Sunday turned out to be a tough day to fly. When my husband and I arrived at O’Hare it wasn’t snowing, but the Dallas airport had already been closed because of ice. Winter was causing delays out east. Arriving around 2 for a 3:30 flight, we watched the population inside the terminal grow, as departure times were pushed out an hour at a time, and many flights were cancelled entirely.
The Berghoff Cafe was opposite our gate, the only bright spot in a dim situation. As the flurries began outside, we took shelter with the savvy. My husband had a sausage and I had a sip or two of his excellent Berghoff lager while eating a small vegetarian pizza. Every seat and stool in the little cafe was taken, strangers and couples jammed together around communal tables. Men tinkered with their devices. The rest of us looked up at the televisions, on which some very sloppy football was being played. We watched as brightly suited Lions and Eagles slid around on a slippery, blizzard-stricken field trying to control a ball that would squirt out of their hands. The “Snowbowl,” as it was dubbed.
Travel conditions deteriorated. The plane we were to fly out on never arrived. Our departure now hinged on planes expected from Reagan National or Orlando. We watched people queuing up for a flight to London as it grew dark outside. Some planes were still arriving, but departures were slow. Our departure was pushed to 9:30. It was tough for parents ‘traveling’ with small children that day.
Rescheduling our plans would have agreed with me, but we were scheduled to decorate my mother-in-law’s Christmas tree in Seattle the very next day.
After we boarded, a man in this machine went to work de-icing our plane. Hearing and seeing the liquid streaming over the shell wasn’t reassuring. That my safety could hinge on such a small matter was strange to think of. Even the pilot was at the mercy of this stranger doing his job–dependent on a thousand other mercies, too. The trust that underlies a single trip on a plane is miraculous, yet it’s the necessary fuel that makes the thing go.