The trip hazards
Monday January 16th 2023, 5:59 pm
Filed under: Life

Okay, more details now that I’m not typing at midnight: the niece whose Texas wedding we missed to the Southwest meltdown? She had a second reception in Utah on Saturday so we rebooked for that–which meant getting to spend time with my mom, too, which was so great. When we flew in Friday evening we had DoorDash deliver Indian food to her house, and my brother and his daughter and our sister and her husband and our youngest joined us at Mom’s for our own mini-reunion.

Traveling tip: if you order a big restaurant meal in another state hours before you arrive in that state, call your credit card company before their fraud unit calls your land line so you can tell them yes it’s legit. Thank you Discover for calling quickly and unfreezing us before we left for the airport.

Last night on our return, there were no direct flights so we came via Vegas. There was a guy in that airport where I thought, I hope you’re not on our flight. He was, along with three family members, but they were not the first but the second family to loudly harangue the crew starting with the gate agent.

A woman we’d seen walking around just fine suddenly developed a profound limp and demanded to pre-board. The agent had seen her, and had the backup of you’re supposed to say when you book your flight if you need assistance, so she got told, nicely, no–your place in line is this number and that’s where you need to go.

That mom was angry and she let everybody know it, including telling the flight attendant once she finally got on all about how she’d been wrongfully denied and how terrible that agent was. The kicker is that she and her young son got second row seats anyway and could have spared herself the embarrassment of her ongoing public tantrum.

Richard expressed empathy quietly to the agent, who was grateful for it.

The woman’s limp magically entirely disappeared after the flight.

But that was nothing compared to the next group.

While she was still in line inside the terminal, as an antidote to what I didn’t know was only the start of it all, I figured our trip was pretty much over and it was time to put the rest of the finger puppets to use with no further need to save any. I pulled out some pretty ones and the first two flight attendants we saw, a young African-American man and a young, petite African American woman, were just so taken with them. For crying babies, I said, and as they asked if I’d made them I told them they were from Peru: the women can put food on the table, kids get happy, everybody wins.

It was clear they were both wishing for one of their own as they held them so I added, And they’re for you, too! Any ones you want. A handful more puppets came out to make sure they had enough.

So that started our time together on a joyful note, with Richard passing the little wearable animals over from me, and I said to him on the drive home, They’re good people anyway but that probably set the tone and helped them through what was about to happen.

He thought that was probably so.

I’ve never been so grateful for TSA screening. We were delayed by storms in the South but then by that angry guy. And his wife. And his mom. And their kid. During boarding he was yelling at the back of the plane loud enough for ME to hear at the front row and I would have said that wasn’t possible. But it was. And he went on and on and on and on and on and on and ON and on. Does the man ever breathe? Then his mom wouldn’t board–I have no idea what her problem was, but she finally got on. His kid (about six?) yelled for awhile, too, because that seemed the thing to do. His wife at the last was visibly shaking her body with rage in view of my window as she screamed at the plane’s door. At length.

Only able to guess at what her problem was, I thought, Lady. This is Southwest. You arrive late and there’s only one seat left on the full flight, that’s your seat. Nobody has done you wrong. But you guys don’t threaten the crew and you don’t scream at them.

The young flight attendant with the beautiful long braids was soothing, kind, wise beyond her years, in no way backed down, and at the last said, Thank you for your time, ma’am, with so much emotional honesty to the improbable words that it reminded me of when I was being calm with my teenagers: you love them and you see they’re acting that way because they’re in pain and you try to meet them where they are while still saying the rules hold. If our hero was religious, she fully lived by the Love she believes in.

She asked if anyone would like to move for this family, and boy howdy people did because nobody wanted to sit by any of them if they didn’t have to.

I have to add to last night’s remarks that Richard was every bit as much if not more of a support to her and the others as I was. Even if I’m the one who got the hug. He asked her later, Do you have to put up with drama like that often?

Her whole body did a Phew! at the question and then she laughed and said, No! 421 flights and that’s never happened before!

And yet she’d handled it like an old pro and I thought, Every police department in the country should hire you to teach them de-escalation techniques.

All of those people actually eventually sat down and shut up after she was done. I’m sure the male attendant at the back dealing with the dad was handling it just as well.

I wondered afterwards if that second family was, in effect, Westboro reincarnated: trying to anger the workers so they could sue Southwest when they kicked them off–it’s the only thing that made sense.

Nothing was going to be served during the flight, the pilot announced after we finally started pulling away from the gate about an hour late: there would be too much turbulence.

He didn’t say, and half of it has been human. It was definitely one way to keep drinks away from those guys without making the attendants have to take any more flak that would surely come with the denial. That pilot was brilliant.

We did in fact have enough of a rollercoaster starting a little while into the ride that the pilots were too busy to remember to turn off the bathroom sign. Whee! Yeah, we stayed buckled.

So. We finally land. The lights come on, people get up to get their stuff, it’s quite late.

You know how they drive the outside walkway over to the plane’s door and the little canvas-looking accordion overhead stretches out its cover?

The first eight or ten times, the gate agent at the controls approached, stopped, backed up, considered, tried, missed, backed up, again and again, till the pilot came on and chuckled, She’s new; she started in January.

This, of course, was January 15.

She tried a bunch more times and none of it was done quickly. We could see her calling someone. We could see her hands gesturing in frustration and embarrassment as she could see us seeing her. She tried again. Way off. No. On the phone again, and you could imagine the words to go with the pleading face and motions: Can’t someone come?! Has everybody gone home for the night?!

Our intrepid attendant got on the mic and said, Anybody want to hop down from the plane and help her out? We’ve been on the job for eleven and a half hours and we would like to go to bed.

The whole plane laughed with her because she was laughing and a little comic relief is always a good thing.

It had been a good ten minutes at this point. The pilot asked everybody to sit back down. We did. Then he moved the plane forward.

She considered the angle. No, no, that was worse.

Okay. He backed the plane up and angled it sideways towards that walkway as he did so, and this time, she cruised right forward. Nailed it. She connected us up, we had a cover out of the hard rain and we had our walkway, and there you go.

The poor woman was back inside at the gate and had to watch all of us go past her and we all smiled a hello of, that’s okay and an everybody’s new at a job once, we get it (it wasn’t just me by any means.)

We followed the emotional lead of our wonderful attendants and pilot, who’d repeatedly made everything all right in spite of it all.

Richard and I got home wired and tired and way past our bedtime in both time zones. I told him my body didn’t want to sleep but I was going to boss it around and tell it too bad, and with that he gave up the day to its ghosts along with me and that was that.

3 Comments so far
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Gosh, I kinda fell off the face of the planet for awhile. Sorry about that! And to come back to this post – wow, what a story!

I am glad for those agents that they got a chance to interact with you two on such a rough night.

And super glad you got to have that nice little reunion and that apparently you’ve survived the last few months.

Comment by twinsetellen 01.16.23 @ 9:42 pm

Angels among us…

Comment by Jayleen Hatmaker 01.17.23 @ 7:31 am

Wow! Kudos to the amazing attendant.

Brilliant move by the pilot keeping alcohol out of angry hands. And, boy howdy, that made me laugh!

Miss you, sweet friend!

Comment by Constance 01.18.23 @ 7:46 pm

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