It was a cool, calm evening last Tuesday when I arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport. I was returning home from a journey visiting my dear friend Mary Ann. My plan was to sleep as much as possible during the 5 ½ hour flight back to San Francisco. I chose an aisle seat to avoid climbing over knees or having to wake people up. Although the flight attendant said the plane was completely full I noticed that the two seats next to me, the window and the middle seat, were vacant. I was one of the last to board so I found that puzzling.
It wasn’t long before I looked up to see a couple bounding down the length of the plane both smiling; exhibiting an abundance of enthusiasm. I thought to myself, here goes my dreams of lying across the seats but at least they are cheerful and busy with each other. They probably won’t be interested in talking to me and disturbing my rest. The young woman picked the window seat and the guy sat next to me. We three collectively looked at our phones at the same time to note the local time was 6:00 pm. The plane was just about to take off without any delays.
Within a few short minutes I was asked by the young man in a charming British accent, “Is this your first flight of the day?” He barely gave me a chance to answer when he dramatically told his story how they both had been on an earlier flight scheduled to leave for S.F. at 11:45 am. Apparently they weren’t a couple but had just met each other on the plane. In his animated words, “We sat there, plane on the tarmac, cramped and tired for three hours without any movement and no food! Finally the flight attendant announced that the several hundred passengers needed to depart the plane, it wasn’t able to fly. Oh, I am Oliver, by the way and this is McKinley.” Both of them were excited, up-beat and laughing as they spoke about our ride that was about to begin within minutes.
When I asked how they were so fortunate to get seats on this already full plane, Oliver said, “As soon as we were put off the aircraft and I saw the queue winding around half the airport I immediately looked at my phone numbers stored from the past week. Right there was the United number and I just clicked on it. So while all the other hundred people waited in line to be rerouted I got a seat with just a few words. I also asked for a seat for McKinley. That is how we connected.” Wow, I was impressed how positive they both were about the whole experience.
Just then we heard the familiar sounds of the engine revving and realized the plane was taxiing as it was preparing for take-off. Vooooooooom, vooooooooom, vooooooooom, and then a slow drizzle sound downward to nothing and a then dead stop! All three of us in our row let out a disappointed, “Oh no!” Oliver was laughing as he exclaimed, “This can’t be happening again!” McKinley too was shaking her head but with a smile on her face. As for me, I was worried that any delay would be difficult for my husband Bryan to pick me up because he gets up so early to go to work. What could we do; when we were told after an hour’s wait in our seats that the plane wasn’t going anywhere? It had something to do with the generator. The good news was the airline was going to get a new plane to take us to S.F. It would be arriving in a few hours which made the reality of the delay easier to accept.
With that announcement the plane was unloaded. I noticed most passengers were busy on their phones rearranging their pick-up plans or connecting flights. While I was on the phone to Bryan, Oliver, McKinley, and another woman I hadn’t noticed before, passed me quickly and motioned that I join them for a drink at the bar. I was up for that. What I couldn’t help but notice about the new woman in the group was her amazing attitude and the huge smile on her face. All three of them were accepting the delay of several hours as an adventure. I just followed along and figured wherever they were going was more inviting than another long wait on one of the hard benches near Gate 16.
We didn’t walk far before Oliver opened the door to the United Flight Club reserved for 1st Class passengers and led our “group of four” to the hostess seated at the entrance. In his wonderful English accent he graciously explained, “We (he turned to include all of us) have had two flights which were cancelled after we boarded, it has been a long day of waiting, and we deserve to be able to share in the privileges of Flight Club.” (This would mean, a comfortable place to sit and talk with a beautiful free buffet.) The hostess at first stared at him without blinking and when she saw all of us smiling she agreed and we were allowed to stay. Instead of a boring, tiring wait, we were going to have a party. For the next couple of hours we all shared stories, food, and drinks and learned a lot about what was going on in each other’s lives.
What a great way to meet new friends; all because of a smile. Smiling is infectious and leads to laughter and play. I am grateful to have been a part of this fun experience.