29 June 2006

Tribute to Katie and Taylor

And perhaps a bit of a diatribe to my now least favorite airline.
My sister, Cheryl, my niece, Taylor, and I were on our way home from New Jersey. We had a great vacation, but it was time to go home. We walked into the airport to discover that our flight was thus far delayed an hour and a half. Apparently the Philadelphia airport shuts down with the first sign of rain. We would miss our connecting flight to Atlanta! I spoke with the supervisor at the ticketing window.
“There’s a possibility your connecting flight will also be delayed, and you will make it,” she said.
“And if not?” I ask.
“Then we’ll put you out on the first flight to Dallas in the morning.”
“Will you also put us up in a hotel tonight?”
“But we have a 6 year old.”
“Sorry.” This was the beginning of the conversation. Many others joined. There were 11 of us trying to make that very connecting flight. Finally, we took our boarding passes and went to sit at the gate.
At the gate there were two counters. One counter had a very long line. The other counter had no line. I soon found out why. I went up to the lady with no customers.
“We have a connecting flight to catch in Atlanta. Can you tell me the status of that flight as of now?”
“It’s on time. You’ll miss it.”
“Okay, then we need to look at other options.”
Her fingers rattled on the keyboard. “All flights out of Philly and Atlanta are booked all day tomorrow.”
“Can you put us on another airline, then, like American or Delta?”
“No.” She was very succinct and very uncaring about our predicament. My blood was boiling.
“I paid for Air Tran to get me to Dallas. How are you planning on getting me to Dallas?”
“Lady,” she replied with a rising voice to match mine, “If I had a plane, I would drive it myself to get you all home, but I don’t now, do I?” I restrained from hitting her. Instead, I asked her name to report her to customer service (she probably gave me a fake name, which didn’t matter because I had no intention of following through) and left mumbling things that weren’t so loving toward this particular neighbor. I stood in the long line. To make a long story short, we were helped by the only two helpful employees of Air Tran to get on the 6:00 flight to Atlanta, which had been delayed until 8:00. We boarded this flight at 8:30, taxied for an hour, then finally took off for another state.
My next-door neighbor for the flight took her seat with a smile and laughter. Oh no, I seethed, She’s one of those happy Christians who takes everything in stride. I can just tell these things. Sure enough, a couple minutes later, she pulls out her Bible. Ach, I hate conviction. I should be the one extending peace to frustrated employees and boarders alike. I finally convince myself that I need to introduce myself to this sister in Christ. Her name is Katie. She’s a fairly young believer – became a Christian one and a half years ago. She laughed about God being in control while I held back my earlier free-flowing tears about not getting to see my husband that night as I had hoped. In my defense, she did not have a connecting flight to catch. Of course, this did make a mess of her plans to get home.
We chatted about how God uses people against their will, about sometimes having to share the nitty-gritty dirty details that shame us but shine God. We connected. We ended with a prayer. This is a tribute to Katie, who trusted God when the weather and the airlines made a mess of plans.
We landed through lightening and turbulence. At this point, I told God He didn’t have to get us to Dallas that night if He would just let us land alive. He one-upped me. I smiled at Katie, grabbed Taylor’s hand, and Cheryl, Taylor, and I were off, hoping that our 11:10 flight was delayed. It was 11:25.
We deboarded in terminal C. Our connecting flight to Dallas was in terminal D. We ran to the end of C, down the escalators, and jumped just in time on to the subway to terminal D.
I must pause to let you know that Taylor has been a perfect angel since we stepped foot into the Philly airport. She had the sleepy telltale signs of dark circles under her eyes, but she quietly stayed near us and obeyed without any crankiness.
Back on the subway, we decided that Cheryl, along with a couple of others trying to reach the flight, would run ahead while I followed with Taylor. An airport employee told us that D1 was at the end of the terminal. Of course. I gave Cheryl the tickets as we stepped off the metro. Taylor followed Cheryl, running up the escalator, keeping up with every stride. But near the top, she fell, hitting her knee. Now, I know the difference between many of Taylor’s cries, and I knew this one to be “I am seriously hurt.” I’m guessing that this hit the bone in such a way that not only created deep pain but also a temporary paralysis. The top of the escalator was leering, so I pulled Taylor up in my arms to keep fingers from being eaten.
“Taylor, honey, I know it hurts, but I need you to be strong for just a couple of minutes, and then we can cry on the plane.” I put her on my back, held my bulky laptop bag in one hand (I don’t have a shoulder strap for it), and my purse, half-tangled with Taylor’s foot, in my other hand and hoped for the five-year-old-lifts-family-station-wagon-to-free-crushed-mother adrenaline rush. Not so much. The airport employee (note that he was not an Air Tran employee) ran ahead to let Cheryl know what had happened and then to try to catch the plane for us. Meanwhile, the medicine for my head cold was wearing off, so my head and lungs were quickly filling up. The only thing I could hear out of my right ear was the fluid swishing. I ran as fast as I could until I thought my lungs were going to collapse. I put Taylor down and asked her if she could be strong for just a little bit longer. She pulled her jeans over her knee to inspect the damage, folded them back down, and then took off, her legs working like spinning bicycle wheels. She ran like the son on the Incredibles. The crowd separated, staring in awe at Flash Taylor. I grabbed my bags and ran after her. The airport employee was running back, “They are boarding in two minutes!” How beautiful are the feet of he who brings good news! A couple of seconds later, Taylor and I met Cheryl at the gate, and we all began to breathlessly commiserate with our fellow plane-mates and vow to never board Air Tran again. I told Taylor she deserved the Purple Heart and the Metal of Bravery. This is a tribute to Taylor, whose brave strength and quiet acceptance got us to the plane on time.

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