Friday, October 09, 2009

Please Hold Thumbs: Hurry Up and Wait

Welcome to the second exciting excerpt from my recently published book, PLEASE HOLD THUMBS: A NOT-SO-ROUND TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA, now available at Amazon.com.

In this installment, my wife Laurie and I are finally on our own merry way to attend our daughter's wedding in South Africa. Unfortunately, there's only one thing standing in our way: the worst airline on the face of the earth. Their name? Now that would be telling. I'll give you a hint: It rhymes with Schmelta.

Please enjoy: HURRY UP AND WAIT

Laurie and I had other things in mind, like unleashing the hounds of neurosis upon each other for some pre-trip jitters. This involved the main task of packing. I made sure that I got my stuff out of the way first because my darling wife takes a little while to pack, say…twelve hours? If you think I’m exaggerating, I assure you I am not. She brings more clothes than all of the passengers on the SS Minnow combined. Should we ever be shipwrecked, she’ll be fine. Not only is she getting her own stuff together, she has to double check mine or at least question my packing methods. Okay, I may not be Mr. Neat, but, honestly, once she wanted me to get clothes-folding lessons from her son. In her eyes, I needed a packing tutor.


I attempted to get some rest on the couch at around midnight, but the flurry of activity and my own anxiety prevented that from occurring. So, I stayed up all night and when Laurie had finished somewhere around 2:30 AM, we tried to relax a bit before Boris picked us up at 4:00. She was quite proud of herself and to tell you the truth so was I. She had worked her tail off all day long and was ready on time. This had always seemed to be the hardest part and now it was over. I took it as a good omen.

This break gave us time to go over our flight schedule one more time before we sailed off into the wild blue yonder. We were scheduled to leave from Portland Airport AKA PDX on Friday, July 19 at 6:15 am PST heading for New York’s JFK Airport by 4:45 pm EST. (I’ve got all these designations down, don’t I?) A little over an hour later, we would depart from JFK at 5:55 pm and arrive in Johannesburg, South Africa on Saturday at 240 pm…uh, BLE (below the equator). This meant we would be spending, with time differences, over twenty hours in the air. Were we up for it? Sure, why not? The short stop over in New York was cutting it very close but I had something that I believed would get us through. It’s a little thing called Faith and in that, I would find my strength.

Lo and behold, it wasn’t meant to be.
An announcement was made that Delta Flight #98 had mechanical difficulties that would delay its departure for at least two hours. This did not instill a lot of confidence right from the start. We had been there since about 4:15. Where was everybody else? Did some Delta nimrod leave the lights on all night and run the battery down? We could have checked out the plane ourselves, fixed it and still left on schedule.

Our timetable didn’t allow for this kind of nonsense since this delay would cause us to miss our connecting flight on South Africa Airways in New York. The Delta representative booked us on the next flight out, #1982 to Cincinnati, which was departing at 6:55. Then we would make an immediate connection to JFK twenty minutes later. This would have gotten us there just in the nick of time.

With a shrug, we were relieved that we were given a solution to our dilemma as we sat aboard Flight #1982 bound for Ohio. Once on board, we relaxed temporarily since there would be no reason to fret until we hit the Eastern Seaboard. I slept sporadically, catching glimpses of some asinine on-flight movie that I had no desire to actually attempt to watch on land, in the air or even under the sea. It suddenly dawned on me that after all these years after the contest my parents won way back in the sixties, here I was actually going to Cincinnati. I wouldn’t get a chance to see the Bengals, but then again, they wouldn’t get to see me either.
We landed in Cincinnati only ten minutes late, which would not have been too bad except that it cut our time in half. We were landing at gate 24 and had to board at gate 1. As we discovered, we were not alone. An extremely tall German woman had a connecting flight leaving JFK about the same time as ours was chomping at the bit as we soon as we hit the tarmac. When the door opened, she was out of chute number one and galloped like a gazelle leaving us in the dust. With our carry-ons weighting us down, we still managed to tear across the entire length of the terminal and arrived at the gate just in the nick of time.
Huffing, puffing and sweating like long distance runners, we plopped d
own in our new seats and sighed with relief that we were going to make it. There really was no turning back now nor was there a way to turn us back. Damn! This was exciting! We were facing these set-backs in stride and I couldn’t help but sing a variation to The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme song to myself.
“We’re gonna make it after all!”
Why not? I full of Faith.
Then the first flight announcement began.
“This is your Captain speaking. I’m sorry. We’re facing a slight delay in take off, but I’m sure will be departing momentarily. Please stand by.”
A couple of minutes later…
“I’m sorry. It seems as though we’re facing a weather front that going to put us more than just a little behind. For those of you with connecting flights at JFK, the nearest Delta representative is ready, willing and able to help you solve any problems with your travel plans.”
Leaving Laurie on the plane, off I went to speak to the Delta rep in question. Immediately, this cordial, courteous and very helpful young lady informed me that we could make a connecting flight to France when we arrived in New York. Satisfied with that update, I returned to my wife. Another hour had gone by when the Captain announced the next piece of breaking news.
“It seems as though we are going to be sitting tight for quite awhile. There are severe thunderstorms across the Eastern Seaboard which means we are not going anywhere until they pass.”

At last, the weather broke and we able finally able to leave Cincinnati at 915 PM, a full (yet spiritually empty) seven hours after we had arrived. I passed out for the brief flight, knowing full well we’d be scrambling again once we reached JFK. I trusted Laurie had done the same since we needed all the energy we could muster to get through this next leg of our journey. After twelve hours, we had only made it as far as Ohio. If everything had gone according to plan, we would have been well over the Atlantic by now.

Maintaining my positive outlook on the whole situation, I recalled the Daylight Savings Time rule.
Fall back, spring forward.

As far as I was concerned, this was the best course of action. Unfortunately, I had it backwards.
Spring forward, fall on my face.

To be continued....





PLEASE HOLD THUMBS: A NOT-SO-ROUND TRIP TO SOUTH AFRICA is now on sale in paperback and downoad at http://www.lulu.com/scottcherney and on Kindle from Amazon.com

C'mon back next time for my final free preview:

PLEASE HOLD THUMBS: BAD KITTY
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