Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Missed Connections

The second leg of my summer vacation took me to visit a dear friend who no longer lives in the same city as me (one of the perils of academentia is ending up alone in the city where you went to grad school and made close friends) got off to a dramatic start. Summer storms led to a hours-long delay, followed by delight at boarding for the long flight and the announcement of imminent take off. Until I saw a flurry of flight attendants sprinting to the First Class section (I had scored a coveted exit row seat directly behind) of the plane. The head cabin attendant got on the PA and asked if there was a doctor on board to silence, quickly followed by a staccato: any nurses, nurse practitioners, paramedics? Please ring your call button. Two women rushed forward towards the huddled mass of uniformed personnel and the feet of the prone passenger covered by one of the blankets I had sought but could only obtain - at a price. I saw the gestures familiar from movies and TV - one of the people was trying to massage the passenger's heart back into operation. For at least 20 minutes. Simultaneously, the plane was careening back towards our gate. At this point, my Recovering Catholic Stockholm Syndrome was kicking in and I made the sign of the Cross and prayed silently. They explained there was a sick passenger and that we had to return to the gate in order for paramedics to come. But suddenly two NYC cops entered, took a sweeping glance into the cabin, and took out notebooks following which the flight attendant asked the two women who performed CPR to come speak to them. It seemed to me that the passenger was dead. In any case, the blanketed feet disappeared, another passenger departed on foot following. Again over the PA a flight attendant called out a name, and a man came up from the rear and was moved to First Class. Yes, he was on standby for an upgrade, and this was his opportunity. That's airplane travel today folks, survival of the fittest. (I was wondering why would they not offer the upgrade to the Good Samaritan who tried to resuscitate the passenger.) And we were on our way.

After the requisite calming speech from the Captain including the "our thoughts and prayers are with our fellow passenger," I spoke to one of the shaken flight attendants who told me it was the wife in a couple that had left NY en route to their country of residence (intending to make a connection in the city where I was headed) after celebrating their 50th anniversary with family.

Although I have had many family members and close friends my own age die, I have never seen a person in the act of dying, if you can call what I saw precisely that.

To make things even more surreal, when we learned of the second or third delay at the airport, I called my friend to bitch in Spanish and noticed out of the corner of my eye a cute guy. (I always wonder if this is the flight where I will meet an exciting stranger, but always end up with the crying babies etc. instead) During the excruciatingly long flight, the cute guy and I began to flirt sporadically (after the requisite commiserating about the tragic events, it would be in poor taste otherwise), which I guiltily enjoyed tremendously.

Once I got off the plane, I sought him out at the baggage claim, but as my luck would have it, he must have taken his stuff on board. So for the first time, I tried out the Craig's List Missed Connections feature, crafting what I hoped was a sufficiently insouciant and witty sentence that evoked our playful banter on board. Of course I never heard from the guy.

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