Airplanes part two: return trip anxiety

Saturday, April 7, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:46 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Columnist Sharon Harl

Read the first part of Sharon's adventure: Airline flight proves to be an adventure

Last week I wrote about the terrible time I had trying to get to Philadelphia. I thought all of my troubles were over when I was dropped off at the airport three days later. I had a direct flight into Kansas City, a 30-minute wait, and then a short flight back to Columbia.

I will admit to a bit of anxiety when I walked up to the ticket computer. My mind flashed back to my previous encounter which started the whole nightmare. This time, however, the machine spat out my ticket. The good news — I was in row one. Maybe the airline felt badly about the way they treated me on my flight to Philly and put me in first class. The gnawing began in my stomach when I noted that I was to take off from gate F.

I know enough about airports to know that the main gates are A, B and C. My anxiety increased when I had to board a shuttle. Normally the waiting area has seating for at least 50 ­— my area had only a dozen. I sat down next to a young woman who had stuff spread out everywhere. She had a folder on the floor with pages of text scattered about. The seat on her other side held an open carry-out container of food and her purse. And on the chair beyond that one was her carry on. She dialed her cell phone, waited a second and then turned to me.

“Can I use your cell phone?” she asked and then grabbed my phone before I could respond. “Uh, I want to see if my kids are home.”

She said no one answered, but I could tell she wanted to try again. I got up, mumbled something about having to go to the restroom and grabbed my phone. I redialed as I walked. After two rings a man answered. “Oh no,” I thought, “maybe I’m dealing with a terrorist.” I walked back to the waiting area and she was gone. What do I do now?! My reverie was interrupted by the announcement that my flight was boarding. As I loped toward the plane I noticed that the “questionable” woman was in line ahead of me.

Good grief! She sat down in row one directly across the aisle from me.

“Hi,” she said cheerily. “I’m Nina, I finally called my kids on a pay phone.”

“Where are you going?” I asked trying to sound normal.

“I’m with the military,” she said brightly. “I’m taking a class this week.”

I tried not to gape. But all I could think was: Military for what country?

It turned out that the plane didn’t have first class seating — props usually don’t. As I buckled in, the passenger beside me introduced himself.

“My name’s John and I can’t remember the last time I flew coach,” he said, furrowing his brow.

There was only one flight attendant who sat right in front of the cockpit. After a few minutes she introduced herself to the front row. About 10 minutes later the gentleman next to the military gal spoke up.

“My name is Simon,” he said in a very convincing British accent. “I’m going to Columbia to do some research. I’ve been flying for 21 hours so far today.” And with that he promptly fell asleep.

I wasn’t as lucky with John. “So what do you want to know about me?”


After about 20 minutes we heard “That stupid idiot!” being shouted from the cockpit.

By now my stomach was in knots.

The attendant looked a little nervous. “We’re having some trouble with the fueling.”

Why didn’t she lie to me and tell me we were out of pretzels?

“I have a connecting flight in Kansas City,” I whined. “And I only have a 30-minute window.”

“No problem,” she said smiling. “We’re about ready now — we’ll make up the time in the air.”

Moments later: “This is the captain. Sorry about the delay. We will be backing out of the gate momentarily and ...

I’ll get back to you ladies and gentleman.”

Moments later: “This is the captain. I’ve just been informed that we are number 48 in line for takeoff.”

I called my husband.

We sat on the tarmac for almost two hours. I finally had to tell John to shut up. Then the attendant became chatty Kathy and I had to hear about her horrible husband and bratty kids. To make matters worse, she didn’t serve alcohol.

We landed just before midnight. My knight and my son-in-law were there to greet me.

We got to Columbia about 2 a.m. Simon slept all the way.

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