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How was my flight? You’ll have to excuse me while I kiss the ground.

(Don’t worry—I’m wearing a facemask.)

At first, the trip seemed like a good idea. We hadn’t been back to see family in the States since the year 4BC (Before-Covid), so the plan was to celebrate a late Thanksgiving together now that we’d all had our booster jabs and the pandemic seemed to be subsiding.

Digression #1. Right. Those who know me can just go ahead and shake their heads and mutter their I-told-you-so comments. Feeling better?

Of course, the Hub flew ahead of me. All he had to do was pop over to Glasgow airport and head out. A week later it was my turn. That was the week we all learned a new word: Omicron. I would have to leave home (our little island off the coast of Scotland) a day early to get a preflight Covid test. Oh, wait. I’d have to leave two days early because a storm was coming and it wasn’t clear that the ferries would run. Okay, three days—because the ferries haven’t been running their regular schedule on days that end in “Y”. The covid-test sites were overrun with anxious passengers desperate for tests, but at last I managed to get my negative results.

Digression #2: Naming Issue. That’s not how the Greek alphabet works, BTW. What happened to all the letters between Delta and Omicron? Were there a bunch of Covid variant wannabes that sounded like fraternities from Animal House but just didn’t manage go viral? I’m picturing Kappa, Epsilon, and Theta standing around in their togas yeling, “Dude!”

I should have been suspicious when I wasn’t able to check in online. “Looks like your travel agent booked you on two separate itineraries,” the two desk agents told me. “We’re not allowed to combine them. So you’ll have to fly to London, collect your suitcase from baggage, exit the Arrivals terminal, come back into the Departures terminal, and check in to get your boarding pass.”

When I asked why, one agent said “Terrorist threat” as the other said “Covid”.  I channeled my inner-Bogart, telling myself, “…it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of one little person don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy Covid-terrorist world.” Then I remembered Bogie never even heard of Covid or Omicron. I got on the plane.

In London, the British Airways desk agent told me they had already given away my seat on my flight because “it was obvious” I’d never make it and all the flights were full. Even though it wasn’t their mistake, and despite my discount booking warning I would only be allowed to make changes to my itinerary if I paid a 100% penalty plus possibly a few spare internal organs, the sympathetic desk agent said she was going to try to get me another flight. (I think she was glowing and, possibly, had large wings and a harp…)

She was able to book me to Seattle with just a few extra stopovers. By now, my trip was going to take over 30 hours, but, she assured me, I’d make it if I hurried. I thanked my guardian angel (was that a halo I saw?) and hurried obediently over to Security, where all hurrying stopped and my backpack was, of course, flagged for multiple runs through their scanner. At last they grudgingly admitted my backpack contained only the Barb Taub Memorial Cable Connection, and pointed me to the departure gate, where the plane was already boarding.

London Heathrow airport. The boarding gate was here. The actual plane was waaaaaay over on the other side of there. I sprinted for the first block or so, but the tunnel was endless. I power-walked another block, stopped for a breath by a cluster of wheelchairs (had their erstwhile occupants given up? Crawled back to the terminal?) and continued, wondering if I was going to have to walk to San Francisco. It was several more minutes before I puffed up to the actual plane.

“Overhead bins are all full,” chirped the attendants, as they pointed me to the middle seat in the last row. I buckled in and waited to take off. And waited. And…waited. Eventually a soft voice came over the plane speakers, introducing himself as the captain and apologizing for the delays. He had a lovely soft accent (Dutch?) and a lisp so I wasn’t sure exactly what he was saying but it didn’t matter. I was heading for the States!

As the plane climbed, that beautiful voice informed us when we’d reached ten-thousand feet and could now use our electronic devices. But I realized there was something else I need to use…RIGHT NOW. I climbed over my fellow passengers to reach the toilets just behind our row. They were all locked. “I’m sorry,” the flight attendant said. “The Captain has turned on the Fasten-Seatbelts sign and you’ll have to go back to your seat.”  

My Moment. Into everyone’s life, there comes The Moment. That point where all life’s slings, arrows, and booking errors coalesce into one shining realization. This was mine. “I have been traveling since 4AM,” I told the flight attendant. “If I don’t get into that toilet RIGHT NOW, we will all be sorry. So very sorry.” She gave me a long look, and unlocked the toilet.


Digression #3: Starvation. Because I hadn’t been able to check in online in Glasgow, I’d been advised to get to the (Edinburgh) airport early. So I skipped breakfast and left at 4AM. Then it took so many hours to determine they weren’t going to issue boarding passes for my entire trip that I wasn’t able to get breakfast at the airport. Meal service on the short flight from Edinburgh to London consisted of —and I’m SO not making this up—one doll-sized package of (haggis-flavored🤢) potato chips and an adorable mini-bottle of water. The London line-waiting and subsequent gate-dash didn’t allow any time for my usual Terminal 5 nosh at Wagamama. Food on the ELEVEN-HOUR flight consisted of something that even the stewardess confessed she couldn’t identify as being vegetarian or chicken but which was comprehensively inedible as either, although it was accompanied by a tiny lifesaving trick-or-treat sized KitKat bar. By the time the plane arrived late in San Francisco, I’d been travelling for over 24 hours with almost no food. There was barely enough time to catch my final flight to Seattle, which did not offer food service. Desperation had me digging to the bottom of my backpack, from whence I excavated half a package of geriatric jelly beans. They were hard, brittle, and some of the best things I’ve ever eaten.

It only took 33 hours, but at last we were landing in Seattle. The plane touched down, we started to taxi to the terminal. And stopped. Cue the waiting. At last, the captain’s voice came over the speakers. “We have been informed of a security incident. SeaTac Airport has been closed down, and we have to wait here until further notice.”

I called my sister and brother-in-law who were coming to pick me up despite it being the middle of the night. They said traffic was backed up from the airport “incident” and it could be hours before they could even get to the airport. Eventually I made it to Baggage and collected my suitcase. Waiting outside Door 6 of the International Terminal, I watched as driver after driver experienced The Moment. Directly in front of me, a couple in a newish Subaru melted down. He was a middle-aged guy with a grey beard and a bandanna. She had long grey hair in a braid and a tie-dyed sweatshirt. They looked like they should be herding goats and home-brewing herbal teas, but they sounded like warring street gangs as they screamed curses at each other and surrounding drivers, honked their horns, and slammed their doors.

At our family Thanksgiving the next night, I thought about what to be thankful for. I’m giving thanks for my wonderful sister and her husband, who braved the aggressive goat-herders to pick me up in the middle of the night. I’m thankful for the exquisite empathy of desk and flight attendants who bent rules for a truly desperate passenger. I’m thankful for the vegan turkeyless-roast (it IS Seattle, after all) and for my brother-in-law’s famous pear-apple pie. I’m SO thankful to be with family after all we’ve gone through the past few years.

And I’m especially thankful I never threw away those jelly beans.

NOTE: A friend said that when asked about their trip, SOME people don’t provide 1400-word blog answers. I told her she should probably be thankful for friends like that…