Denise Snodell: When the plane is about to land, and then doesn’t, high anxiety is sure to follow

07/05/2014 3:47 PM

07/05/2014 3:47 PM

It took me 24 hours to fly from Kansas City to New York.

Buckle your seat belts, folks. I’ve experienced yet another travel fiasco. This was worse than the “airport-overnighter-with-the-food-kiosk-mouse” incident of several years ago.

Maybe it was my fault. Because who in their right mind would book a flight from the Midwest to the Northeast with a connection in Fort Lauderdale? Me, that’s who. In my defense, this is what the airline offered for my schedule. I merely accepted their insane suggestion and clicked “purchase ticket.”

Anyway, by the time the first plane spit me out at Fort Lauderdale, I had reassured myself it was perfectly normal to glimpse vistas of palm trees whilst traveling from wheat fields to the Brooklyn Bridge. Like most modern travelers, I have been conditioned for any illogical airline-related situation. I shrug and go with it.

But shortly after deplaning in the tropics, I learned my connecting flight was delayed four hours. The New York arrival time was changed to 2 a.m. That’s right: 2 a.m.

I made the best of it. I ordered a “personal” pizza. Then I awkwardly consumed my tomato-cheese Frisbee on a slope-y vinyl airport chair. Some of the sauce landed on my shirt. That was OK, though, because my failed attempt to get the stains out killed a good 20 minutes.

But a true positive occurred once I finally boarded the plane. I sat next to the loveliest couple, a fun pair of Long Island grandparents who were full of amazing life stories. They made the three-hour journey fly by quickly.

Only it wasn’t a three-hour journey. Just as we were about to land — and I do mean about to land in that close to the ground way — the pilot gunned it. On a dime, the plane was pointing up to the sky and the engine was roaring. As if we were taking off. Huh? Just seconds before, our hands were practically hovering above the seat belt latches. Our bodies were positioned in pre-pounce stances to grab our bags from the overhead bins.

Then: Oopsies.

The next five or 10 minutes were not fun. They were eternal. Nervous chatter bounced around the cabin. I heard someone say, “I have a bad feeling about this.” My thoughts jumped from “No landing gear?” to “No landing gear?” This is how the mind loops when there’s zero information.

Finally, the pilot chimed in, but ever so briefly. All I heard was “uh, weather” and “Apologize. Static. Static. Baltimore.” We were confused, because the conditions seemed fine. No turbulence. No wet windows.

Eventually, the flight attendant grabbed the mic. She talked nonstop about an “Action Plan.” I think she meant “create new travel arrangements,” but with words like “Action Plan” after an aborted landing at 2 a.m., my brain heard: “Life vests, oxygen masks, Harrison Ford, parachutes.” Action-y stuff.

We landed in Baltimore at 3 a.m. We learned our “Action Plan” would be to wait another EIGHT hours for a flight back to New York. Dazed, we stood in line until 5 a.m. waiting for new boarding passes. Apparently, the printer at the solitary open gate was out of ink.

So, with my pass finally in hand and another six hours to go, I communed with the carpeting just as the airport came to life. I planted myself horizontally next to a very popular cell phone charging station and a loud TV monitor. Throngs of people were trying to not step on me. I didn’t care. There I was, a grown woman, just flat on the floor, staring at the ceiling and occasionally cringing at updates on the you-know-what story CNN still intermittently obsesses over.

It took 24 sleepless hours to get to New York. The male passengers were clean shaven when they boarded in Florida. When we finally reached our destination, they had thick beard stubble. I sported wrinkled, pizza-stained clothing, smeared mascara from crying and floor-head.

Moral of the story: Never fly with me. I attract these situations.

Not convinced? Next column, I’ll tell you about my return trip.

| Freelancer Denise Snodell writes alternate weeks.

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