Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Premiere Week Continues!

The Story Behind the Story is a regularly-run segment in memoir form telling the story of the places and experiences that inspired The Revelation Saga.  It is taken, in part, from an email journal made during the adventure.  Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Chapter 2
How Not to Fly

            The Atlanta Airport is a kinetic mosh of chaos and disorder, a kicked anthill.  On top of that, it’s huge.  How something so big can be so packed with so many people is beyond me.  Luckily, I’m at my gate, worrying about the next part of the journey – getting to New York in the narrow window of time I have left to make the flight to London. I’m to be on the last flight out, the redeye, and missing it would cause a domino effect that I don’t want to think about.  There is a three hour layover in New York, but my plane in Atlanta is now three hours late.  Do the math.

            The good news?  My plane has arrived.  The bad news?  Where do I start?  First, the reason the plane is three hours late, I’m told, is because of a maintenance issue. Issue sounds so clinical, so clean.  Something to be solved with consideration and perhaps a philosophical conversation.  Not like a maintenance problem, which is what happens when the flux capacitor, or whatever the hell it's called, falls out of the freaking engine - something a little more serious than a busted beverage cart and requires hammers and screaming to fix.

            Please fasten your seatbelts.  The captain has informed us your confidence may experience some slight rough air. 

            Secondly, if my first plane was overkill, this one is its Danny DeVito-in-Twins brother.  I can see it parked on the tarmac, not even connected to a gate, waiting on me to board.  The damn thing actually looks sad. The wings seem to droop, and the nose graphics and cockpit windows somehow together look like a crying clown.  Perfect.  An emotionally compromised airplane.  And here I forgot my tissues. 

Walking up the pull-away steps in the Georgian summer heat, the piercing squeal of the engine’s turbine promises to have my ears ringing for hours.  I’m empty handed, as I’ve had to check my carry-on backpack, and I can see why.   

            Your mobile phones and other electronic devices that might be useful in an emergency situation should be turned off during takeoff.

            I’m so worried I’ve made an error in boarding the wrong plane that I check with the elderly flight attendant, but she confirms the plane does indeed fly to New York City.  When I ask if we’ll be dusting crops on our way, her patronizing smile suggests she intends to spit in my drink later.

            If you are seated at an emergency exit, please review the responsibilities on the back of the safety information card found in the seat pocket.  It is highly likely these instructions will become useful during flight.

            My seat is at the front of the plane, in clear view of the open cockpit.  The old stewardess makes three unsuccessful attempts to close the outside door as the steps are pulled away from the plane.  The look on her face makes me wonder if she got it on her last try.  She then takes a moment to run through her safety speech.  The words ‘sudden’ and ‘decompression’ stick in my mind. 

            There’s activity in the cockpit as the plane taxis out to the runway.  Our captain looks like he moonlights as a lounge singer and the co-pilot is a daffy-looking, blond-haired woman, her face thick with bright make-up.  From my vantage point I can see her scratch her head constantly as she looks at the instrument panel.  I pray she has lice.

            Should your confidence experience an unlikely water landing, your seat may be used as a defecation device. 

            Eventually the plane rattles its way into the sky.  I look to my watch, doing the math in my head.  This is going to be close.

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