Flying High

by Loolwa Khazzoom    <Submit your comments to the author>

Being that I am a last-minute kind of gal, I was super proud of myself for leaving several hours to get to the airport. I was looking forward to a leisurely check-in and the proverbial cup o'coffee. Little did I know I would be in a traffic jam on an Oregon freeway for two hours, stuck with some quintessential white woman talking about her benevolent work helping educate the poor little Inuits in Alaska.

I rolled my eyes continuously, as this woman blathered on with the bus driver. I even banged my head against the back of my seat several times, exploding with frustration. "Don't get involved, Loolwa, don't get involved," I kept telling myself, anticipating the frustration would just amplify if I engaged. Eventually I couldn't stand it anymore and snorted some hostile retort about how the Inuits' "education difficulties" would be nonexistent if not for the destructive colonialist patterns of European America. Surprisingly, the woman went out of her way to agree with me. In fact, she wouldn't shut up about how much she agreed with me.

We finally reached the airport, with just 12 minutes to go till my flight departure. I was perspiring like nobody's business, calling on the powers of yoga breath to keep me from strangling the first person within my grasp. To make matters worse, curbside check-in sent me inside to check my bags. "Shit, shit, shit!" I spat, running indoors and barreling my way past a million patrons in the mile-long line. I waved my ticket at the check-in clerks. "My flight's leaving in ten minutes!" I shouted. I ran up to the first available agent. "I don't know if your bags will make it on the flight," she clucked. "I don't think you're going to make it either. It's half a mile to the gate." I told her to check my bags and me in anyhow, though with my heavy backpack and big drum as carry-on items, the prospects of making it seemed dismal.

Five minutes left. Perspiration drenched my clothing as I raced across the airport, big drum and case banging against the side of my leg. I paused occasionally to pant and wheeze, then bolted forward again. The gate came in sight right on the nose of departure time. The check-in desk was closed, but the ticket clerk was still at the boarding entrance. With every last ounce of energy, I sprinted up to him, waving my ticket in the air.

"I'm on this plane! Here's my ticket!" "Do you have a boarding card?" the clerk asked, far too calmly for my nerves. "No, but I have a ticket, see?" I thrust it at him. He shook his head and turned his attention back to the paperwork he was shuffling. "You can't get on the plane without a boarding card," he replied, still annoyingly calm. "But I have a ticket! I'm on this plane!" "No," he said, shaking his head. "But I was stuck in traffic for hours, and I just got here! I have to get on this plane!" "No," he repeated. "Please!" I begged. "I can't miss this flight!" Well, actually I could, but I didn't feel like I could. "No," he said again. "You can't board the plane without a boarding card."

I darted past him and ran over to the edge of the boarding platform. The plane already had begun pushing back. I tossed my drum on the ground, waving my arms at the pilots, visible through the window of the cockpit. They smiled at me. I smiled back and picked up my drum, anticipating they would let me board. But they just kept moving back.

I ran back to the ticket clerk. "Please let me on this plane! Please!" "No," he said. "It's too late now." "But I was stuck in traffic!" I reminded him. "I ran all the way across the airport..." "There's nothing I can do now," he cut me off. "Pleeease! Try something - contact them!" "No!" he repeated, shaking his head decidedly, almost gleefully. "There's nothing I can..." He did a double take out the window. "What the...oh my god?! That's unbelievable!!" "What?" I asked, suddenly excited. I leapt forward, to see where he was looking. "They're coming back!" he exclaimed in disbelief.

I clapped my hands and jumped for joy. "I don't believe it!" he gasped, dumbfounded. I squealed in delight. "They must think you're really cute. This has never happened before!" Usually I would snap at someone for attributing a person's kindness to my cuteness, but I let it go and sprinted to the edge of the platform, where I waited to be picked up.

I was grinning like a Cheshire cat when the door opened and the flight-attendant greeted me. "Welcome aboard!" he exclaimed. The entire plane burst into applause. I took a bow at the front of the plane, then walked over to the other flight-attendant, who stood with a grand gesture before the seat that was to be mine. It was a middle seat. "Oh," I paused, "you don't have an aisle seat?" She looked at me with...you know, a Look. "Oh yah," I said. "Right." And I gratefully sat down.


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