16 January 2014

Stuck Inside of Mobile

The flight was delayed almost four hours. There we all were, boarded and belted in, when the pilot announced that a ‘placard’ needed to be replaced. That meant that there would be a slight delay in take–off. “Just a few minutes,” he reported. But shortly thereafter the captain returned to say that a ‘bottle’ had broken while the placard was being mended and that the repair would take a good hour to complete. If anyone so desired then we could de-plane while the mechanics replaced “the bottle,” and then re-board when the work was finished. I became suspicious. I had a connecting flight to make, and when I had originally scheduled the trip I made sure that the layover would leave sufficient time for mishaps and/or delays, but this new development threatened my caution. And having de-planed, I noticed that the airline had brought over a cart filled with the ubiquitous little packages of peanuts, pretzels and sweet cookies that have become the free fare for economy class passengers, and offered us them and drinks as if we were aboard and in flight, I grew convinced that this delay would certainly exceed an hour and that my connections would not be successfully made. I approached the attendants at the gate and asked without real hope if the delay would prevent me from making my connection, and the woman behind the counter immediately booked me on a later connecting flight—a much later connecting flight. A much, much later connecting flight. There would be no joy in Mudville this nightand no dinner either. I called my dear friend and reported the state of the world, and he said graciously (as I expected he would) that whenever I arrived he would be there to pick me up.
            It was subsequently announced that the plane’s broken bottle had been caused by “human error.” I suppose this was for the airline both excuse and exculpation—there was nothing structurally wrong with their airplane: it was other people who created the problem. Of course, this didn’t account for the original problem with the ‘placard,’ whatever that might have been, indeed, what a placard might be, in fact. In any case, the repair continued to increase in complexity and time required, and after about two hours we were informed that the decision had been made to route us to another gate and another plane altogether. And so all of the passengers re-boarded the first plane and retrieved our carry-ons, de-planed again, and moved to the new gate that was at that moment de-planing a newly arrived flight in from somewhere else. The waiting area became very crowded and extremely lively. After approximately another 30 minutes or so we re-boarded, taking exactly the same seats we had occupied on the first flight. There was no mention of placards and bottles. We sat awaiting taxiing and takeoff.
            But the weather had changed dramatically. Snow had begun to vigorously fall and before take-off the plane had to visit the de-icing section of the airport: another 30 minutes or so of delay.  I was reading my Giambattista VicoOn the Study Methods of Our Timewith some sincere interest, but soon the day’s hours had to be accounted for and I drifted off to sleep, only to be too-soon awakened by news that we were now actually headed for the runway and eventual take-off. These are such moments through which I prefer not to sleep, and under my watchful eye we flew into the air with no further complication—though for me the very possibility of flying in the airplaneany airplaneis fraught with complexity. We were served (again) packets of peanuts, pretzels, and sweet cookies, and offered (again) complimentary Coca-Cola beverages and even, for purchase, more elaborate food stuffs and liquors. Now we appeared to be a normal flight, albeit four hours late.
            There was a time in my life when these events would have caused me inordinate worry, consternation and even anger. At such times I would anxiously pace the floors, hoping, even expecting that my pacing would inspire somebody to do something and return everything to schedule and send me on to my destination in due time. I hoped my worry and discontent would effect some solution.
            But this time I felt resigned and rather at peace with the situation. I mean, I knew that there was nothing I could do—I had no bottle they could use to replace the bottle someone had brokenand there was no other means of getting me to my destination in reasonable time except this airline. And so my breathing remained steady, my heart beat regular and slow, and my mind focused comfortably on matters far removed from issues of delay. And I suspect that this patience derives from the age at which I have arrived: I am not in a rush for anything, really. After all, wherever I am ultimately heading, well, I can wait. I do what I can here and now and do not worry about those things over which I have absolutely no control. If I do not arrive sooner, I will certainly arrive later.
            I think of Hillel: And if not now, when?
            I think of Hamlet: Rest, rest, perturbed Spirit.
            I rest, no longer perturbed or even perturbable.


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