My Time on the Runway

My Time on the Runway

I don’t fly frequently for work, but since I live halfway across the country from my family and I tend to try and go as many places as possible… I travel fairly frequently.  My success rate is pretty high, and besides the delayed flight here or there I haven’t had any major problems since I tried to leave North Carolina in the middle of a snow storm.

So I guess I was overdue.

All signs pointed to an on-time flight when I boarded the plane to head home Friday night.  I had 40% battery charge on my iPad, 20% on my iPhone and no one sitting next to me in the middle seat.  Besides the fact that I had spilled spaghetti all over myself during a utterly fantastic airport italian dinner, I was winning at travel.

Pending an on time departure, we were scheduled to arrive in NC just before 12:00am.  Late, but no big deal since my husband was out with friends post rehearsal dinner and willing to pick me up.  They shut the doors, and then we sat and waited to go to the runway.

And waited.

And then maintenance needed to look at the door.

And then maintenance needed to fix the door.

And then we started going to the runway.

And then maintenance noticed a light was out.

And then maintenance needed to fix the light.


By the end of it all, we sat on the runway in the plane for three hours.  Now I’m not really complaining about the delay, because let’s face it – I’d rather they fix the plane than send me on my merry way with broken doors and busted lights.  At first I just sat quietly and played Fruit Ninja on my iPad, but after a while there is only so much fruit you can slice.  Texting and surfing the web were out of the question, because I needed to save the battery on my phone… so before long I just started people watching.

It was kind of fantastic.

A few rows ahead on my left, there were two really well behaved kids around ages seven and nine.  Where several adults where throwing temper tantrums, these kiddos were troopers… partially because they realized they were sitting next to a dog trainer.  An adult who plays with dogs for a living?  That is kid gold.

They asked this woman about any dog question you could ever possibly imagine.  All about what Flyball was and the rules. All about clicker training.  What tricks their dog knew.  What tricks they could teach their dogs.  How they should reward their dog… everything.  The woman was also a saint, and never once got annoyed or frustrated by them.  Several people around were also listening to their conversation and laughing when the kids said something clever.

In the front to my right, an older gentlemen was really impressed by the kids.  He also may have been a teeny bit crazy, but in a good way.  It wasn’t long before he started to preach a bit to anyone who would listen:

“I just love hearing those kids talk!  Kids are our future.”

Nods of agreement all around.

“No really, our future. People take the crying babies out of church…. why take ’em out?  I like to hear them cry!  Those babies are our future.  Let them cry!”

Nods of agreement turn to slightly confused stares and slow nods.


Others were not so happy.  At least one woman stormed off the plane despite the flight attendants saying that she wouldn’t be allowed back on and would have to pay for the flight anyway.

Behind me, there was a mix.  One woman was quiet for hours one and two, but as we started our third hour trapped on the plane… she began to fall apart.  She was older, frail looking and had a mousey quality to her.  Before long she was just wringing her hands in stress and worry as she kept calling someone on the phone, quite annoyed.  Apparently she was the only one who was inconvenienced by being delayed three hours.

Her seat mate though, was hilarious.  As soon as it became clear we were moving no where anytime soon, she started shouting demands with her country twang.

“Man, I am so huuuungry.”

“Can I get some chips over here?”

“I’m so thirsty.  I need some water.”

Halfway through our wait, the flight attendants passed out a granola bar and water to anyone who wanted (legally, they had to).  This did not impress my new friend behind me.

“Can I buy some Pringles?  I want some Pringles!”

“No ma’am.  We’re not allowed to start selling items until we’re in the air,” the flight attendant responded.

“Mmmmm,” was all she cut back.

The best part about the two totally different women behind me, was when Pringles tried to get a ride home from the stressed mouse.

“Mm, we parked at the $3 dollar lot.  I hope the shuttles runnin’ when we get there.”

“Oh yes, I bet the airport is going to be quite closed down that late.”

“Do you think you could give us a ride?”

“Well my car is very small.”

“Oh it’s okay… I only got one bag!  He only got one bag!”

“See, it’s a pickup truck.  There’s no back seat.”

“It’s cool!  We’ll just sit in the back!  Just take us to the Sheetz.  We’ll be fine if we get to the Sheetz.”

The stressed mouse just sighed.  Hopefully Pringles and her husband found a way to get to their car eventually.


When we finally landed in NC, it was almost 3:00am.  I expected the airport to be totally deserted, and had images of me having to walk down to the plane in the dark and hoist my own bag out of cargo… but although quiet, the airport wasn’t deserted.  I passed not one but two employees starting their shifts at the airport Starbucks.

Me with dull eyes, spaghetti sauce all over my shirt and jeans, tugging along a scuffed yellow suitcase.

Them with sharp green polo shirts, walking quickly with a book and a purse tucked under their arm.

Life is all about juxtapositions.

14 thoughts on “My Time on the Runway

  1. Ah the joys of air travel! I’m a commuter in the DC area and I’ve found people watching to be a very entertaining way to pass time when stuck in commuter gridlock. Like the guy marching up and down the aisle, wringing his hands and announcing we HAVE to demand the driver use the shoulder to take Exit so and so. Never mind said exit is 7 miles away and I highly doubt we’d be successful if we tried. Oh and then there’s the time the driver actually tried the shoulder trick and we got stopped by a police officer. A shouting match ensued which was highly entertaining aside from the worry that our bus driver would be arrested.

  2. We had an hour delay on the runwau on the way to LA…there was no air on the plane at the time, we were roasting! I love people watching on the place…so interesting (and disturbing at times)!

  3. After an hour I would think there could be some kind of policy where people can get off the plane and get back on…that’s just torture.

  4. The longest I’ve ever been stuck on a plane (on the ground) was around 3 hours too, but lucky me, there was no one else in my row. I took a nap. Sadly, they eventually made us stay the night there versus taking us home after all so that wasn’t nearly as much fun!

    Glad you made it safely!

  5. Ah we had one of those delays on one of the last flights I had- where they kindly tell you “oh they just have to fix something.” which is both comforting and terribly frightening at the same time….

    Lovely post.

  6. So this is ironic: the last flight we took was Delta and there’s an ad for Delta right above this box!

    My story: coming back from DC, from my birthday trip in October, there was a smell. Like, not a human-shat-himself or anything, but a distinct mechanical odor. They couldn’t find the cause and tried not to alarm us. We were all alarmed. Airplanes are scary.

    …So was the hubs still around at 3:00 AM to pick you up?

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