Saturday, January 20, 2007

There but for the grace of God...

Sitting in bed last night with Gwen after a full day at home, a great dinner prepared in our own kitchen and several glasses of a nice red wine, watching TV – our own TV, not hotel TV, with hundreds of channels just waiting to be summoned – I glanced at the clock on the cable box and realized it was about the same time we'd landed at JFK the night before. For no real reason other than sadistic curiosity, I fired up the MacBook to check on the status of “our” flight using one of Apple's best and most amazing desktop widgets.

Takeoff delayed, still in transit, expected to arrive more than an hour late. A day earlier we had left on time at 4:50 p.m. (Aruba is an hour ahead of New York this time of year), and arrived a few minutes early, about 8:15 p.m., EST. Everything worked perfectly, and it was still a thoroughly gruesome experience. With about 90 minutes left in the air during our flight, I asked Gwen for the time and was so crestfallen by the response I assumed either her watch had stopped or I had entered a parallel and highly unpleasant universe.

And now, as we lay in the comfort of our bed, there was a group of people up there in the air – plenty of parents and kids among them – living our experience from the night before, except it was even more heinous.

Here's how it looked in the end:

AMERICAN AIRLINES - Flight #796 FLIGHT STATUS – ARRIVED
Departing AUA Aruba, (Scheduled) 4:50 PM (Actual) 5:13 PM
Arriving JFK New York, (Scheduled) 8:35 PM (Actual) 9:46 PM

[Now that’s what you want to see… The good news? You’re still alive. The bad news? See response to “good news,” above.]

I turned to Gwen, relayed the information and said, “Can you imagine? Can you imagine sitting in that airport and trying to keep the kids occupied - after having gotten there three hours early for an "international" departure? And then landing more than an hour late?”

The question didn’t require a response, we both sat there, envisioning the horror, the humanity, recalling our own particular brand of hellish torment, still fresh in our minds. Ava wanting to sit next to “Mommy,” when she happened to be reading to Madison across the aisle, Madison deciding her life depended on sitting next to Gwen at the EXACT moment Ava finally nodded off to sleep with her head resting across her legs. Ava offering up a running commentary on the DVD she was watching on our portable player, without regard for the "speaking while wearing headphones" volume disconnect. The young couple in matching velour sweatsuits (true story - and the guy carried a Chanel "man purse," first one I'd seen since Seinfeld) sitting in front of the girls who barked at Madison when she tried to dislodge some purple Play-Doh from its can by repeatedly SLAMMING it on her open tray table, after the backs of their seats had been kicked, oh, a few hundred times.

Forget the concept of “dog years,” you can tick at least a year off your life for every hour spent on a plane attending to children who aren’t old enough to zone out to their own iPod or a nice bottle of airplane scotch. As we took a moment to consider collective fate of the passengers who followed us by a mere 24 hours, believe me we felt their pain. And now we are home. At least a year away from the next flight. If we are lucky.

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