. And best of all, of course, is to be back with Gail again.

*A primitive system of pigment marks made upon thin sheets of cellulose pulp, widely used in the last century; now archaic, like the author.