Something Happened on the Way to the Christmas Party

shymilfromchiDecember 5, 2011

I worked for an agency of the federal government (proudly,

we were/are hard working and effective). One day I received

a notice from my boss that I had been nominated for an award

(not monetary) and was invited to go to the Washington

headquarters for the celebration which would take place at the

same time as the agency's annual Christmas party. (That was

before this age of austerity.) My husband was invited also;

it was a big deal. I spent many hours shopping for just the

right dress and shoes and made an appointment to have my

hair done. I really didn't want to go at all, but my boss suggested that that was not a good choice.

The night before we were to fly out, there was a blizzard. Our

city is very good about clearing the streets of snow, but we

didn't want to take the chance of getting stuck. So we left

home at 4:30 AM to make sure that we would have plenty of

time to get through the airport security (we live quite close to

the airport.) The snow was easing up and our flight left pretty

much on schedule. We were to transfer in Detroit, where they

also had had the snowstorm. We arrived there about nine

o'clock and were told that our connecting flight was delayed.

OK, that was understandable, and the party was to be at four,

so we had plenty of time.

At two PM, we were told that the airline was trying to get a

crew to take us on to Washington. We couldn't figure out why

it had taken five hours to get to that point. We got to know a

few of our fellow flyers quite well by then. They all had

an agenda for getting there on time, and were beginning to

get tense. Steve and I needn't worry though, we still had time

to make it.

About four o'clock, the plane took off. Perhaps we still had

time to make it to part of the party. We were seated in a

three seat block, Steve sat next to the window with me in

the middle seat. Our aisle seat man got on and was a very

stand-offish person, his body language signaled that he

didn't want to have anything to do with us, although we

hadn't even tried to speak with him.

As we were approaching Reagan Airport in Washington,

Steve (who had been in the Air Force) noticed that the

plane's flaps weren't operating correctly. He told me quietly

so as not to panic anyone, but Mr. Aisle Seat Man overheard

him and suddenly became our best friend. We heard how

he was an executive, late for a very important meeting and

all about his family. He may have thought that he was about

to die and needed human contact. As we started ascending

again, the pilot acknowledged the trouble and instead of

landing at Reagan Airport, we were to be diverted to Dulles.

We circled for what seemed a very long time, getting rid

of excess fuel, and at last started the descent. As we looked

out of the window, we could see emergency vehicles lined up

along the side of the landing strip.

Our pilot skillfully brought the plane down in a pancake

landing with sparks flying. We all gave a big sigh of relief,

and at last, we were in Washington. It was six o'clock.

Perhaps there was still time to get to the remnants of the


A taxi got us to the agency headquarters at about 6:30, most

of the lights in the building were turned off. It had snowed in

Washington too and all employees had been dismissed to go

home. The desk guard greeted us with the news and a lone

officer wandered out from his office. He was very gracious

and explained that he was all that was left of the celebration.

Secretly, I was pleased, after14 hours of trying to get there,

the new dress and me were looking rather frumpy. At least

I didn't have to stand up in front of everyone and give a


Accommodations had already been made for us and the next

day, we were greeted in the coffee room by the official in

charge of giving out awards, given a hearty handshake and a

beautiful clock, and all I had to say was - thank you. It is

lovely and sits on our mantle. Every time I dust it, I think

of that crazy day and,wonder what if . . .

(See lindie, your suggestion for the ellipse problem works.)

On our return trip, there we were in Detroit again.We were so

eager to get back home after our several enjoyable days in

Washington. But this time we were trapped on the plane, sitting

on the tarmac, and it was after 10 PM. We just sat there for

more than an hour. The flight attendent said that she didn't

know why we hadn't taken off either. Finally, it was

announced that snacks were in the process of being delivered

to the plane and should be there soon. A very loud groan was

heard throughout the plane.

We had been waiting for peanuts!

A couple of very tired people arrived home after 2:00 AM. We

have flown since - but not on that airline.

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WOW! what an adventure. I must say though that Northwest Airlines for years carried me safely and courteouly from Baltimore To Spokane and return. Steve in Baltimore County.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 7:00AM
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They should've voted on the peanut waiting. I bet almost everyone had eaten by then and didn't really need any. But if someone did, I'm sure passengers could've riffled through purses and pockets to come up with mints and bars, either chocolate or energy. Sheesh!

