I’m only adding this story because my reactions were remarkable for me.
After leaving the hotel at 2:00am Pacific Time, I flew from Atlanta to Charlotte and then to Denver. Although I was dragging after a few days of jet lag, I was looking forward to getting home in early afternoon, taking a hot bath and enjoying a fall afternoon in my own home.
I got off the plane somewhere around B25 and looked on the departure screen. Gate B86? In less than an hour? I started my power walk, shifting my heavy computer bag from shoulder to shoulder and as gently as possible elbowing my way past all of the people who were riding the moving walkways like streetcars.
Huffing and puffing I reached the gate in time for the announcement that the plane was delayed for several hours and would be leaving from gate B71. I rested.
Soon I found a power source, plugged in my phone and ITouch and waited. About 1:30 I walked over to the gate to learn that it might be leaving sooner from Gate B58. All righty then. When I asked the gate agent if I had time to get some lunch, she said that the plane wasn’t in yet, and that I was safe until 2:00. Well, it doesn’t take a time analyst to figure out that if the plane had not arrived, I had much more time than that.
So I ate.
In the meantime, I was receiving intermittent calls and text messages from the airline, letting me know that the plane was leaving at 3:25pm, 2:00pm, 2:15pm, etc.
Anyway, I returned to the gate to hear the anouncement that we had a plane. There was just one problem; we didn’t have a crew. But, rest assured, they were looking for a crew and would be leaving momentarily.
Text from airline: New departure time, 2:59pm.
More time analysis convinced me that we were in Denver. We would be lucky if they could assemble a crew within 1 1/2 hours. Perhaps we should all book ourselves on the 6:30pm flight and be assured that we would get home earlier.
So we got a co-pilot. We all applauded as she boarded. She waved and let us know that they would have a captain ASAP.
New Departure time: 4:00pm
Pilot, crew, boarding. Hey, we’re doing well. New departure time, 4:30pm.
I called my husband from my assigned seat and let him know that we were set to go. Except that they couldn’t get the jetway to released from the plane.
And then the pilot appeared. “Sorry, folks.” Seems there is a problem. And it isn’t safe to just pull back and close the door. Maintenance has been called.
I called my husband with an update. “If this is an ill-fated plane, I love you and please tell the kids and grandkids that I love them, too.”
Crackle, crackle, “This is your pilot.” Seems the runway chosen by the controllers is experiencing wind shear and tailwinds. Our pilot deems it unsafe and will not take off from that runway. (Thank you Jesus and women pilots without an overdose of testosterone.) Therefore we were now taxiing two miles across the Denver airport to a different runway and joining the queue of planes ready to depart.
I actually considered turning my phone back on and sending a text to all of my friends and loved ones. The ill-fated plane theory was gaining momentum.
But here’s the most interesting thing. I wasn’t really afraid. I flashed a few mental images of myself in which I screamed, “Oh, no,” and clawed at the woman next to me. But they were only flashes.
Have I totally lost my fear of dying or was I just so tired that I relaxed into a zen-like state. I won’t know until the next imaginary near-death experience.
P.S. The woman next to me was complaining about the delay. I was thanking United for taking every possible safety measure. I’d rather be late than not at all, thank you very much!