Today was spent traveling, which is to say, also waiting to travel. I drove to Duluth and caught the shuttle to Minneapolis (and had a nice nap– I recommend it), then hung out at Terminal 2 for an interminable amount of time. (Kidding. But there was a 4 hour delay, so obscenely expensive snacks were purchased).
But here’s the delight: as we were finally in line to board, a fellow Portland-bound stranger came up to me. “Are we boarding? Because I have a beer, and I’m wondering if I need to finish it now.” I said it didn’t seem like a big hurry, but probably he shouldn’t order another.
Ten minutes later, I hadn’t moved forward at all, and they started to de-board the plane– not a good sign. The announcement came over the speakers: “Due to staff scheduling we don’t have a full crew. We need two pilots and don’t have them.” They said something about 7:30, and since it was 6:45, we all walked away. Or, I did, anyway.
I realize now, a whole day after this happened, that what they likely said was we could hopefully take off at 7:30. And of course everyone boards pretty well in advance. But all I heard was a time over four hours after we were supposed to leave, and time is funny and stretchy at an airport, so I went over to the bar and found the guy (Dave, and his partner, Gina, and their drinking acquaintance, Patrick) to tell them there was no need to hurry up.
They invited me to join them… and after a little hemming and hawing, I did. (You acclimate to airport prices surprisingly fast, but I still had sticker shock later at my $10.26 cider). We chatted, they pondered what Sun Country was going to do with a plane full of drunk people (there had been delays all day), I had three sips of my cider, and then we peered over to see if anything was happening at our gate which was looking suspiciously empty.
Dave went to look, and then all of a sudden we were hurriedly paying our tabs because EVERYONE ELSE WAS ON BOARD. Dave was holding the gate!
Though I grew up in the thick of my teetotaling Baptist relatives, namely my grandma, I am still deeply Midwestern, and I could hear my grandma’s voice reminding me that “we don’t waste food” and “there are starving children in Africa,” so I downed the pounder of cider, apologized to the attendant who checked my ticket, (“People listen too closely,” she muttered. Well, when you announce things on a loudspeaker…), and squeezed into my seat.
It’s a flight experience I’ve never had before, but would be up for again (though our row had no window and I wondered, perhaps foolishly, if, like in a car, I ought to be looking outside in case of motion sickness). To my cousin’s disappointment, I was fully sober three hours later when we landed, and only seemed drunk to my aunt when we pulled in at the cottage on the Pacific coast because I’d been napping on the drive and by my Minnesota body clock it was 2:00 a.m.
It was fun to be both a relaxed traveler and an impulsive one, especially after starting the day with irrelevant anxiety. It felt good to be self-sufficient, to not be catching a connecting flight or otherwise motivated to rail against my cheap airline’s disorder; to sit and write and watch a movie and be in the easy state of Can’t Do Anything About It So No Use Stressing. And then to connect with strangers I will likely never see again, to be part of their story and have them be part of mine, and to experience lift off in a slightly altered state– a very apt expression of the wonderful strangeness of modern travel.