Don’t Count Your Chickens
An evening flight into St. Louis – that’s all I want. I have flown over the Gateway Arch at dusk several times, but I imagine the airline has changed its itineraries since my last evening arrival. My final destination lies across the Mississippi River, so I opt for a flight to Chicago with an early morning train the next day. Having experienced Amtrak (see Overnight On The Amtrak from April 2012), I am game for a three-hour ride on the Lincoln Service to the Illinois capital, and a good night’s sleep in the City of the Big Shoulders couldn’t hurt either.
But after three hours in the airport waiting for a possible departure time, I eagerly board the last flight of the night. The pilot brags that the airplane has been loaded with just enough fuel for an expeditious flight after an evening of delays courtesy of summer storms in the Windy City. She even counts the flight out to the exact number of minutes ensuring her signing our jinx warrant. About two-thirds of the way towards our destination, the flight attendants serve a big slice of humble pie to the passengers on behalf of the captain announcing the flight needs to swing out west of Chicago to avoid the weather heading eastward, but the plane does not have enough fuel to make that happen. Instead, we are going to fuel up in St. Louis.
Where I Want To Be
To be frank, I have no business piloting any aircraft because wind speed, lift, yaw, and all those other aerospace terms do not sink into my head, and the advanced algebra needed to figure out those high-tech equations are too much for me. But I do know it is advisable to have enough fuel to circle an airport just in case of situations like this. I expect the eager flight crew, quite possibly based in Chicago, hoped to be home on a Friday night, too. In fact, the flight would not make it to Chicago for another five hours after touching down in St. Louis. My skills as a driver and the simple math required to operate an automobile tell me that the driving distance to Chicago from St. Louis equals roughly five hours. Irony makes me chuckle.
When we land at Lambert Field, I expect a fuel truck to meet us near the terminal, and then send us on our way, so when we taxi to a gate and the plane doors open, I see the writing on the fuselage that this would be a longer stop than originally communicated. The flight attendants, most likely still embarrassed at having to cover for the pilot’s shortsightedness, hide around the bulkhead just peeking out when they absolutely must, like when I press my call button for example. The look of irritation as the flight attendant approaches seems obvious. When I explain that I really want to be in St. Louis, but the airline had no evening flights, she asks if I want to get off the plane. I jump at the chance. After confirming I have no checked luggage, she lets me exit the aircraft to the dismay of every other passenger. I unbuckle my seat belt with a less-than-official, “You go, girl,” from the flight attendant. And I do, since this is where I want to be anyway.