No turning back now: A story of airline survival
By Christine Valentine | firstname.lastname@example.org
I have flown before. I mean on an airplane.
Most of the time I was with my family or a friend, but occasionally I have flown to visit my uncle in New York all by myself. In fact, I had just flown to New York and back myself a few days before.
The flights I did alone had all been direct flights. This time I was going to California and had to connect in Atlanta. There is always a connection to Atlanta. I bet if I was flying to Miami I would have to make a connection in Atlanta. I was a little nervous about handling a connection on my own, but really what could go wrong?
Well, first, before I even got out of Jacksonville, I left my phone in the ladies room. Luckily it fell into the hands of Cherry, an airport employee. She, probably being a mother herself, found the number labeled “Mom” and called it. My mom told her where my gate was and Cherry was able to return it to me minutes after I discovered my phone was missing. Although, I had entered a full on panic mode by the time she found me.
“Christine Valentine?” she yelled.
“Yes, that’s me,” I replied as I desperately tried to remember how to use a pay phone.
She handed my phone back to me and said, “Here you go honey. Call yo momma.” I felt tremendous relief. I had survived my disaster for the day. Now, I was ready for my flight. I boarded the plane, still nervous as most airplane passengers are, but the cloud of tranquility I felt from finding my cell phone had not dissipated yet. I was now on the plane and it had taken off. There was no turning back now.
Now, I am not an expert when it comes to planes, like I’m not a pilot or anything, but I believe I have been on a plane enough to notice when something feels … off. A few times during the flight I felt like the pilot was hitting the “brake”. Anyone who has driven a car knows what hitting the brake, even slightly, feels like. The pilot wasn’t stomping on the brake, but I felt it enough to notice and every time it happened I thought, “what on earth does a pilot need to step on the brake for? What is something in the way? Plus, hitting the brake means the vehicle has to stop. Well, if a plane stops in mid air….” You know, I don’t even like to finish that thought sitting safely in my room let alone being 20,000 feet in the air. Sure enough, with only 20 minutes left to go before arrival at the Atlanta airport, the pilot tells us he had been instructed to return to JAX due to a faulty landing gear.
Landing gear? So there was a problem! I wasn’t just being jumpy. For a moment I was excited that I was right, but then I remembered that I wasn’t watching an episode of “CSI.” This was a REAL plane that I was on! As I said before, in no way do I claim to be an expert on planes, or any type of vehicle for that matter. I mean, the landing gear could have nothing to do with the braking sensation I experienced, but I’m pretty sure it is very important that it works properly!
We arrived back at JAX and I called my mom as soon as we landed. I can only imagine what she felt as she answered a phone call from me 30 minutes before I was supposed to. The crew kicked us off the plane and asked us to wait patiently in the airport while it was being fixed. I was torn for a while, because on one hand I wanted to hurry up and get to California. On the other hand, I wasn’t exactly eager to get back on the same plane. Especially after I had watched the repairmen pull pieces out from under the plane, bang them with a hammer, and then scratch their head.
I was stuck in JAX for over 9 hours. I arrived at 6 a.m. for a 7:30 a.m. flight, but didn’t get to leave until 3:30 p.m. I honestly cannot remember how I killed all of that time. What I do remember was how calm I was. When I had lost my cell phone, an item that could eventually be replaced, I was shaking, breathing heavy and a general mess. But my plane almost falling out of the sky and being stuck in an airport by myself didn’t seem to faze me. My cool composure may have had something to do with the two Presidente Margaritas I ingested at the mock Chili’s restaurant. But, I had sobered up long before I got on another flight, so they could only be given only a little credit. During one of my 9 bazillions laps through the JAX airport I had entered the InMotion store and made friends with the sales guy. Shout out to Mike, whose shift started and ended while I remained at JAX.
Most people who hear my story are surprised at how calm I was. But my instincts took over when I needed them too and told me that now was a time when freaking out and being difficult wouldn’t help me get to California any faster. In the end, I believe my calm and composed manner with the ticket agents is what allowed me to be upgraded to first class. Yes, I was upgraded to First Class on the plane ride from Atlanta to San Diego! Not a bad way to end such a long day. And yes, it is as fabulous as you think it is. They give you sooo much food! In case you’re wondering, my connection in Atlanta went quite smoothly. Once I finally got there.