I had this harebrained idea to figure out how this military space available, travel…. thing works this summer. The military has this clever system set up to allow its members the opportunity to fly all over the world. Sounds amazing right? And get this, it’s free! They have planes leaving all the time to serve particular missions and often, not all the seats are filled on these plane, so why not offer those seats to people who may want to take a trip?
It’s a nice gesture, but not quite the deal I was expecting.
I gathered all my paperwork for flying, and prepared myself mentally, for the possibility of not getting on the first flight I tried for. There are plenty of people trying to get on these flights and some people have a higher priority than others. Starting with people who are flying on an emergency, and going down to retired military going on vacation. As a military spouse, who’s husband is deployed for 6 months, I was pretty low on the list…. I was traveling by myself though, so I believed that my chances of getting on a flight were decent.
Haha! Think again Britta! It took almost two weeks of me trying for every available flight headed over the Pacific ocean, to get off my little island. I barely made it onto a flight to Alaska that had over 90 available seats on it. Trying to get on that flight, I felt a sort of déjà vu, that kind of rejection that I felt as a kid when my playmates learned that my height gave me no advantage in sports. I was just the strangely tall kid with no talent. This time I was on the looser side of an airport terminal. Everyone else who had whatever it was I’m laking, lined up with their treasured boarding passes in hand, as I sat there with my luggage hoping to be included with the “in-crowd.” By the time my name was called I had given up hope of getting on the flight.
I kept saying to myself, “You’re not gonna get on this flight.” And even after they called my name, I surmised, “The plane probably has something broken, like a light on one side that wont shine. They wont let me fly until it’s fixed.”
I walked though the back of this beast of a plane and claimed the first seat I came to.
Once I was on the plane I figured, “They are going to change their minds for sure.”
“Just kidding.” they will tell me, “We miss counted, there isn’t room for you.”
And I would get off the plane and be like, “I knew it, its okay. I didn’t want to go to California anyways.”
But then something amazing happened. The plane took off, and I was on it. “Okay,” I concluded, “I can work with this.”
I’m actually making my way across the Pacific Ocean. Finally.
The lady next to me pulls out her carry on and begins yanking out all these extra layers. She’s put on a second pair of socks, sweats over her pants, sweaters, coats, and a hat to top it all off. As she begins to dress her husband and child in a likewise fashion, I notice the other passengers taking on a very similar strange behavior. People are bundling up themselves and their little ones. Some people have even brought sleeping bags that look like they were made for chilly sub zero nights on Everest. As we climb higher and higher into the atmosphere, I realize why my fellow humans acted in such a bizarre manner. Why was I not warned that these planes are actually flying refrigerators?
I was not dressed appropriately. My choice of shorts, tee-shirt and a light sweater (incase it got a little chilly, hurmph) left something to be desired. I was so cold that I got up in the isle and did lunges and squats until I could feel my feet again…. multiple times. People looked at me like I was crazy. Judge me all you want people, I didn’t get the plane is actually a freezer memo, like all of you. I’m not going to explain to people that the reason I had to get my feet chopped off, was from the frostbite I got from taking a military flight in normal clothes. Not gonna happen.
I don’t think I have ever been so cold in my life. Landing in Alaska was such a welcoming experience. I have a friend who’s from Alaska and she had family waiting to get us at the terminal. From here I wasn’t risking another military flight and I was headed to the civilian airport to get on a commercial flight leaving in two hours to San Francisco.
My internal dialogue told me, “You’re gonna miss your flight. You are not going to get to your final destination.”
And I’d reply to myself, “That’s okay, because I didn’t really want to go to California in the first place right? I mean it would be nice and all, but being stuck in Alaska would be a great adventure.”
“Oh, please…. no more adventures,” reality would say to me.
Sitting in that car, my stiff limbs began to thaw, and my heart continued to sink deeper into the bitter chill of my current state. The sounds of an oncoming train were getting closer as the movement on the road came to a stop to let a train pass. The pile up of cars behind us was nothing compared to the long line of boxcars being pulled on the rails in front of us.
The words, “You’re definitely not getting on a second plane,” ran though my head as each boxcar passed. “Like you could be that lucky.”
As the railroad crossing gate began to pull up, I could feel my friend’s eagerness to get me there on time. She hadn’t given up yet. But I sure had.
At the airport we exchange phone numbers, “just incase,” she said.
“Yeah, just incase,” I agree out loud.
I go through the motions of checking a bag and getting my boarding pass. I quickly step over to security and guzzle the contents of my water bottle before it becomes an object of suspicion. My efforts to have an uneventful waltz through security fail miserably. A security officer pulls out my bag full of souvenirs and asks me to step aside with her and instructs that I cannot touch my things until she is done. She asks me if there is anything in my suitcase that will harm her. “No, just presents for my family back home,” I reply. As she opens it, she sees my piles of wrapped gifts for friends and family waiting for me in California. Her eyes clearly show that she does not want to go through and unwrap everything to find out what it is.
“Do you have a candle in here?” She questions, hoping that will lead her directly to the questionable object inside.
“No candles. I don’t have anything even candle-like,” I respond.
“Anything in a tin can?” She prompts as she sifts through the packages.
I run through my mental inventory of people and the gifts I brought for them…. nothing in a can comes to mind. “I have a tea cup,” I hopefully suggest as times continues to pass.
“No, it’s not that,” she grumpily retorts.
She’s having just about as good of a day as I am having, I suppose. We are both getting a little testy as I tell her to look through all the weird Japanese candy I brought for my siblings. Maybe the Japanese packaging is what’s throwing us for a loop. The officer pulls out a small tin of hard candies and a few other strange looking items and places them and my luggage back on the scanner belt to be rescanned. My things go through this time without a hitch. She returns to me the disarray that is now my bag and asks if I would like her to put my things back together for me. I smile and tell her, “Thanks, but I can do it.” It took me far too long to figure out how to fit every gift into one small carryon bag, I don’t want to wait for someone else to have to go through the same process I did. I suppose my smile didn’t mask the morose feelings that consumed me because she rolled her eyes at me, her hands went up in the air, and she scoffed at me like I had just placed the cherry on top of her horrible, miserable, no good, very bad day.
I’m so over this. And I so not going to make this flight in time. I have 20 minutes till boarding time; something else is going to stop me from getting on that plane for sure.
To my surprise, I make it onto this plane as well. I fall asleep through the whole flight, happy to have the flimsy airplane pillow and blanket. The highest comfort I have known for the past 15 hours. I wake up to the descent into San Francisco and again my internal dialogue tells me to be ready for disappointment.
“Something happened and your friends couldn’t make it here to get you,” my disgruntled self says.
Even my hopeful, positive side doesn’t sounds so good, “Well, a hotel in San Francisco should not be too expensive. But you would also need a taxi to get you there.”
Then I hear the sweetest sound, my own name, “Britta, is that you?”
A friendly face. A short drive to San Jose, and a crash into bed. I don’t want to even begin to think about the reality of the need to fly back. For the next few weeks I’m going to pretend that I will just teleport there.
If I had any life left in me I would tell San Jose that it better be worth it… but I’m so tiered, a warm place to sleep is where my mind settles and falls deep into sleep.