Friday, June 23, 2006

Airports, Hell, and Pizza

OK, I am stuck in an airport. I have spent a lot of time traveling lately (giving my "you too can be a computer geek" talks for doctors) and have adapted to the troubles of travel. I will say that there is part of me that enjoys the adventure, but sitting in an airport for 8 hours is not much of one. It has given me some valuable alone time to get some stuff done, so there are always blessings in the guise of trouble, but still I want to get to Boston. This whole adventure reminds me of some of my more amusing airplane stories. I used to feel like I had real good luck when it came to travel, but now I realize that it was just a temporary ploy. Each trip is like a pull on the "one-arm bandit" where you say to yourself: this time it will not be bad. Maybe I will have a smooth trip. I am due. But as is the case in Las Vegas, it usually does not work out (I think it is called recession to the mean - which lay people call the law of averages).

I remember back when I was doing interviews for medical school. The cut-rate airline "People Express" was the cheapest way to get from Rochester to New York. The problem was that you had to go through the Newark airport. This was before they got all fancy and high tech, it was the Old Newark airport - not a pleasant place to be. As an aside, I once heard the city of Jersey City described as "Newark without the charm" - a grim analogy. Back to the story...I was in the lovely Newark airport hoping to make it home in one piece, and we got delayed. Weather was bad and our flight was cancelled. So here we were stuck in a place you don't want to get stuck in. The lady next to me looked over at me with a very mournful expression and said, "if this is not Hell, I don't know what is." Immediately I saw her point and subsequently always thought of the Newark airport when I read Bible passages referring to Hell. It certainly will keep you on the "straight and narrow."

This past year I was flying back from Washington DC to Augusta, and there were thunderstorms around the Atlanta vicinity (as there often are in August), so we went into a holding pattern, waiting to land. We tried once to land, but multiple lightning bolts outside of the window made our pilot (thankfully) reconsider. He then got on the PA system and said we were running low on fuel and would have to go down to Columbus, GA to refuel. We landed and got in line behind several other planes (several of which were very large). Again he spoke over the PA telling us that to refuel the planes ahead of us it would take about 60-90 minutes, so we could expect a two-hour delay. A collective sigh went from the cabin, but what choice did we have. As we sat there and waited, I suddenly smelled pizza. Up the aisle walked a flight attendant with a box of Domino's pizza. I commented to the person next to me that those scum bags in 1st class get everything. Then the flight attendant addressed us over the PA: "Someone has had pizza delivered to our plane. We are not sure if it was someone on the plane, or someone on a different one, but we will be serving pizza for all passengers. Please take only one slice." We all broke out into applause and they served us hot pizza. I have to say, I never expected to get pizza delivered to me while I was in a plane. I don't know if it has ever happened before, but now I hope for bad weather over Atlanta.