Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Flying Home

Mary Ann Weakley


It’s two a.m. My bones ache from three days of decorating a model home in Raleigh. Finally, my hotel room is in sight. Picked up the USA Today on my way in. Always wondered what time that landed.

The news was tomorrows.’ No time to check out the latest tragedy. Must rise in a few hours. Still need to do finishing touches on the model, then a plane to catch back to Nashville.

Morning alarm. Short night. Back to work and the model is finished on time. Rush to the airport. It’s raining. The kiosk check-in keeps rejecting my reservation. Need an attendant. It wasn’t my techno illiteracy after all; the flight was changed. An hour-and-a-half delay. Hurry up and wait. Great, I’ll nap.

Ready to board. My luck…a walk in the rain to the tarmac dragging my carry-on toward one of those fly-above-the-treetops small planes.

“Will this fit in that overhead?” I ask the wet uniform at the gate.

“Oh sure, no problem.”

“No problem.” From the second wet uniform at the portable steps. Juggling umbrella and luggage I climb the steps to the plane.

Problem.

“Sorry, Ma'am, that won’t fit above.”

“But two attendants told me it would fit.”

“I know, but they never get in these planes.”

Back to the tarmac for the ‘pink tag’. Skeptical, I leave my case on the tarmac in the rain.

I’m exhausted. Nice plane, plenty of room, nice surprise. Seated in the Exit row, Row 13. Why do planes even have Row 13? Hotels don’t have Floor 13.

“Lucky us, we get to open the emergency door,” I quip to my seatmate, quietly at rest next to the window.

Glaring at me he says, “If we get to open the door, we’re in trouble.”

Taking my cue that conversation is not an option, I settle back to get some sleep after the pilot announces in his confident voice, “Exactly 42 minutes to Nashville.” That’s faster than the schedule read. Good. The bouncing and rumbling to the runway quickly lulls me to sleep. I’m exhausted. My eyes open slightly to what seems to be excessive rumbling. Dozing. Sleeping. Dreaming. Waking.

“Are we in Nashville?”

From my sober seatmate, “No, we haven’t left yet.”

Doors open in the front. The captain is in the doorway. The co-captain is seated. Uniformed blue-shirt guys come on board and go into the cockpit. O’ m’gosh! Is this a hijacking?

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a mechanical problem. We will get underway as soon as we figure it out.” I guessed the blue shirts were ‘figuring it out.’

So much for ‘exactly 42 minutes to Nashville.’“Ladies and gentlemen, it seems the air conditioning isn’t working. Should be able to fix it in thirty minutes.”

Can’t get off the plane, of course. Then it began. The cell phones popped open. Had I not been awake to hear the captain’s air-conditioning assessment, I might have panicked at what I heard being broadcast into the cell phones around me.

‘Business exec Bob’ behind me calls at least three colleagues, leaves messages, “We are sitting trapped on a broken-down plane. A mechanical problem that they can’t figure out; they won’t tell us anything.” Drama that turns into trauma with each message.

‘Reader Ruby’ quietly phones home. “We’ll be delayed. Hard to tell how long. I’ll call you.”

‘Lady Exec’ across the aisle pulls out her blackberry-type gadget, makes calls, sends faxes, sends e-mail, connects with colleagues. Business is urgent, not a minute to waste. Life is in the balance.

Then the cacophony of returning calls begins. Jingling, buzzing, cymbals clanging, trumpets jazzing, Rocky Top and Mickey M-o-u-s-e tunes all colliding into each other.

Ho hum. Back to sleep. I’m counting on the blue-shirt guys. We’ll get there when we get there.

***

Mary Ann Weakley was born in Illinois, where she lived nearly a lifetime. After retiring from a career in education, she and her husband ventured to Tennessee with no job, no home, no acquaintances—only an adventurous spirit. She began a new career as an interior decorator in Nashville. Now living in Spring Hill, Tennessee, she devotes time to writing a decorating column. Currently, she is working on a memoir and profiles of admirable women who shared part of her lifetime in Illinois.

© Mary Ann Weakley

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012