Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fight, flight, fright

This past Thursday, I had a flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles at 5:00 in the afternoon, scheduled for arrival at 6:00. Due to a cancellation and seven subsequent delays I didn't get to my hotel in the City of Angels until 1:30 a.m.

Little did I know that would be the easy leg of my brief journey to Southern California.

My trip back from Los Angeles to San Francisco early Saturday morning was delayed more than two hours. Once over San Francisco, the pilot tried for 45 minutes to land in what he called "severe turbulence." But turbulence is bumpy, jolty, jumpy. This was a skidding, sliding, whooshing, out of control sense that the plane was a matchbox in the hands of a storm, not a solid jet in the hands of a person.

During this time, people were screaming, crying, praying and throwing up. I was sitting in an aisle, and in the window seat was Alex, an 11-year-old boy traveling alone (with his family several rows behind.) The woman in the middle row was sobbing and vomiting, and I was giving her wet wipes and airsickness bags and asking Alex if his seat belt was on tight and if he was OK. I’m so grateful he was there. If I hadn’t been so intent on not scaring him, I would have been crying too. I thought I was going to die in the frigid, grey waters of the San Francisco Bay with Luca an ocean away; just a week short of visiting my family in Mexico.

After at least five landing attempts, and again a few feet above the runway, the pilot raised the plane again. He came over the loudspeaker. “As I’m sure you’ve noticed” he said, “we can’t land. We need to fly to Sacramento, await instructions, then fly to San Francisco in a few hours. I’m sure you all have many questions. We’ll get this all figured out from the ground”. Alex was way ahead of him. "I am not getting on another plane” he told me quickly. “My family and I are renting a car as soon as we land, and driving to San Francisco". I was impressed by his lucidity (either that, or his clairvoyance) and decided this was my kind of guy. "I'm coming with you" I said.

We landed in Sacramento, at which point I, a die-hard agnostic, turned to the heavens and said thank you five times. I got out of the plane to stretch my shaky legs, bought a banana and a bar of chocolate (how could I not think of food at a time like this?) and then set out to find Alex and his family. After brief introductions, we waited for their luggage, rented a car, and drove to the Bay Area in the rain (which made me feel grateful for my new friends again, and for the fact I didn't attempt the drive on my own, possibility I had briefly considered).

Michael, Won, Alex and Andrew dropped me off in Marin, where I caught a bus to the San Francisco airport (taxis would take longer, I was told.)

From the San Francisco airport I took a cab home.

I got home at 8:00 p.m.

The Great Wave
A Ukiyo-e print by Hokusai, Wikipedia

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

che spavento...per fortuna tutto
è finito per il meglio......

Anonymous said...

Read "the Secret" and the power of positive thinking.

Miguel Cane said...

Oh Honey!

This IS a story!

You must write it! I am admiring you so much right now you don't even know!

Please give my love to Carol, Tomás and assorted loved ones in Mexico (Say hi to your brother Pedro!). I wish I was there so we could hang! But you can always come here too, right?

Maybe by boat...

Sue Radd said...

Wow. What a story. Glad you made it back and even more grateful that you had someone else to focus on. (Best way to get out of yourelf is to help someone else, or so I've heard....)

My father used to travel extensively for business back in the 70s. Once he recalled one very, very close call. He said that as the plane began to nosedive and the oxygen masks dropped, all he could think of was, "Of all the ways to go, I can't believe I'm in a plane, on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, on the way to a jobsite. What am I doing here?"