Did I mention I was nearly in an airplane crash last week?
As you may remember, I made a trip down South for my cousin’s bachelorette party. There were thunderstorms across the central U.S. on the day of my return to Oregon.
I found myself on a flight to Houston. I wasn’t even supposed to be on that airplane – I had a flight booked to Denver but I was going to miss my connection. The ticketing agent in Shreveport rerouted me to Houston.
Briefly, I chatted with the woman next to me while we were unexpectedly delayed on the tarmac. She was from San Diego. And at this rate, we were both going to miss our connections in Houston.
We finally took off. The 45-minute flight on the tiny airplane was loud with engine noise but uneventful.
We made our final descent and suddenly, with a few jolting movements, we were all wondering if this was our actual FINAL descent.
There was a lot of armrest gripping, gasps and expletives among the passengers.
The airplane seemed like it hadn’t slowed down a bit. Then, there was fishtailing. We were lopsided. Only the right wheel was on the ground and it felt like we were about to get going on one of those chincy portable tilt-a-whirl carnival rides I always avoid. Passengers were hollering.
Once you start to think about your last words, you stop saying expletives and start saying prayers.
The guy a few seats in front of me had a white-knuckle hold on the overhead rail like he was on an 8-second ride.
The San Diegan woman squeezed my hand.
It felt like there was a lack of oxygen in the cabin, not because we lost pressure, but because everyone had sucked all the air up and hadn’t breathed out yet.
And then, we took off again.
You know in the movies when the co-pilot is yelling, “PULL UP! PULL UP!” to the captain right before they nearly crash? This co-pilot should have started yelling earlier. And louder. (To the co-pilot: You had one job.)
No one, not even our flight attendant who had been so nice as to hand out cookies and cocktails during our delay on the tarmac, offered any sort of explanation.
No casual, “Sorry ‘bout that folks, we’ll have you on the ground in a jiffy.”
Or “Sorry ‘bout that folks, I forgot my wallet in Shreveport.”
Or “Sorry ‘bout that folks, there was a baby bunny on the runway and I didn’t want to squish it. ‘Preciate your patience.”
Amidst the confusion, anxiety and sighs of temporary relief, I turned to the woman next to me and asked, “So what brought you to Louisiana?” As if we hadn’t just had a glimpse at the gates of Heaven.
“We went to a wedding in Natchitoches.” She told me about the festivities, the crawfish boil, a trip to Natchitoches’ Pioneer Pub and the wedding on an old Cane River plantation.
“I love Natchitoches!” I said.
As if I hadn’t just prayed the fastest rosary of my life and made peace with what appeared to be forthcoming death or dismemberment, I told her about my college career in Natchitoches and getting married on an old Cane River plantation.
We could feel the airplane making another try for the runway. The girl across the aisle from me began to cry.
We landed. It wasn’t pretty and I’m sure that airplane needs new break pads. But we landed.
If I weren’t such a germ-o-phobe, I would have kissed the ground when we finally deplaned.
It’s funny that after I had made peace with my fate with a few minutes to spare, my first instinct was to make polite conversation with a total stranger and bond over weddings under pecan trees.
Maybe my behavior was a subconscious technique to calm my nerves. Maybe I realized I didn’t want to live my last minutes of life being afraid. Or maybe, I was just trying to be a good Southerner.