“We won’t get home for Thanksgiving,” said the woman beside him.
“It’s not Thanksgiving,” said Rob.
“You’re Canadian,” she guessed. “It’s Thanksgiving here.” They were sitting in an unheated room in a hangar at the Bangor airport. Their empty plane sat in the runway, its chute deployed. She had studied the group and sized my truck driving brother as the likeliest.
“Let’s rent a car,” she said. “We can drive me to Ithaca and you can go on to Toronto.”
He paused. “It’s getting dark. It’s snowing. I don’t know you and besides, I’ve seen that movie.” Which of course reduced him to laughter.
He withdrew to a quiet corner and called me on his Belgian mobile phone. “First, they said we were running out of fuel,” he told me, “but as we landed the whole plane started shaking. “I knew I was going to die. I thought I should hold the hand of the woman across the aisle, but she was too ugly. Then I thought, I’m here at the bulk head next to business class. I’m likely the only who will survive. Shoot, I thought.” They hit the ground. “Now,” he said to himself. Then they hit again and with a terrible whining, grinding and howling came to a stop.
The chute deployed.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please keep your seats.” People were struggling desperately to get up and out. They had been told the plane was out of fuel. “There is a problem with the door,” the captain admitted.
Mayhem erupted.”I could have died,” was the universal cry. “I almost died.”
Me too, thought Rob. You’re not the only one here. You didn’t die. We didn’t fall out over the Atlantic. We are on a lucky flight!
Turned out once the door was opened that there was a problem getting the steps up to meet it, but that had been resolved and now Rob sat on a cold cement floor, his winter coat and boots safe in his checked luggage, catching laryngitis and talking to me.
Four hours later, little had changed, except he had gone out for a smoke and set off all manner of alarms on his way back from the hardware in his joints. He was patted down, wand-ed and dog-sniffed, a hair raising experience given what he had smoked the night before. The promised plane from Philly had not arrived, would arrive despite the snow in half an hour, would not arrive if it snowed six more inches. But snow plows ground up and down the single runway, keeping it open. Finally, snow in Philly would prevent the plane’s departure from that city.
By now, he had called me four times and I was at Georgia’s place which is nearer the airport. “They’re sending us to a hotel,” he said.
“Yes, I can see it right next to the airport,” I said. I could also see the U.S. Airways flight status on another screen. The path led from Brussels to Philly, but the little plane was stuck in Bangor, Maine. “Don’t forget your meds,” I said.
“Oh, thank you, thank you,”he said.
“You put your meds in your checked luggage?” Oh he was rattled.”It’s okay, Rob. You’re safe now. You’re going to stay in a cozy snow-bound hotel.” Family history tends to send us off the deep end in urgent situations.
He made out all right of course. He spent the evening in the bar ordering rounds of drinks for everyone there and talking.
Two younger women told him of the way, troops are welcomed back at the airport. They are never greeted by “Welcome home” or “Welcome to the United States” that way lies emotional breakdown and mass chaos. They are greeted simply, “”Welcome to Bangor.”
At closing, his credit card wouldn’t swipe. No chip readers there. So the wealthy Belgian couple paid his bill and refused compensation next day, “Are you trying to insult me?”
I woke up in the guest bedroom to hear my phone ringing. The plane from Philly would arrive in Bangor, momentarily, read an hour and a half. His flight back north would be at 4:30 on Air Canada and he would arrive in YYZ at 6:06.”Wherever that is,” he said.
Then there was silence for 4 hours. I understood that. No worries. At 3:45, just as I was about to call him, he called me. The flight was delayed until 5:30 and he was going back to Brussels.
“Have you eaten lately?” I demanded.
“Go. Eat. Have a drink. Relax. You’re almost here.”
“Okay,” he said. I was his big sister after all.
At 7:30 Georgia and I were on the road to YYZ, Pearson International Airport, trying to catch the right lane in the dark and snow. She insisted on driving her new car.
“Am I going to have to put you in the back seat?” she demanded.
I could have driven, but I was too tense to be driven.
“The car is dark blue,” I tell him on my cell phone.
“I don’t care what colour it is, just so long as it picks me up. I’m waiting at P,” he says.
There is no P of course, so I duck out of the car at C and run him down. He’s still clad in just a cotton sweater. We run for the car, half hugging. Georgia springs out to load the big bag, even though we are blocking a thru lane.
Our celebration dinner is smoked salmon pasta, thrice-cooked of necessity by niece/daughter. There are 5 of us, together at last.
“You are here,” I say in wonder, “And my daughter is still alive.”
(This apparent non-sequitor is explained in previous posts.)