You remind me though... when an airline I suddenly can't remember (seems like TWA?) filed bankruptcy and downsize, they neglected to give passengers enough notice. The CEO of the company for which I worked back then made it to his destination, but the return home, well that was an adventure. The answer heard round the office was, "You can't get there from here!!!", and we used it often after that whenever someone exhibited bad customer service skills. Crazy!

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 10:57AM
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Hi Rob,

Perhaps it was a labor contract or something that
required them to service the planes with the snacks.
I'll bet that none of the passengers wanted anything
to eat at that time.

That reminds me of another airline story. About a million
years ago, we were a couple of working girls getting along
on small salaries. My friend saw an ad for a cheap travel
trip to Hawaii, seven days and six nights for a very low
sum. We signed up, stayed at a lovely hotel, and had a
great time.

It was time to leave, and off we went to the airport.
The airline had gone out of business with no notice at all!
It wasn't TWA, but a fly-by-night (no wonder that term
is used) organization. An airport employee contacted
other airlines to get us to Los Angeles. United agreed to
accommodate us, but there was only one space available.
My friend insisted that I take it as my brother was to meet
us in LA. She would come on the earliest flight available.

I found the hotel where I had agreed to meet my brother,
but soon got a phone message from him that a family
emergency had come up and he wouldn't be able to meet
me until the next afternoon.

I sat out by the swimming pool, reading, not at all
displeased to have time to spend in such a nice way. A
young man came over and asked me if he could share
the table with me as it had the only umbrella and the
sun was so hot. We had an interesting conversation
and he asked me to join him for dinner and dancing at
the hotel that evening.

The next morning he saw me in the lobby of the hotel.
I guess that I must have looked distressed and he asked
what the trouble was. I told him that I hadn't heard from
my friend and was worried about her. She should have
arrived by now.

He asked me to come up to his room, and since he didn't
seem to be an art connoisseur with etchings in his suitcase,
I went with him. He got on the phone, called United
Airlines and asked to speak to the president. I was
shocked to hear him get right through. My new friend
told him about a woman stranded in Hawaii and asked
that passage be found for her on the next flight. It
worked, she did arrive very soon after.

My date from the night before had an executive sounding
voice. He was a star of the Ice Capades and had just
ended a tour in town; no wonder he was such a great
dancer. I am sure
not, but he was nice about it.

But to compound matters, we still had to get back to our
city and our tickets had been issued by the same
slock-job outfit that had deserted us in Hawaii. Again
the airport folks got us a ride on an available plane. This
time it turned out that the air pressure wasn't working.
We flew so low that we could see details of the Grand
Canyon below us. I don't know why they didn't pull into
an intermediate airport, but on we went. The problem was
that some people were getting sick. The flight attendant
was passing out sandwiches and asking those sane people
what kind they wanted. It was very weird and we were
so glad to get off that plane.

Steve - I didn't give the name of the airline because they
have since merged and I didn't want to put a black mark
on their reputation. I had flown with them some years
earlier to Europe and had a pleasant, uneventful trip at
that time.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 3:05PM
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Oh my gosh, that was some trip, but I admire you for fulfilling your mission, you got there, got the award and made it home. Congrats on the award.

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 6:59PM
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Shymil, your stories are delightful!

About the "nice young man" in CA : could you imagine going "up to his room" in today's world?

    Bookmark   December 6, 2011 at 8:36PM
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I was being quite facetious shi! I too loved your additional story. I gave him a huge frown through my screen until you said you were sure he didn't have any etchings.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 8:40AM
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Have not been on an airplane since 1971 but enjoy the stories, flying today is an adventure due to so many changes in the world.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 11:02AM
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mwheel: Doesn't it seem that many movies and TV programs today show the couple in the bedroom on the first date. I wonder how much the media effects people's decisions and how you can establish a stable relationship with so little information about the other person.

Preachy, preachy, preachy, I'll stop now.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 12:56PM
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Oh I remember the "good old days" of flying. That's about 45 years ago for us. We, the family took every opportunity to fly away on a whim. Just buy a ticket and board the plane. It was fun to fly.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 7:08PM
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Oh, I had what I thought were preachy female relatives, but I'm so glad they took the time to teach me about the world of a female. They also taught me how to defend myself physically. Thank you to my old time Tante Marit and Tante Solveig and that was way before the media/movies.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2011 at 8:45PM
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