April 13, 2014: Turbulence
|Me with Baby Ben and Cousin Gina|
I was supposed to be at Gate 30. The simple mistake was uncovered as I stood in the wrong line while perusing the boarding passes of those around me. I eyed an identical B34 boarding pass in the hands of a woman next to me.
"How do we have the same number?" I asked the other B34 girl.
"I was wondering the same thing," was her puzzled reply.
After a comparison of paper boarding passes, she quickly noticed the discrepancy. She was going to Orange County while I was to go to Omaha. In unison, she and her fellow B-boarders directed me to the gate next door.
<whew> A close call.
As I gingerly found my correct spot in the B34 slot of Gate 30, I had a flashback to a day long before TSA. A day with a more distressed outcome from a mistaken plane destination.
The date was late October 1996 and the place was Orlando, Florida. It was back in the carefree flying days when we would walk our loved ones right up to their gate. No metal detectors and no pre-boarding fuss existed. Terrorists had yet to rock our world. Clean and easy living.
Baby Benjamin James Lane was born in April of 1996. I was a young mom to infant, Ben, and three year-old, Zach. Life was simple with my biggest distractions being diaper bags and naps. I was juggling a career with a yearning to be an engaged mom.
When Baby Ben reached four months, I agreed to go on a business trip to Orlando. Fresh off of breast-feeding and just fitting back into my suits, I was ready for the break from babyland. It was reprieve from my typical day-to-day juggling act.
The trip was spectacular. The group I met was the usual suspects I had grown to love over my years as a healthcare consultant. We worked by day, growing in our knowledge, and danced by night on Paradise Island, the adult version of Disney fun. The days flew by. I was thrilled to enjoy daily conversations that didn't include choice of preferred baby food.
But by day three, I was done. I missed my family dearly. It was a well-deserved break, but mama was ready to go home. Dressed in my favorite khaki's and jean vest, I boarded my plane. I breathed a sigh as I took my seat and gazed out the window; anxiously awaiting toddler kisses and the warmth of a sleeping baby on my shoulder.
And then a nice lady tapped me on the shoulder.
"I believe you're in my seat," she told me.
Confused, we compared tickets. Quickly we concluded that I was in the right seat. But on the wrong day.
My flights were booked by our office manager in a day before on-line bookings. Although the typed itinerary showed the correct flight home, the ticket cleared showed a flight for the following day.
I was crushed. A mess. Where would I stay? When would I see my kids? I couldn't fathom another day away from home.
Grabbing my bag, I walked off the plane. By the time I located the crew by the gate entry, I was in tears. I pleaded with them on my predicament. I offered no explanation for emergency other than I wanted to see my kids.
With tears streaming down my cheeks at record pace, the airline crew found an available flight with another airline. It was unknown if there was a seat available as the computer indicated a standby status only. Their advice to me was run across the vast airport and plead my case to the other airline employees in the same manner I did to them. In other words; cry and beg.
"Good luck!" they yelled as I tore off with my pull bag bouncing behind me. I ran like the wind and cried like a baby. I am sure people thought there was a family emergency creating my fragility. In reality, my maternal hormones played a big part in my created drama.
In a sweat and an emotional mess, I pleaded my case with airline #2 as instructed.
"I booked my flight for the wrong night...I miss my kids...I have a BABY at home...please let me go home, " I begged as the tears continued to flow freely.
A sympathetic United employee rushed me through the gate. Without saying a word or asking for my name or a boarding pass, she simply walked me to the door of the plane. I felt the glare of those I'm sure were on stand-by as I walked by them. I was the nameless woman with nothing to offer but a story.
Although a little later then expected, but I did make it home to my family that night.
As stringent airport security has now become a way of life, I often think back to this act of kindness paid to me. I was nothing more than a random woman allowed on a plane. If that plane were to have gone down, I would have been the unknown traveler. No record of note. A far change from the times we live in now.
I am now second guessing whether the airline employees would have even noticed my wrong boarding pass last night and allowed a mistaken trip to Orange County. A mystery traveler yet again? Maybe a worthy experiment....