By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Prepare for takeoff

Wick's World


January 31, 2019

Fasten your seat belts and prepare for takeoff. I fastened my seat belt. Then I prepared for takeoff, my head buried in the current book of the day. Like most passengers I travel with nowadays, I continued what I was doing while the stewards were barking out their hum-drum instructions a passenger should do in the event of a water landing.

I average anywhere from 3-10 flights per year and pretty well know the ins and outs of every type of aircraft with the possible exception of the one Elon Musk has yet to invent. I’d logged six flights since Thanksgiving, all of them headed west over the mountains and deserts of America. The only water I would see was upon landing in San Diego for the airport in the “City with the Best Weather in the United States” was located right out on the Pacific Ocean. I figured if we crash landed there, I could easily swim safely to shore. If I was lucky, an errant wing would float my way and I could surf to shore (not that I know how to surf).

I was heading back home to St. Paul with a layover in Denver. Sitting around airports has never been a problem for me. I’m a people watcher and it doesn’t get any better than a crowded airport to watch people from all walks of life scurrying from one gate to the next. Except the one I will call Grouchy Old Person. We’ll talk about her later.

I had left my granddaughter’s baby shower and caught a ride with my son who heckled me all the way to the airport because I was arriving an hour and a half early. That’s according to his calculations. According to mine, I was right on time. In hindsight, had I known what lie ahead, I would have skipped that extra hour I gave myself. I was about to spend the better part of the next fifteen hours hanging around airports. Meanwhile, people-watching became less interesting than normal.

Takeoff went well and as I nestled into my neck pillow I began to read “Fire and Fury”, a frightening flight inside Donald Trump’s brain. I peeked out the window just long enough to see we were in snow-covered mountains and well on our way to the Rockies. Then the pilot came on the radio. Often it is simply a talkative pilot who has put the plane on auto and with little left to do, he begins giving out temperatures, altitude, natural sites we are passing over or the millionth reminder that this is a non-smoking aircraft as have all aircraft for the past several decades. When our pilot came on the radio, it had nothing to do with the no-smoking rule.

“We have a door that shows it is not closed. We are instructed to return to the nearest airport which is San Diego. We’ll be landing shortly and hope to have you on your way as soon as possible.” He added, “This should be a minor problem. This aircraft is only five weeks old and sometimes the little glitches need to be worked out.”

One thing I knew about airplanes is this. The only time I wanted a door open was when I parachuted out and landed safely on the ground. Although the pilot assured us that we were in no danger, the two hours it took to fix the door made it appear otherwise.

By this time, Grouchy Old Person was spewing venom before the pilot had a chance to get the plane headed back to San Diego. When the pilot instructed us to depart the aircraft (but stay in the general area) Grouchy Old Person began pacing the gate area with a look on her face that screamed “get out of my way.” I brushed her off as someone who lives most of her life disgruntled.

Some other day I would have walked up to her and said, “Lady, don’t you know you are shortening your life acting like that.”

But I thought twice and came to the conclusion that I should let her days dwindle. I figured the world would be a little bit friendlier without her presence. As luck would have it, I was to get a lot more of Grouchy Old Person. She sat directly behind me on my connecting flight in Denver. It too was grounded and the passengers were ordered off the plane (but stay in the general area). Grouchy Old Person again paced the gate area like a mad bull in Mexico City Arena. It was then that I remembered my cardinal rule of flying, never make a connecting flight at the Denver Airport in months that end in an R. The decree was originally made as a weather-related issue. I just added an addendum for Grouchy Old Person.


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