The couple had planned their two months in Puerto Vallarta escaping the deep freeze of Winnipeg. There were some unexpected last-minute hiccups to the plans, but all were resolved in time.
At 4 am they piled their luggage into the car that was to take them to the airport. They had an extra case this year, a large black one filled with baby clothes for the maternity hospital in San Pancho. The clothes were all donated by members of their parish church. The poverty around San Pancho is quite staggering – mother’s in labour arrive at the hospital without any clothing for the new arrival.
The couple arrived at the airport, managed their way through security and boarded the plane. It was ready to leave on time. They should be in Puerto Vallarta before 11 am. The plane was pushed away from the gate, the huge engines increased their whine and the great beast started to roll gently towards the runway. Halfway to the runway the aircraft was turned around and headed back towards the gate. The First Officer announced they were returning to the dock as one of the passengers needed to get off the aeroplane. This meant quite a delay, as the ground crew had to locate her checked bags and unload them. Eventually the doors were closed again and the aircraft began to roll. The First Officer explained that during the delay a little snow had fallen, so the ground crew would need to de-ice the wings.
The aircraft finally started its bolt down the runway an hour late. Puerto Vallarta before noon.
The take-off was uneventful. The husband, who likes to write and therefore has an active imagination, started to wonder why the woman passenger had needed to leave the plane. Maybe she had received a text about a family emergency. Maybe she had a fear of flying, thought she could manage it, but at the last moment decided it was just too much. I can sympathize with not really enjoying being squished into a cigar-tube like device that hurtles through the sky at 35,000 feet – kept aloft because the top surfaces of the wings are longer than the bottoms; the faster moving air over the top of the wing lifts the aircraft into the air, and miraculously keeps it there – usually.
Or perhaps she had a premonition that something was going to happen to this flight.
Sometimes imagination can cause problems. The husband allowed his imagination to become quite active. Supposing this was going to be one of those stories you read about “I had this premonition something bad was going to happen, I had to get off that plane – and thank goodness I did because…” She would go on to say, “surely there is a reason I was warned – and now I will devote my life to…” But what about all those who didn’t get off?
With these happy thoughts in his head the husband tried to settle back and relax. That’s when the first turbulence started. You know the moment, when everyone has lined up for the washrooms. I sometimes think the pilot has a washroom line-up gauge and moves the plane into turbulence mode on purpose. “Please return to your seats and refrain from using the washrooms at this time”. The irony is, when the turbulence starts the husband needs the washroom the most!
The plane dropped and lurched. The engine sounds kept changing (another pilot trick to cause mild concern?).
A period of calm followed then as the very hot coffee was served the turbulence started again.
It was not a quiet and relaxing flight.
“We have started our descent into Puerto Vallarta, please fasten your seat-belts…”
The husband looked out of the window. There was nothing to see but clouds, and rain streaking upwards along the window. The flight down was quite bumpy – which reminded the husband of the woman who had disembarked! Clutching the arm rests, and with a fixed grin on his tense face the husband tried to remain calm and relaxed as the plane bucked and lurched like a western bar bull-riding machine.
The plane continued to lose altitude – deliberately it seems. Then the plane started to make several slow turns to the left. Eventually the First Officer was back (he must have woken from his nap) and announced “Well folks” (give me a break – what’s wrong with ladies and gentlemen, or even hey you load of cattle back there?) “well folks there is a heavy rainstorm over Puerto Vallarta and the ceiling is too low to land. So we are in a holding pattern. We are fifth in line to land if the weather should clear”
If the weather should clear?
“This is the First officer again, if the weather pattern doesn’t clear we will need to reroute to Manzanillo to land and refuel, then come back. But we should have enough fuel to last us quite a while”.
Should have enough fuel? That doesn’t sound very precise. To last us quite a while? What are they using up front an abacus and a Dalton Computer?
Another half hour went by. The husband had now written three different endings to this story. One of them reasonably happy.
“This is the First Officer again, good news, we have been approved for landing”.
The aircraft proceeded far out to sea to begin its long glide onto the single runway. The husband could only see cloud all around them until, suddenly, there was concrete visible in the mist, the wheels bumped onto the runway and the reverse thrusters dragged the careening beast to a manageable speed.
The inside of the aircraft was very quiet. There was no clapping. No collective sigh of relief. Just staring eyes.
“Well, that wasn’t too bad was it” said the husband. Now to get the big case of humanitarian aid through customs.
Here is an opportunity for you writers out there. What was the woman’s story? Why did she need to leave the plane. Was it panic? Was it an urgent text? If a text, was it good or bad news? What was the story about her needing to leave the plane – and why so late in the proceedings? What happened to her after she left the plane?
I’d love to know what your imagination can dream up.