Whenever I think of Dallas, I wonder: who shot J.R.?
My wife and I recently spent some time in Dallas. I still don’t recall who did that fictional shooting but can empathize with the why of it. Maybe that’s just a reaction to being stuck at an airport for what seemed like a decade.
Air travel is a blessing when everything goes right. Your flight is on time, your baggage doesn’t get lost and you aren’t forced to sit beside a very large man who has breath that could drop a bull walrus at 30 yards.
When things go as planned, air travel is the best thing to happen to transportation since an inventive caveman tied his sled to a snoozing mammoth’s tail, jabbed the dyspeptic pachyderm with his spear and shouted, “Giddyup!”
Flying is a curse when things go awry. I realize that there are a million moving parts behind each flight. There’s the weather, those incredibly finicky airplanes, the computerized ticket and baggage systems, and those guys who wander around the tarmac waving their glowsticks. Any hiccup with any of those things can unleash an avalanche of delays.
But the passenger doesn’t care about that. As a paying airline passenger, all you know is that your flight has been delayed and your plans for the immediate future have been shredded. You also know that none of it is your fault. This leaves only the airline to blame.
Things began smoothly when my wife and I returned from our recent sojourn in Galveston. We made it through airport security without being subjected to a cavity search and arrived at our gate with time to spare. Our flight from Houston (HOU) to Dallas (DFW) lifted off on schedule.
We had just settled at our assigned gate for our flight from DFW to FSD (Sioux Falls, S.D.) when my phone binged. The airline had sent a text informing us that our flight would be half an hour late. No big deal — just a minor inconvenience.
Then came a text that tacked on another hour’s delay. This was followed by a text that assigned us to a different gate.
We gathered our things and scurried nearly a mile to the new gate. We had just found empty seats and sat down when my phone binged again.
A collective moan rose from our waiting area. Now our plane wouldn’t leave until 10:30 p.m. We were supposed to have arrived at FSD by then! But the airline wasn’t finished torturing us. A short while later, they texted that our flight’s takeoff time had been changed to 11:31.
A hiss of anger and frustration rippled through the crowd. Some passengers opted to vent their ire onto the hapless gate agents.
A guy who was wearing a sleeveless shirt — a barbed wire tattoo encircled his biceps — held a heated conversation with the gate agent. I could see the veins on his neck bulging as he made his case but sensed that it wasn’t doing any good. At length the guy plopped down in a chair, a look of resignation on his face.
Another male passenger had an animated discussion with the gate agent, then exclaimed loudly, “Is this an exception or is this just normal everyday incompetence?”
We all could empathize. Each of us passengers felt that we deserved special treatment. For instance, I had just learned that Reader’s Digest was publishing an excerpt of my book. How many people at DFW could have claimed something similar? Very few, I suspect. Shouldn’t such a select group be given deferential treatment?
I wandered the terminal’s interminable hallways. An impeccably dressed businessman strode purposefully by, holding a forceful conversation with the air. A slumbering young mother slumped in a chair, her toddler daughter asleep on her lap. Passengers who had been stuck at DFW since the Eisenhower Administration stared off into space like refugees who had given up hope.
A Gulfstream with an artsy rendering of a famous country singer emblazoned across its tailfin taxied past the window. Now THAT’S the kind of deferential treatment I’m talking about! Hey there! Got room for my wife and me?
The gate agent apologized for the delay and announced that the airline was providing free sandwiches. Hard bread and cold cheese are a poor substitute for a soft, warm bed.
Our plane finally appeared and we shuffled into the aluminum tube like weary cattle being herded into a corral. I’m sure that Dallas is a nice city, but we were awfully tired of its airport.
And all of us — the infuriated and the unruffled — arrived at the same time. Although I bet the country singer guy had a roomier seat.