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
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. Its raining. The kiosk check-in
keeps rejecting my reservation. Need an attendant. It wasnt
my techno illiteracy after all; the flight was changed. An hour-and-a-half
delay. Hurry up and wait. Great, Ill 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
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
Sorry, Ma'am, that wont 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.
Im exhausted. Nice plane, plenty of room, nice surprise.
Seated in the Exit row, Row 13. Why do planes even have Row 13?
Hotels dont 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, were
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. Thats faster
than the schedule read. Good. The bouncing and rumbling to the
runway quickly lulls me to sleep. Im 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 havent 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 mgosh! 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 isnt working.
Should be able to fix it in thirty minutes.
Cant get off the plane, of course. Then it began. The cell
phones popped open. Had I not been awake to hear the captains
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 cant figure out; they
wont tell us anything. Drama that turns into trauma
with each message.
Reader Ruby quietly phones home. Well
be delayed. Hard to tell how long. Ill 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. Im counting on the blue-shirt guys.
Well get there when we get there.
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 acquaintancesonly
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