In transit

There’s a certain kind of sadness among standby passengers. I’ve
overheard stories of missed connections and early-morning vigils,
long-distance calls to tell family that they might be back early on a
standby flight but that the family shouldn’t go to the airport yet
because it was just a number on a piece of paper, not a boarding pass,
not a guarantee.

A woman’s flight reservations could not be found anywhere in the
system. The airline agent flipped through all the papers and receipts
the woman received from a travel agency in Iowa, but was firm: no
ticket, no flight. It wouldn’t be the first or last time a travel
agency’s missed something in the rush and stress of holidays. The
woman is advised to buy another ticket and ask the travel agency for a
refund. I don’t know if she’ll be able to afford to. I don’t know how
responsive the travel agency will be.

It’s always hard travelling, especially on flights going home. Looking
around at the airport lobby and guessing who’s scraped and saved to
earn enough for a ticket home, who hasn’t been home in a year or
two—or a decade or two. Hearing them speak, argue, plead. Watching
the airline agents, seeing exasperation flash across their faces until
they school their expressions into at least curtness.

I would’ve been on the next flight out of here, number 12 in what will
no doubt be a very long line by the day’s end. There’s plenty of time
for me to watch and learn, though. My luggage couldn’t be found in
time to get me onto the next flight. I’ve asked them to keep looking
for it; maybe I’ll make it to the next flight. Or the flight after
that. Two more flights before my confirmed trip home, two more chances
to share more time with family and friends than with all these
strangers in an airport.

I savor the chocolate truffles a friend gave to me, letting them melt.
I don’t know how long I’ll need to make the truffles last. It seems
almost cruel to use them to get me through the hours and the
sadness—these chocolates deserve more than that!—and incongruous to
lift them out of the gold foil box in the middle of all these little
tragedies and trials. There is nothing else I can do but wait.

The tinny jingles playing over the public announcement system
remind me that it is Christmas, and I will be home soon.