RITE OF PASSAGE: Air lines
Frequent flyers love to share war stories. Get two or three together and they will spend hours trying to outdo one another. They’ll discuss who has had the worst flight, the longest layover and the most near-death experiences from airline food.
Of course, seasoned travelers know to save their best stories for last. If you put your most amazing tale on the table first, the conversation ends and your fellow travelers will find another audience. You want to close with something that crowns you undisputed king of the frequent flyer mountain.
Recently, I flew on a shuttle from Dallas to Tulsa. When we took off, everything seemed fine. The pilot announced that our trip would last a brief 37 minutes. As the aircraft approached Tulsa, a massive thunderstorm moved in. The pilot came back on the PA system to announce a holding pattern. Finally, he told us we had to head over to Oklahoma City to get some fuel. We landed and the plane sat on the tarmac for another hour and a half, waiting for the storm to pass so the ground crew could fill the tanks with gas.
The pilot finally announced the tower had cleared us to return to Tulsa. I was on my way home at last!
As we neared Tulsa, the pilot gave us the news that the bad weather had returned. We would be back in a holding pattern awaiting a break in the storm. After 90 minutes, he said we were heading back to Dallas to terminate the flight. There I was, six and a half hours later, back where I started and no closer to home.
That’s the story I now use to introduce my frequent flyer mishaps. After that, I move to the time I was stuck on the same flight for 13 hours. My closing story covers the time I was trapped in the Denver airport for three days during a massive snow storm and they brought in the National Guard to feed us. Very few people have a story that tops that experience.
Come to think of it . . . I might. Once again I was flying back to Tulsa from Denver. I boarded the plane and strapped myself into the seat. You know the routine. The doors close and the flight attendants give their safety speeches, beginning with a demonstration on how to fasten a seatbelt. When I was growing up, we didn’t have seatbelts, so lessons like this were needed. But in today’s world, I can assure you—most of us know how to buckle up. But the speech must go on or the flight can’t leave the ground.
Then comes the recital of the emergency air masks. “Strap it on and breathe normally,” the flight attendants say. I guarantee— if those masks fall from the ceiling, I will not be breathing normally. I’ll be sucking in more air than the jet engines! Next, the attendants point to the exit doors, holding their arms stiff like New York traffic cops minus the whistles. Finally, they remind everyone to read the safety card located in the seat pocket in front of them.
On the flight from Denver, we had finished all the normal takeoff preparations and the plane accelerated down the runway. We felt the pressure push us back into our seats and the tires bounce as the aircraft prepared to leap into the sky. We traveled faster and faster until—almost at the point when we soared upward—the pilot slammed on the brakes. We felt the plane shudder as its momentum suddenly reversed.
The wings swayed a bit and we finally came to a stop.
No one understood what was happening. A sense of fear spread through the cabin. Finally, the pilot announced that an emergency light had activated during takeoff, forcing him to abort the flight. We returned to the airport to have it checked out. Of course, the big problem turned out to be . . . nothing. We again prepared for takeoff and the flight attendants gave their safety speech for the second time around. They had reached the part about, “In the seat pocket in front of you there is a safety card,” when I looked around the cabin. Everyone had their card out, studying it as if preparing for a test.
As parents, we often act like my fellow passengers. We wait for a family crisis before we heed the instructions right in front of us, especially those from the Word of God. “Listen to advice and accept instruction and in the end you will be wise” (Proverbs 19:20). We could avoid many pitfalls if we just read the safety manual of . . . His Word.
Walker Moore is president of AweStar Ministries in Tulsa; P.O. Box 470265, Tulsa 74147; e-mail [email protected]; phone 800/AWESTAR (293-7827).