A friend after reading my post about the non-jet set (I’m shocked too that anybody is reading this stuff!) said, “You left the best part of that story out.” I looked confused recounting in my head what all I had written only to conclude that the best part was that I’m not doing this whole motherhood thing alone. She clarified, “You didn’t tell the part about the landing.”
So the 7:30 p.m. flight home from LaGuardia is approximately 2 1/2 hours. I have a system for putting ear buds in so that people don’t talk to me. In this case, I knew I would only have one day in the office so I maximized those hours to get a ton of work done. I wrapped up the project I was working on and pulled out my book to read for the last 30 minutes of the flight. I was on the isle and pleased that the two people next to me were passed out for the entire flight, so I didn’t have to get up to let them out.
It was as if the commotion of putting my iPad & papers away and pulling out the novel I yearned for shook the girl next to me awake. She wasn’t exactly a girl… probably 25. It was either that or the mild turbulence we began to experience. The fasten seatbelt sign flashed on, but it was the kind of turbulence that if you really were going to wet your pants because you had to pee so badly, you would just get up and use the restroom.
The conversation started innocently, she said she had never seen someone do so much work on a plane… little did I know she was on flight #2 of her life, so the opportunity wasn’t that large. We briefly small talked as I kept opening my book and then sticking my book mark back in as she asked another question. Then it happened, “You look like you fly a lot, are you worried that we aren’t going to be able to land?” Then if one can slowly start to hyperventilate, she did. I assured her it was only a patch of weather, we were close to landing, and everything would be fine.
The landing gear came down in that thunky sounding way and she nearly leaped into my lap. The landing lights were now illuminating a giant cloud surrounding us and one could see nothing out the window. She gasped, “My chest is tightening up. I think we are going to die.” I’ve been on a flight with a medical emergency and we were too close to being home for my late night arrival to be extended by ambulances having to meet us on the tarmac.
Whatever came over me was crazy, stupid, pure kindness, total selfishness, maybe it was my feeling from Sheryl that we aren’t alone, I’m not sure… I said, “You’re going to be okay, do you need to hold my hand?” The words slipped out of my lips and I wanted to pull them back, but it was too late, my petrified seat mate was gripping my hand.
Since I made no progress on actually calming her down or convincing her we weren’t going to make an emergency water landing in the near future, I changed topics by asking what she was doing in NYC. Anybody who knows me, knows that I have no shortage of questions, and off I went.
My sweet, scared seat mate had just knocked a big one off her bucket list. She had taken the early flight that morning to go to the US Open Tennis Tournament. A dream since she was a little girl, she told me all about the sights and sounds of the day. I could see her chest unclench. She complained of the blisters she got on her feet and how she ended up having to buy a new pair of flip flops because the ones she wore originally hurt so much. I delved in to learn that instead of taking a cab, she walked the 2 miles from the airport to Flushing Meadows and back, yet she was scared she was going to die in a plane crash. More likely to get hit by a NYC cab…
At a future date, we can debate where this one fits in strange travel incidents. I think it will be a top 10 list. Lest there be any confusion holding this girls hand was way better than being asked for help in an airport bathroom by a new mom who just come out of a stall with her pants partly pulled up holding her baby. She didn’t want me to hold her baby, she wanted me to kneel down, tuck in her post-baby belly, then button and zip her jeans for her. I’m a sucker — and totally did it.