Saturday, June 24, 2017

The Late Flight Miracle

We boarded the plane, got in our seats, and watched take off time come and go. Every 10 or 15 minutes there would be an announcement that the flight would take off in 10 or 15 minutes. About an hour and 20 minutes later, they announced that the "small mechanical problem" was fixed and the paperwork just needed to be signed off. Finally, we were in the air.

Joe and I were lucky because we were flying home and Toronto was where we got off. Many, many, other people on the plane weren't so lucky, they were flying through Toronto and needed to make connections. The length of delay meant that there would be tight connections at best and missed at worst.

I never watch television or movies on the plane, I have a book and that's movie enough for me. What I watch is the map that's provided as one of the video options. All it does is show the progress of the flight and give information as to arrival time and altitude and temperature outside but the best thing is watching the little plane slowly make it's way across the screen following a flight path marked out by a green line.

As the plane got closer, the atmosphere on the plane grew tense. Around me people who had been watching movies flipped over to the map as well. We all watched the approach to Toronto and the time passing. Whispered conversations were being held by couples and by parents and children. There was a sigh of relief when the plane touched down.

About five minutes before landing, there was a passenger announcement. We were told the gate we were arriving at and the gates of soon to be departing flights to varying places, all of which were destinations for those who had connecting flights. Pens quickly wrote down the gate numbers and a diversity of Gods began to hear fervent prayers.

As we pulled to the gate, there came another announcement. this one was quite solemn in tone. Everyone picked up on the seriousness in the tone of voice. It asked for those passengers for whom Toronto was their final destination to please stay on the plane for a few minutes and leave the aisles free for those who had connections. It was explained to us that the pilot had made up some of the lost time in flight and that if we gave people the opportunity almost all of the passengers with connections would make their flights.

I could hear in the voice a tiredness. I understood this. I've been on planes before when this request was made and virtually no one complied. People got off in the same way that they always do, as soon as they could. I am used to waiting to get off a plane and I'm always surprised at how quickly it empties. It's not a long wait. It's a small thing to do.

Some passengers were so anxious to get off that they were getting up and getting luggage as we were pulling into the gate. They were told firmly to sit down until the plane stopped moving. Their anxiety was understandable. Seconds before the door opened the appeal was made again, if we were getting off in Toronto, wait just a few minutes for those travelling on.

And people did. I turned to see the aisle full of people running, actually running, down it towards the door and people standing, waiting, some calling out "Good Luck!" to their fellow passengers who  zipped past them. I'd never seen this before. I'd never seen a whole plane, filled to the brim, let those who needed fast exit have fast exit.

Just a moment of time.

Just an exercise of patience.

And a touch of restraint.

Can communicate who we are in powerful ways.

We, collectively, had the opportunity to allow people to move on in their journeys, to make it home to spouses and kids, to make up lost time. We, collectively, could demonstrate the power of valuing another's time and another's needs.And, we did.

It's a small moment but it will be a big memory.

As we always get off last, I saw the Toronto bound passengers faces as they disembarked. Everyone was surprised by everyone else, everyone seemed surprised that this had happened and that they were part of it. We are all now going to be part of everyone else's story.

And it's a good story.

3 comments:

Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt said...

You made me tear up. I have that memory, too, because you shared it.

I think a lot of people are trying to fight back against the dark that seems to have descended. Every choice we make has this possibility.

Rachel S said...

One time I was the person on the plane with the tightest connection and we were, of course, running late, and when the flight attendant came to tell me that she sort of LOOKED at me (not in a bad way!) and I was moved up into the front of the plane in first class so they could get me off quickly regardless and they successfully arranged for a cart to pick me up at the gate to drive me to my connection. It was at the far end of the Phoenix airport, which is HUGE, and there's no way I'd have made it on foot anyway without a meal break or something, but especially not that quickly.

Sometimes people coordinate and act with kindness and all goes right. I'm glad it did on your plane, Dave, making tight connections is such a nightmare.

Unknown said...

sometimes the kinder parts of our natures do prevail.
clairesum