Friday, June 10, 2011

Going Home

After a cool day last Sunday, the heat in Chicago started up again and kept building. One day with temperatures in the mid 90s and high humidity wouldn’t have been so bad, but it was like that for three days with no cool off at night. I had only one small functioning air conditioner and two ceiling fans and by the third day, the temperature inside was close to 90 degrees.

It was hard to imagine that when I was growing up in the same apartment we didn’t even have a fan.

The weather people all kept promising it was all going to change Wednesday night. They said by Thursday the temperature would barely reach 60. For that to happen, something else had to happen - a big storm when the cold front coming from the west hit the sizzling air in Chicago.

And I was flying home Wednesday night. All day Wednesday I kept checking the weather and as the day progressed a severe storm warning was posted for several areas west of Chicago. The experts said they thought the storm would move into the Chicago area around 11 p.m.

Maybe not a problem, since my flight left around 9 p.m..

The weather seemed fine as I went to the airport. Once I got there, I checked all the incoming and outgoing flights and everything seemed to be on time. As I waited in the Admiral’s Club, I looked out at the sky and it had begun to look a little ominous, but there was no storm.

When it got close to the time to board my flight, I went to the gate. There were bad signs as soon as I got there. The gate was a weird one and seemed to be shared with Alaska Airlines, the screen that shows the flight number, destination, etc. was not working and was dark, and worst of all, the plane was coming from Boston and hadn’t arrived yet. The airline people, despite their computers and telephones had no information about a new departure time for my flight. In fact, a passenger showed them the email she’d gotten on her cell phone from American Airlines that said the flight was now leaving at 9:35.

At last the flight from Boston showed up and the passengers for off. One of the women behind the desk announced that after the plane was cleaned and a routine maintenance check, we’d be able to board and then be on our way. Meanwhile time was passing as that swirling mass of cold air was getting closer.

Finally, the old crew got off and the new crew got on and passengers started to board. I got into my seat in the exit row and breathed a sigh of relief. I had my book to read, my crocheting, my water and snacks, and I was ready to go.

The door was shut, an announcement was made to turn off cell phones and we left the gate and taxied toward the runway. But then we stopped. The captain came on the loud speaker and said there was a problem. He called it a maintenance issue, I call it a broken plane. Whatever it was called, we had to go to some other part of the airport so it could be attended to. Outside in the dark sky, the clouds were churning.

Time ticked on and at last the captain came back on the loud speaker and said he estimated it was going to take them around another 15 minutes to do whatever they were doing to the plane. But if it took longer there was going to be a problem with the weather. An Uh oh went off in my head.

Thankfully, they finished quickly, and we were on our way. I let out another sigh of relief. But it was too soon.

The plane picked up speed and after what seemed like too long, took off - and went right into the approaching storm. Instead of sailing up through the air, it felt like the wind was trying to slam us back to the ground. The plane pitched from side to side and when I looked across the aisle, I was looking straight down at the lights of Chicago. The plane pitched the other way. It rolled, it bounced, it shook as we continued our ascent. I thought the wing were going to break off. I wondered if this was going to be the time I was going to have to open the emergency exit. I looked over at the young woman sitting in the window seat which was also the exit door. I doubted if she’d even looked at the safety information card. Well, I had and I would get that door open if need be.

We got higher, but the rolling and pitching didn’t stop. Everything was rattling and shaking. The plane seemed to drop and everybody screamed. I don’t know how all those people take those cell phone pictures when there are problems on planes. It was the last thing on my mind. I did the only thing I could do. Closed my eyes and hoped for the best. I just wanted to get home safely. For the first time in all the flights I’ve taken, it occurred to me that I might not.

For about an hour it was as though we were being tossed around on a churning sea of air.

And then all the extra noise stopped and it became like regular flight, though even the flight attendants still looked a little stressed as they pushed the drink cart down the aisle.

Yes, I wanted to kiss the ground when I finally got off at LAX. We were almost two hours late and the airport was so closed, they had turned off the escalators. I rode down to the baggage area with a woman pushing a giant trash can and carrying a mop.

Home at last!


Planner said...

Oh, my goodness--welcome back, Betty! That's some story! Did the crew make any announcements during that first hour? ("It's just a routine storm, folks. Seen a million of them. Nothing to worry about. We know just what to do....") Was there applause when the plane touched down?

Linda O. Johnston said...

Wow, Betty. So glad you made it home safely after all that. I've been on plane rides that were terribly bumpy and even had the oxygen masks come down once. Made me just want to stay home!

Betty Hechtman said...

Planner, the pilot made some announcement after the worst was over and said something about staying in our seats and that the flight attendants weren't getting up either.

Betty Hechtman said...

Linda, wow the oxygen masks came down! I have never had that happen.

I have to admit that bad as the scary was, it didn't make me want to stay home. By the end of the flight I was already thinking about going to the Crochet Guild show in Minneapolis.

Terri Thayer said...

Yikes. Glad you're okay. That's scary. I have one more flight to get home. it's always bumpy coming out of Denver, but nothing like that. T-storms, stay away!

Betty Hechtman said...

Fly safe, Terri.

Becki said...

i am glad that you made it home safely!
but what fodder for a future book?!!

Betty Hechtman said...

Becki, it's amazing how everything becomes fodder for future books. I can certainly picture what the Hookers would do on that flight.