On the Plane…Off the Plane

3 June 2015

The least pleasing part of a trip abroad is the coming home…not the return (to your own bed and a comforting routine), but the departure… having to pack a reluctant suitcase that can’t accommodate the clothes you came with and maybe a few small “chachkies” acquired along the way. Eventually, not caring what breaks, you sit on it so one side of the zipper touches the other just enough to close…a potential ‘Jack-in-the-Box for any customs agent assigned to get a ‘look-see’ into your belongings. Then there’s leaving early, how early is too early, in this case from Barcelona and its narrow, convoluted maze just off Las Ramblas. What if there’s traffic and long check-in lines and hundreds waiting for a security check and…missing the plane. In grim foreboding, I imagine hearing the PA system, ringing down the airport hallways…”Passenger William Scher, you’ve got 30 seconds to get to Gate 74, the plane is preparing for take off.” I’m running, dragging my stuff, but where is Gate 74? Somehow, magically, it all gets done. Not only that, but there was no traffic, no lines at check-in and only five minutes to get through TSA. Belt and shoes back on, x-rayed to a crisp, I relax, contemplating the two and a half hours to boarding. No rushing…ain’t that great.

So now there’s time for a little breakfast, one more croissant, a cafĂ© con leche and a small orange juice…all for only 10 Euros ($11.40). What the hell, I had Euros to get rid of anyway. Then there’s time to read the newspaper on my iPhone, taking advantage of the free airport Wi-Fi. Only in my phone window is the message that the web site I want cannot be accessed because I’m not connected to the Internet. I shake the phone, but it still won’t accommodate. Now, though, it’s only two hours to boarding, I can daydream and people-watch for two hours.

And, finally, boarding begins and the 250 or so passengers are, eventually, boarded, belted and bonafide (a fourth passport check at the gate). The air conditioning is on, the music is playing, the luggage bins are closing…take off is moments away.
But minutes later, we’re aware that the plane is still at the gate. It hasn’t moved and there are strange scraping noises beneath the plane. The sooth-voiced captain switches on the PA and tells us there is a maintenance issue with a cargo door, being resolved. We’ll be taxiing to a runway any minute now. A plane with a maintenance issue…do I want to be flying on a plane with a maintenance issue? It’s okay, I tell myself, if the captain is comfortable flying it, it must be fine. He’s got a wife and kids to get home to, right?

Two hours later, after a few intermittent updates, a grim-voiced captain tells us the cargo door issue has not been resolved…the flight is cancelled.

There’s, obviously, more to come on this saga.