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Monday, June 25, 2012

Betty's a Bitch

OK, really and truly I do know that the Tropical Storm lashing Florida right now is named "Debby" but Betty sounds so much better with the word Bitch so I stuck with it because really and truly she is a complete and total Bitch whatever her name is!

Here's the story of how Debby became such a complete and total Bitch in my mind...

Yesterday dawned bright and sunny in good ol' Richmond, Virginia. Claire and I were in high spirits knowing it was the day we were leaving for her national dance competition in Florida. I knew the weather was going to be a challenge heading into Florida because Tropical Storm Debby, from here forward now known as just the Bitch, was and is stalled in the Gulf of Mexico. When we got to the airport spirits ran even higher when Claire found two of her teammates were going to be on the same plane to Atlanta with us. It was looking to be a good day full of fun and friends....

The trip to Atlanta was smooth and easy. Our layover was dull and uneventful. I knew, though, things were going to change as we boarded the flight to Tampa. The word "unease" entered my head.

Claire and her teammate wanted to sit together so they asked us to let them change seats with one us...putting the moms in one row and the girls in another row. My unease grew a little. I really didn't want Claire that far away from me. But I felt like I launched into "overprotective mama mode" prematurely so I quashed my feelings of anxiety and sent Claire back to sit with her friend. We moms had a good time, chatting and getting to know each other a little better as the plane raced onward. It seemed like my launch into the world of anxiety was all for nothing...until we were about 45 minutes from our destination. It was then that the captain put an end to the flight attendant's service, clamped down on seat belts and made sure everyone stayed put ~ exactly where they were. The girls at the back of the plane and the mom's at the front.

The flight attendants were buckled in. I knew that should have been a clue but they stayed chatty and smiley so no one really knew how bad things were. The air was turbulent and messy, sometimes launching us, just a little, out of our seats. It was one particular jolt, though, that was almost my undoing. My body lifted off of the seat as the plane jolted downward. My rear end felt a bit of a sting as it came back in contact with the seat. After that, I strained hard to look for Claire but I couldn't see her over the rows of seats. My nerves were raw and about to become more raw...the captain came through, loud and clear, telling us we were being diverted to Orlando...SERIOUSLY?!? He said the air was too turbulent to land in Tampa.

We landed in Orlando and were greeted by five fire trucks and two ambulances advancing toward our plane...REALLY?!? I was beginning to think maybe we didn't divert because of the weather. The fire marshal was dispatched to look at our engine...ENGINE?! This is supposed to be weather related ~ NOT engine related!!

The story takes more twists and turns as we are shepherded around Orlando airport...do we get to Tampa via car in and head into a hurricane ourselves? Do we wait for a proposed bus to get us there? Or do we go back into the air, on another plane, and risk another flight? In the end, we risked another flight and got settled for our 22 minute flight to Tampa.

It was as we waited on the tarmac to be cleared for take off to Tampa, that we found out our engine actually caught fire...sending smoke and flames into the already turbulent air. That was the giant jolt we all felt...the engine caused it. Nothing says "calm and relaxing" like flying into a tropical storm with a jet engine on fire! Holy SHIT! If I'd known that our engine caught fire I think I would have opted for another way into Tampa!

I'm not a very stressed out flyer. I don't usually mind it. The only time I mind flying is when we are out over open water and all I can see are vast amounts of water with no end. It's then that I scan the water for sharks, hoping and praying that we don't experience that "water landing" thing they talk about in the safety briefing. But last night, I have to admit, I was scared shitless as we hurtled back into the Bitch. My hands stayed clenched together in my lap and my shoulder kinked as I tried hard to make the best of a scary situation.

So, here is what I determined last night as I sat on a plane with a hundred strangers who became my closest confidants; bound together by near calamity....

I would much rather look at the bright side of things.
We had much to be thankful yesterday.
Our engine didn't fall off or cause us to crash.
We had skilled pilots and flight attendants who kept everything calm and professional.
We didn't know the true extent of the problem until well after the fact.
We got a six dollar voucher to be used for dinner at the airport...WOW, six WHOLE dollars!! ;-)
And most importantly, we are here to tell the story ~ as scary as it was.
 
The four of us weary travelers arrived at our hotel last night and headed straight to our rooms, each wanting and needing a little down time to process the events we just went through. Claire and I slept in and are now most recuperated. I don't think she knew how truly scared I was last night and I'd prefer for her not to know. We still have a flight to catch to get home. Hopefully, the Bitch will be long gone by the time we have to leave. I do want Claire to remember the epic story of flying into the Bitch but I really don't want her to remember the fear of the day. She has a lot of living to do and it's hard to live a full life when you're scared. So, I'll keep my fears to myself and head back into the air on Friday so we can go home.

Oh for the love of my children....

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