I experienced the husband’s trip home from the West Coast remotely, in a series of increasingly surreal cell phone calls. Each time I picked up the phone, I would ask, “Where are you now?” And each time the answer seemed less encouraging.

Eventually, he turned up at Bradley, battered and worn. He has recovered enough to tell the whole tale. So I give you, once again, Don Stacom:

Nothing proves the value of an iPod loaded with soothing music like a routine flight that has gone sideways. Way sideways.

Take United’s L.A. to Hartford service two weeks ago, for instance. Who’d figure an eight-hour trip could include an extra hour and half in the LA terminal, an overnight visit to D.C., a bonus hour on the tarmac at Dulles, and even a side stop in White Plains? (Well, OK, even an airline can’t cram all that fun into eight hours – this little transcon jaunt clocked in just short of 25).

But modern travel, like life, comes with few guarantees. And that’s where a little gentle music helps bring down the blood pressure. My recommendations: A few pieces by Snatam Kaur and an Enya album.

How did one trip break down so completely? In this case, a gate agent at LAX announced that Flight 362 to Dulles was running an hour and a half late because the plane was delayed getting in from Chicago. Time for Track 1.

When 362 finally got airborne, the pilot announced he couldn’t make up the lost time. So the trouble cascaded; the flight was still in the air as the last flight to Bradley pulled away from the gate at Dulles. More tunes.

Turned out that a whole lot of United passengers got stranded at Dulles that night. Props to UAL for supplying hotel vouchers. Thumbs down to the airport Hyatt for jamming 29 people onto its airport shuttle – wedged in so badly that the door actually opened when the driver made a hard left. Fortunately, the poor guy on the stairway was hanging onto the handrail.

The registration line at the Hyatt at midnight was long enough for two or three more songs. At least.

The next day’s flight to Bradley left the gate at 12:20 p.m. as scheduled, but stopped on the tarmac. Storms in the Hartford region, we were told. Forget the 1:39 arrival, and expect an hour-long ground hold. The pilot kept the a/c on, thankfully. A Jet Blue plane sat alongside us. Another round of music.

Takeoff finally arrived. Bradley was about an hour away. Except an hour later, we were not descending. The pilot announced more storms in Hartford, the controllers wanted us to circle. But we no longer had enough fuel for that, so we diverted to White Plains. Sigh. Crank up the music, loud.

Forty-five minutes on the ground in White Plains with no activity. Passengers were getting restless. The crew announced that water was available, but they had no snacks to hand out. A great opportunity for more songs.

Finally, a flight attendant said cheerfully “Fuel truck’s here!,” and a few folks looked ready to applaud. It was a quick operation, and sometime around 4:30 p.m. the plane touched down at Bradley.

Three hours behind schedule for this flight. More than 24 hours hours after the trip began. 


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