Monday, August 24, 2009

Drama in the Skies

This morning in the airport I was rushing to my gate. After the Delta/Northwest merger, their systems sometimes cross and don’t assign you a seat. After a mild panic attack following a flashback of all the times a woman in navy blue stood behind an unreasonably tall console staring at a computer saying, “I realize you have a ticket, ma’am, but you don’t have a seat on the flight…”, I was informed by the gate agent that I did have a seat and she could assign it to me 20 minutes prior to boarding. Big sigh of relief there.
While I was waiting, I sat and watched about 18 people hoping, praying to get onto a flight to Los Angeles. They eyed everyone who walked into the gate agent area and panted like the ticket was a drink they’ve been seeking for days. Occasionally, the woman would call out a name in a very southern accent: “Dia? Deeeyuuuh? Ya’ll are clear.” I would watch the mini-celebrations, not to run too long for fear that even a second of lag time and the gate agent just might change her mind and give the seat to someone else. I’ve been in that position so many times and I have to admit, I secretly prayed that everyone standing there got onto the flight.
Finally, with 10 or so people left, she announced the flight was completely full. You could see the disappointment like a rolling wave. As the gate agent shut the door, a tall, slender, well-dressed woman power-walked toward the door.
“Ma’am? Ma’am! I’m on that flight!”
“No you aren’t, I’m sorry. I just shut the door, this flight is full.”
The look of panic began to take over her face.
“But my daughter! My daughter is on that flight!”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. It’s 3 minutes until take-off. You have to be here 15 minutes before a flight leaves.”
Her face turns red and she begins shaking the Burger King bags in her hands.
“What? No, please!”
“Ma’am, I’m sorry! I’ve closed this flight.”
The woman then begins the cry, but not a like sad cry. A desperate, quivering, moaning cry.
“My daughter is on that fliiiiight. We’re going to a FUNERAL, ma’am. PAHLEASE let me on.”
“I can’t do that. I’ve closed the door and the plane is pulling away.”
“Nooo! Ma’am PAHLEEEASE open the doo-hoo-oor. My daughter is on that flight and we’re going to a fu-hu-ner-aaaaal.”
Her tone and volume made the whole gate stop. From zero to sixty, she was facing the worst tragedy of her life. Everyone was looking at her. We were all thinking the same thing. Move along lady. It happens to everyone. Don’t make a fool of yourself.
“It’s a fuuuuuneral and I (sob, sob) can’t miss the fuuuuuneral. My daughter is on the fliiiiiight.”
The gate agent was so exasperated at this woman, practically on her knees begging to be allowed on board. She picked up her little white phone and starting typing away.
“Ok, ma’am, what is your last name?!”
The gate agent speaks into the phone.
“No, I thought it was but this woman says her daughter is already on the flight. I’m trying to find out – ma’am WHAT IS YOUR LAST NAME?”
She shrieks like someone’s poked her with her a hot stick.
“SHIRK!” (sob, sob)
“Shirk? Last name is…”
“Pahleeease ma’am.”
At this point the crying is less like a moose and more desperation, like she’s quietly begging for her life.
“Please, please, pleeease ma’am.”
“She said her daughter is on the flight already.”
“Oh, God, pleeeeease.”
At that moment came the best part of my day.
“Ma’am. You’re last name is Shirk? You’re going to Chicago, not Los Angeles.”
This is flight 1890 to Los Angeles. Your gate it across the way.”
That “ooo” sound you make in 9th grade when a kid gets called out by a teacher? That’s the sound we all made in our heads.
This woman didn’t even bat an eye. She stood up, grabbed her purse, and remarked, “Oh.”
That’s it. No, gosh I sure am sorry I caused an ignorant scene after not reading the blaring red digital sign behind you that cleary says LOS ANGELES. She just stood up, flung her bag over her shoulder, and walked across the walkway like a supermodel.
The entire gate started cracking up, including the gate agent. Such a dramatic display to end so quickly, as if someone suddenly called, “CUT!” and she said, “Oh!” and walked over to catering for mac and cheese.

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