You remember watching WWII movies and those fighter planes swooping out of the sky and screaming down at an enemy aircraft carrier, machine guns blazing and bombs dropping with the precision of a Swiss watch, and then marveling at the pilot’s nerve and skill as he leveled off and climbed steeply out of harm’s way at the very last second?
It’s not as much fun when you are a passenger in a big commercial jet trying to land in a crowded airport, socked in by thunderstorms and too many airplanes taking off and landing on too few runways.
This thrilling almost touch-and-go flight maneuver was the second attempt to land safely. The first approach was aborted before we could see the ground. This time, the plane was almost on the tarmac, leveling off as we waited for the familiar bump and screech as the wheels touched the runway.
We did not touch tarmac. More abruptly than I could imagine, my spine was firmly plastered to the back of the seat, and we were headed uphill again. I pulled my seatbelt a little tighter and wondered what calamity we had just avoided. No one ever explained, and we made it down on the third attempt—otherwise, I guess I would still be circling Charlotte.
When we landed, the passengers erupted in applause. I couldn’t help but think to myself—knowing better even as I thought it—has this pilot ever landed a plane before? Is this a training run? Nah, couldn’t be that.
I also assumed, now that the plane was safely on the ground, that my travel amusements would be over for the day. I expected my connecting flight to be delayed—everything had to be delayed. It was not delayed, however. It was cancelled, and I was rebooked on a flight going out the next morning. I was not interested in spending the night in Charlotte, not that I have anything against Charlotte, but I had spent six of the past 10 nights sleeping on hotel beds, and I wanted to get back to mine.
WHERE IS MY LUGGAGE?
I cancelled the next day’s flight, rented a car and went to the baggage counter to have my luggage unloaded. That’s a lot harder than you might think. A very persistent woman at the counter worked diligently to make it happen. Something in the rulebook says they can’t just send checked baggage on to the final destination on the next flight out—unless it’s a lost bag. I feared that I could be making a trip back to Charlotte to retrieve my dirty clothes in a day or two.
But this lady worked diligently to locate and procure my bag. She worked diligently and persistently for three hours, at which time they did declare my bag lost and decided to send it on the next flight out.
I figured I’d still make the three-hour drive with no more adventure. I should have known better. Bad weather, a different route home suggested by my smart (?) phone, a 25-minute detour and a 25 minute backtrack added about 90 minutes to my three-hour tour.
Next morning I woke early to drive to the local airport to turn in the rental car and retrieve my truck. It was a nice day. No trouble getting to the airport—if you don’t count the 20-minute traffic jam. I returned the car to the rental agency and was headed home when the blue lights came on.
The nice officer looked at my license, my proof of insurance and then asked: “Mr. Smith, do you know why I pulled you over?” I was pretty sure I did.
“I suspect I was going too fast, sir,” I responded as politely and humbly as I knew how. He had me at 58 in a 40 zone. I couldn’t argue. I threw myself on the mercy of the law.
“Any reason you’re in such a hurry?” he asked. I could not think of one, and admitted as much.
He went back to his flashing vehicle, did some magic with a small computer and returned. “Mr. Smith, I’m giving you a warning today. It will not go on your driving record and you will not pay a fine. But slow down and be safe.”
“Yes sir. Thank you very much.”
I was due a traveling mercy.