My flight was five hours late, but if there is one thing I don’t mind, it’s waiting. My only objection this time—and I insist it was only a mild objection—was that the waiting was divided into parts, some at the gate area, some while the plane sat at the outbound gate, and some while we circled near our destination until a storm moved away. Because I do not mind waiting—even enjoy it—I would have gotten more pleasure from one solid block of waiting, rather than several shorter blocks.
It was a 7:20 am flight, and I would be late for my appointment. I did not mind that either. I had arranged my travel so I would be more than two hours early, but now, as the delays piled up, I would be so late that it hardly mattered. Others would be at my appointment; I wasn’t necessary. Also, I had no control, as is usually the case when waiting, indeed may be the essence of waiting.
The pilot came on the loudspeaker. There had been, he said, a sound on takeoff—a sort of popping sound; perhaps we had heard it?—and during the flight he and the crew had known that there may be a problem with the landing gear that would need to be addressed upon landing and had arranged for the necessary preparations.
He said we would need to be ready for a rough landing, well, a crash landing, he said. Preparations were in order. Equipment was on the runway. We would see firetrucks. These were just precautions, he insisted. When we began our landing, we would know more. We would get additional instructions soon.
A screen was on the seatback in front of me. During the flight, it listed movies available for viewing, indicating title, lead actors, year released, and plot. From time to time I glanced up at the screen, wondering mildly that the screen wasn’t used to show movie clips or even to provide a simple image from the movie. However, I rather liked the barebones approach.
The pilot’s voice again came through the airplane’s speakers. It was time for the flight attendants to sit. We did not yet have to assume a crash-ready position. We would know soon if that would be necessary. But we were now descending toward the runway. The landing might be rough.
I confess that having no flight attendants in the aisle had an effect on me. Not that they would be walking the aisles during any other landing, but given that we were facing a possible crash landing, I had imagined that they would be visible, gently advising us about our position in our seats, assuaging fears of the more nervous passengers, making light jokes, telling brief war stories, checking equipment.
Even without the flight attendants, I would be fine. I had my resources—in this case, a light mystery novel I had read perhaps 15 times before.
The pilot’s voice came again. Now, he said, we were close. We were very close. Now, we would see.
I felt a sense of speed. I looked at the pages of my book, but also felt an urge to stop reading, to register this moment. However, I felt nothing to register, nothing but facts. We were descending. Airplanes go through the air quickly.
There were words on the seatback facing me. Words that drew my attention away from my efforts to witness these moments.
I saw names of the lead actors in the movie being advertised..
Wait, I thought, Gerard Depardieu and Queen Latifah made a film together?