Unfortunately, it’s a true story.
Last week I was flying from D.C.’s Reagan National Airport to West Palm Beach on US Airways flight 1935, scheduled to depart at 3.15 p.m., changing planes in Philadelphia. Arrival in Palm Beach 8 p.m. I had high hopes for this journey since US Airways had just merged with American Airlines and promised passengers a “new and improved” experience.
Liftoff! We’re soaring into the wide blue yonder, enjoying the glass of water the crew distributes.
Benjamin Franklin had no idea what a gigantic airport his descendants would build. A long slog takes us to the furthest corner of Terminal B. The only eatery within reach is “Joe’s Grill,” serving burgers, fries and onion rings. People headed for Palm Beach do not have the youthful stomach to digest such fare.
Ah, what the heck, I thought, we’ll be soon on our way!
Indeed, we board a plane, circle around the airfield, when the captain says: “I’m turning back. There’s something wrong with the brakes. It shouldn’t take them long to fix.” We remain in the plane for an hour and a half while, presumably, the plane is being fixed. We do not receive water. The captain: “Folks I’m afraid we must deplane. Let’s wait in the terminal while the mechanics continue their work.”
We reclaim our corner. Now the counter is deserted, since the handlers had apparently assumed that we were on our way to Florida by now. Some people dare Joe’s Grill, while checking their bags for antacids. I take out my whole-wheat bagel, dry apricots and a bottle of water. Someone buys a couple of bottles at Joe’s for two old people in wheelchairs, accompanied only by the lady’s comfort shiatsu.
It is now 9.30 p.m. A man materializes behind the counter to inform that the airplane cannot be fixed and the airline pretty much doesn’t know what to do with us.
“We may be able to switch you over to Terminal A.”
I walk over to the man who sports a name tag, “Thomas L.” I ask if they actually have a plane at Terminal A. He looks at me with disgust.
“I didn’t say that. Are you hard of hearing?”
A younger woman comes to my defense: “Don’t yell at her!”
Thomas L. turns to her with revulsion: “Are you her advocate, or what?”
I ask for Thomas L’s full name and he hisses: “I don’t have to give it to you.”
It’s 10 p.m. and the counter is again empty.
Then — a miracle! Redemption! At 11 p.m. a plane arrives from Tampa. The crew and the pilot see us huddled in a corner, hopeless and abandoned. He makes a few phone calls and says: “I’ll take you folks to West Palm.”
I arrive home at 3 a.m. and start reading accumulated newspapers about the pearls that Rick Scott and Charlie Crist toss at each other. At 5 a.m. I fall asleep.
In conclusion: My gargantuan thanks to the pilot and crew who on September 26 at Gate B-14 took pity on us, worked into the night, and flew us home. I shall pray for you on this Yom Kippur with exemplary fervor.
Rachel Patron is a former opinion columnist for the Sun-Sentinel. She resides in Boca Raton and is at work on a contemporary American novel. Column courtesy of Context Florida.