It’s seldom a good thing to look out the window of a plane and see a couple dozen of New York City’s finest in cop cars racing at you with red lights and sirens, but that’s what we saw. And we were so happy.
That story began a day and a half earlier when a team of people, led by my nephew, Jeff Miller, boarded a Ghana Airlines plane bound to Accra, Ghana. However, the plane had mechanical difficulties so we sat on the plane for several hours waiting for it to be fixed. The pilot finally came on with the grim news that we were all going to have to deplane and try again later.
If you ever travel with me, you will occasionally hear me mooing like an old cow out on a Kansas prairie. I’ve had occasion, in my younger years, of helping move cattle from point A to point B and find many parallels between that activity and airline travel. Herding cattle into a pen and loading people onto an airplane employ the exact same principles.
If you don’t believe me, go help some cowboys and cowgirls round up cattle in a truck and you will, like me, begin mooing when you travel. A soft, slow, moo, at just the right moment, releases a tremendous amount of stress and reminds you that you, and that dumb cow being herded into a cattle truck, are soul mates.
After the pilot told us the plane couldn’t be fixed, we were herded back out onto the concourse to wait yet another several hours for it to be fixed. The hours passed and the plane sat like a wart on the end of a witch’s nose.
Finally, the announcement came that they were loading us onto another cattle truck – er, bus – and sending us to a hotel with hopes that the plane could be fixed overnight.
Several hundred of us loaded up into buses for the nearest hotel and, of course, had to stand in line for hours waiting to be checked in. Finally, we found our rooms, ate a bit of dinner, and crashed.
The next day, we arrived at airport ready for our flight to Africa and discovered that the only plane apparently owned by Ghana Airlines was declared DOA and they borrowed a different plane, and a new crew, from Canada Air.
Our time came to board that new plane and, oops, this one was broke, too. They told us to please be patient, enjoy the pop and snacks they sent to assuage us, and we’d be flying the friendly skies shortly.
Well, they couldn’t get that one fixed either, so they told us they were going to have to borrow yet another plane; this one was declared DOA, too. We politely suggested they reach out to Fred Flintstone and see if he and Barney could fly us over. Heck, we’d even help them run down the runway barefoot to give the plane lift.
Our suggestion was rudely ignored.
Hours passed and that plane just sat there like pimple-faced boy at the 8th grade dance. The crowd was growing more restless with each announcement that told us to wait just a little bit longer.
Suddenly, the announcement came that, well-whadda-ya-know, that plane had miraculously been fixed and we could fly it for the next 13 hours to Ghana.
I can best describe the reaction using the Biblical phrase of, “wailing and gnashing of teeth.”
Now matter how good looking the Canada Air pilot was – and he was a handsome chap – he could not reassure us nonbelievers that the aircraft was air-worthy enough to cart our souls safely to Ghana. I don’t think even Captain Sully, who landed the airplane in the Hudson and saved all those lives, could have made us feel better about the flight.
However, we all had paid a lot of money, we all were really tired from waiting and we all had become such good friends we figured we might as well just die together, so we boarded.
I will clearly state right here at even as a mature adult, I will cave to peer pressure. I wanted to go back to Kansas but the team was going on and, well, I was going to be a sissy if I went back to Kansas. I’m not a sissy.
And, once we boarded, we sat again like terrified patients waiting for a dentist to start a root canal.
The riot broke out when the pilot announced that we would be flying straight to Accra, rather than stopping along the way in Banjul and dropping off those passengers.
Life is often like a shed full of dynamite that you don’t realize its in there until someone tosses in a half-lit cigarette butt.
To say the folks from Banjul were disappointed is like saying that New Orleans Saints were disappointed in the referee that cost them a shot at the Super Bowl. No, they weren’t disappointed; they were livid and the yelling began.
Remember my comment about a shed full of dynamite? Yeah, that happened.
I’m not sure what all was being shouted since there were various languages, ethnicities, religions and countries represented on the plane, but it got real ugly, real fast.
As the tensions escalated, my nephew, Jeff, motioned out the window he was sitting beside and had that, “Oh, thank God, here comes the cavalry!” look on this face. Sure enough, racing up to, then surrounding our airplane, was New York City’s finest, the boys in blue.
The police boarded the plane and suddenly the raucous crowd retreated to their seats like good little boys and girls going to Sunday School.
These barrel-chested, bulging-biceped cops were studs and they positioned themselves strategically up and down the aisle, then another announcement came from the captain that more or less said this:
“Ladies and gentlemen, calm the heck down! We have decided that spending the next 13 hours at 37,000 feet together Is pretty much like locking up 350 feral cats in a cage and throwing away the key. Therefore, we are NOT, I repeat, NOT, flying the friendly skies to Africa. Please get the heck off of this plane, calm down and we’ll try again later.”
For those in the team looking for a sign from God, I found it; go home. I took this as my sign to go back to Kansas where the deer and the antelope play and try it again later when I could calm the heck down.
Some of our team jumped on a flight the next day to Ghana, but Jeff and I returned to Kansas.
The next time, Jeff and I managed to fly first class, thanks to Ghana Air making up for the previous debacle. That trip was full of adventure, too, but the best part happened when Jeff ordered two fingers of scotch while sitting on the plane.
But that’s for the next story! More to come…Moo.