Friday, January 8, 2016

Up, Up And Away

                                                Up, Up And Away
            My daughter made arrangements to fly me to Montana so I could attend a family memorial last week. The previous week Dee Dee had undergone total knee replacement (it seems to run in the family).

            So blame her medications. Four airplanes? Count them: Mazatlan to Mexico City. Mexico City to Houston. Houston to Denver. Denver to Billings.

            Under the best circumstances modern air travel is no fun. A strait jacket might be more comfortable than the crowded airplane seats which effectively immobilize one.

            Nevertheless, I was fortunate to get a flight on such short notice. Within hours of my ticket confirmation and with a 4 a.m. start, I was yawning at the sleepy little airport in Mazatlan. Up, up and away, over the mountains to the huge Mexico City airport complex.

            Naturally I landed and departed a terminals at opposite ends of the airport. I think it is a flight law. I took a bus and a train, went through security again, to make my connection.

            At Houston I made it through customs, through baggage claim and through security the third time, onto a shuttle which deposited me at my departure gate. Oops—my plane was an hour and a half late due to a mechanical problem.

            That was not music to my ears. That meant I would miss my connection in Denver to Billings.  None of this would have been a big deal had not my emotional state made it so.I was on my way to a family funeral. Let’s just say I was lightly strung together.

            The nice man driving the shuttle cart stopped at a customer service booth to see if there was another flight I might take. He then whipped me down the concourse to a gate, seemed a mile away, where a flight was in final stages of boarding. I went to the counter and asked if I might make this flight. With a negative shake of her head, the attendant told me there were nineteen people on stand-by.

            My heart sank. I knew I’d never make it. So I hobbled down to the nearest restroom, then back to another customer service booth to ask for help to take me back to my original gate, while trying gamely to console myself to the reality of an overnight in Denver.

            Over the speaker I heard “Ashton”, my name. Oh, I thought, someone here is an Ashton. I scanned the crowd, recognized no familiar face. Lightly strung, remember.

            My name was called a second time. The third time I realized she might mean me. I almost ran across to the ticket counter, breathless, “My name is Ashton.”

            “Sondra Jean?” “Yes, that’s me.” “Do you want on this flight?” “Yes.” “You’re the last one to board. Seat 38-B.” I had mis-understood. That nice shuttle driver had put my name on stand-by. Barely strung together.

            38-B was the center seat in the last row, a row crammed into a space in which no adult human should have to pretzel his body. The nicest gentleman in the world saw the look of anguish on my face and gave me his aisle seat in 34. Unstrung. Who says there are no angels?

            In Denver I made my connection to Billings, knowing my luggage would spend the night in Denver. I figured getting me to Billings was more important. Luggage would follow. It did.

            Today my daughter bought my return ticket. In five minutes the pleasant customer service woman in India arranged an easy flight home, at civilized times of the day.

            “That was too easy.” “Aren’t they under contract to cause a trauma level of eight on a ten scale?” “She’ll probably lose her job.” “There will be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.” “But then she’ll get a better job.” “After months of searching.” “Yes, customer service at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Sondra Ashton
HDN: Looking out my back door

December 17, 2015

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