Image: Adobe Stock

In last  month’s column,  I mentioned that  I was once again  preparing to visit my grand- kiddos,   and family in Santa Fe New Mexico.  I dubbed myself the flying Ammie (grandma) – gaining access to Luca and Nova and racking up frequent flyer miles is a winning combination.  

Delays are incorporated into my flying time and of no big consequence.  However, this trip was atypical.  It took 29 hours to  fly from New York to Albuquerque,  New Mexico.

Going through the  boarding process  was a snap.  We were comfortably strapped into our seats—well, as comfortable as one can be.  I had my Kindle handy as well as earphones and began picking out movies.  Joe, my traveling companion,  had his book open in his lap.

The engines started; we taxied to the runway and  nada.  We sat for an hour while the plane was burning fuel – a tad disconcerting.  Then “the  crackle”- the sound of the microphone being turned on. 

 “This is your captain speaking, due to inclement weather we are taking another route.  We need to taxi back to the gate to refuel.  Passengers are asked to take their belongings and deplane”  Good idea, I thought. 

Our time was well-spent (?)  standing in a long line creeping towards the agents desk to reschedule connections at Dallas Fort Worth airport.  We began to kibitz with our fellow passengers. Considering the circumstance, we were a congenial group. 

Fast-forward two hours.

We boarded the plane to Dallas. The plane sat on the tarmac until we were cleared for take-off. Thankfully, the engines were turned off while we waited.   Two hours later we were in the air.  Good and bad news: We had already missed our recently rebooked connection.  I tried not to think of the consequence.

We were mid-air when the crackle alerted us to another message – there were audible groans of “oh-oh”   and “what now” among the passengers.   I held my breath; Joe kept reading.  “This is your captain speaking. We cannot land in Dallas -Fort Worth. We are landing in Houston.”

Still holding my breath (It’s amazing how long one can hold their breath), we landed on a far-off runway in  Houston.  There was no gate in sight.  We stayed on that runway for an eternal hour.  Surprisingly, there was little grumbling — perhaps everyone was holding their breath.

Finally, the doors opened and the passengers spilled out into George Bush International Airport.  At 1:30 a.m., we were on our own. No one was headed to Houston.  Consequently, folks were crowded around the lone ticket agent’s desk. 

A crackle (a sound that filled us with foreboding) and the agent announced:   “I cannot help you, please call the airline.”  Two hundred plus passengers were trying to connect with the airline — impossible task! 

In the midst of the mayhem, the passengers  got a text message stating the next plane was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. — the next day. It was perhaps 2 a.m. Joe and I  were discussing the unappetizing idea of sleeping in the airport.  More bad news: Fellow passengers got ahead of the pack.  Every available seat was taken.

While we were deciding between sleeping in the airport or a hotel, I received another text.  The 7:30 a.m. flight was delayed until 12:30 p.m. the next day.   This time Joe and I were ahead of the pack.  We hopped on a hotel shuttle —destination unknown. 

Fast forward five hours. 

We were back at George Bush International airport.  We reconnected with our fellow passengers and shared our harrowing overnight stays.   Some were worse than others.  Although I thought mine was the most horrible.  I found a dead cockroach in the bathroom.  Joe in order to silence my scream, told me it was a bird!  Huh?

Our flight to Dallas-Fort Worth was easy-peasy.   We boarded the plane to Albuquerque joking with our now friends.  We pulled out from the gate and the flight attendant was instructing  on how to use oxygen when …the crackle.

“This is your captain speaking. We are sorry you will have to deplane.  This aircraft has not been inspected.” I heard many unpublishable words. We were directed to take  the choo-choo-Charlie train to another terminal with our new friends. 

We formed groups and began to share our stories.  Then another crackle—everyone stopped mid-sentence.  “ Passengers on flight……please go back to the original gate which necessitated riding around the terminal on the choo-choo- Charlie!

This time, I thought we were headed for a revolt instead of Albuquerque.  We started to gather our things when—another crackle:  “We are sorry. Stay at the current gate. 

And so it went. With our new-found friends, we played musical groups—akin to musical chairs however no one  was eliminated.  We were waiting for our elusive flight.

Fast forward three hours. 

Once again, on the plane, except for the roar of the engines and the flight attendant giving the “in case we go down” talk, there was an eerie  silence.  When the plane lifted, so  did the passengers spirits, loud cheers and applause broke out. 

Upon arriving in Albuquerque, I was rewarded  with hugs and kisses from Luca and Nova.  What we do for our grand-kiddos, right?

In retrospect, my sometimes wavering faith in humanity was restored. For a period of 29 hours, 200-plus passengers held their cool.  We didn’t know each other’s political, religious, or sexual orientation, yet we were respectful and kind to each other. 

We are fellow travelers on  life’s  journey.  Seems that kindness, respect,  and patience are not overrated, rather they are underused — in families, friendships, workplaces and government.   Only last week we witnessed chaos and disrespect from our non-working dysfunctional Congress. 

 Seems out of balance, don’t you think? 

The survival of local journalism depends on your support.
We are a small family-owned operation. You rely on us to stay informed, and we depend on you to make our work possible. Just a few dollars can help us continue to bring this important service to our community.
Support RiverheadLOCAL today.

Avatar photo
Celia Iannelli is a native New Yorker enjoying a second career — in 'retirement' — as a freelance writer. She lives in Jamesport.