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Sky Slalom and the Accidental Epitaph

Aboard American Eagle
Bound from Washington DC to LaGuardia: 
Friday, June 2, 2006; 8:00 pm EDT

"Well, if this is the end for me, at least it's been a fun ride!"

[Earlier that day...]
366478-355977-thumbnail.jpg"You have a 3:00 meeting this afternoon??" asked a native.  "Hell, NOBODY does meetings at 3 on a Friday in this town."  I did.  Should have known better.  But I had no choice. 

I love to fly... so long as it isn't Monday morning or Friday afternoon... especially when LaGuardia and Washington Reagan or (worse yet) BWI are involved.  So I knew what I was in for...

The official DC Summer Code pretty much decrees that "everyone shall flee the District on weekends" from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  Something like that.  Either way, anyone who knows ANYTHING in that town sure as hell KNOWS that means beating it for the border by Noontime... especially if you are on the DCA to LGA route.

366478-356340-thumbnail.jpgApparently, it has something to do with the scientific theory that thunderheads and Embrarer Regional Jets don't mix as well together in the Summertime as, say, Tanqueray and tonic.

"Wheels up" was slated for 7:10.  But the "Departures" monitor started buzzing like a sports betting board in Vegas.  First, the two flights before mine were cancelled.  Then "PAD" [Possible Aircraft Delay, or Possible Arrival Delay, as best as I can tell]  appeared in place of where my gate number was supposed to be... and the fun began.

Those of you who know the drill, sing it with me (to the tune of the childhood "ABC song.")  

"PAD means TBA
TBA means not today.
7:10 is all BS.
When you're leaving we can't guess. 
If you're waiting for this flight.
You'll be with us for the night."

7:10 became 7:15, 7:15 jumped to 8:38, sending the defectors scurrying off like cockroaches.  The "Shuttle Shuffle" began, as the pathetic putative passengers ran off to grab gate agents, travel agents, real estate agents... aaaaaaaaaanybody who could get them on one of those big 737 shuttles that leave every half-hour for New York.  I was SURE that with too many defections, they'd scrub the flight.

Then, to my delight, the clouds parted.  Literally. 

366478-356422-thumbnail.jpg"A window" opened up in the weather.  The 8:38 departure whipsawed back to a 7:40 boarding call, and we were hustled on board for a 7:50 wheels up.  Minutes later, we screamed off the tarmac.  "No beverage service for the 37 minute flight, folks," said the First Officer.  "We'd be obliged if you'd keep your seatbelts fastened.  Meanwhile, just sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight." 


Actually, I DID enjoy it.  It was awesome.

That Embrarer must be a fun plane to fly, because it's quite a nimble craft.    Within 5 minutes in the air, still climbing, we banked hard... I mean HARD left.  The kind of hard that draws your ass down, down, down into the faux leather flotational device they call a seat until you can read the serial number on the seat's metal frame without looking.  [It read backwards on my ass halfway through the weekend.]  I was on the single-row "A" seat on the left of the plane, so it was all window for me... and I was like a kid on a carnival ride.

The setting sun backlit the tops of the clouds brilliantly...  churning white tops on steel-grey anvils.  It was the most spectacular array of foreboding meteorological muscle I've ever seen.  And it occurred to me that we were swooping back and forth, left to right, slaloming through the roiling thunderheads all the way up to New York. 

Once.  Once on the flight, with lightning flashing off the right wing and the air brakes dropping us about 5,000 feet in about 10 seconds, I wondered if the "window" had closed.  I was having so much fun with the scenery outside, my looming mortality broke through briefly enough for a hastily murmured Act of Contrition, a quick Hail Mary, and a parting thought for the Lord:

"Well, if this is the end for me, it's been one hell of a ride."

I liked that one so much, I wrote it in the cocktail napkin and put it in my shirt pocket.  "Better write that one down," I thought.  If this is the end of the line, maybe they'll know I got my ticket's worth.  If I do make it, I'll hold onto it.  

Either way, it beats the sh*t out of Amtrak!

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Reader Comments (1)

I think I've been on that flight before- about a dozen times, but I worked through a whole rosary!
June 7, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJL

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