The first slice of bread
Have you ever had a moment you thought may be your last?
In that moment, your mind takes off in the direction of all of the “what if’s” and you begin to feel like every part of you is being covered with a heavy blanket of anxiety. You feel like you may suffocate from the weight of it. Do you know what I am talking about?
Have you had that moment?
I wish I could say in that moment when my mind was all “what iffy” and the endless stream of possibilities were making laps around my head like race cars on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that I was perfectly calm and not all sweaty and suffocatey feeling.
I wish I could say that, but I already told you – I was covered in an Is-this-the-End blanket of anxiety.
Not once – but twice.
The first time was at the very beginning of a vacation of a lifetime – a trip to Maui with my sweet husband.
The other was at the very end of that same vacation.
The vacation is now what I like to think of as My Near Death Sandwich – with both crazy experiences being the slices of bread and our amazing trip being all of the good stuff in the middle.
I have a gluten sensitivity, so it’s not a big surprise that my brain came up with this analogy. Bread has never really been good for me.
Anyways – to fully appreciate where I am going with this, let’s start with the first slice of bread.
The ancient airplane
Patrick and I arrived at the airport bright and early, eager to board the plane for our trip to Maui. We hadn’t slept much, but that was fine because we were heading to Maui for nine days of bliss. We would sleep later.
The first leg of our trip was uneventful (as you want your plane rides to be.) We flew to Dallas and enjoyed some breakfast during our layover while we waited to board the plane that would take us the remainder of our way. An eight hour flight to paradise.
I was excited to see what our plane would look like. I had never traveled for that many hours and was confident it would be something luxurious. I imagined it to be a little bigger than the usual plane – with personal televisions and Wi-Fi – a souped-up plane with all of the amenities.
I boarded the plane, looked around and thought, “This is the plane? This is what we will be in for the next eight hours? What? This plane looks like it may have been the first commercial plane. Ever.” All of my WiFi dreams came crashing down in an instant.
Let me paint a picture of our plane for you……
The plane came with ashtrays. You couldn’t open them. They must have been glued shut or something, but still…..ashtrays. How long ago could people smoke on planes anyways? I know I could Google this and find out, but I would rather just ask the question for effect.
And it wasn’t just the ashtrays. It was also the TVs. Yes, it had TVs (so that was a plus), but these were not the cute little personal screens I had dreamed of. These looked like they were modeled after my first ever computer – the Commodore 64. Seriously. They were small, sturdy boxes hanging from the ceiling. The screens were surrounded by a thick off-white border (teetering on the verge of yellow – maybe from all of the years of smoke exposure it had endured.) You know, like the good ‘ol TVs from the past – big and bulky. The opposite of a flat screen.
Oh well. My disappointment quickly passed. So what if it was an old plane? This old plane was transporting us to paradise. I could live with the ashtrays and the sturdy TVs. I am a reader anyways and had brought my own mini library along – a bag full of way more books than any person could read in nine days.
Patrick and I settled in to our seats. We enjoyed a snack. I even watched a movie on the old-time television. A funny one that made me laugh out loud. I read a little and began to do some work. This flight wasn’t so bad after all.
As I was working, I started feeling hot. It came on quickly and as the heat was rising, it felt like someone was taking all the air out of the plane. It was hot and stifling, like an intense summer day when there is no air movement and you long for a slight breeze to bring a little relief.
Was it just me? I am too young for hot flashes. I know they are around the corner, but I’m not there yet.
I looked up to turn on the air vent and didn’t see it. I saw the light, but no air vent. I must be missing something. I asked Patrick to help me with the air flow and he didn’t see it either. Of course the plane from 1960 didn’t have air vents. What was I thinking?
I touched the window and it was hot. Burning hot. Like fry an egg hot.
I had to get up. Now.
I wasn’t feeling well.
As I got up and began to walk toward the back of the plane, I realized it wasn’t just me. People were beginning to take off layers, they were fanning themselves, some people were beginning to look around uncomfortably and a lucky few were still asleep.
Something was wrong.
The flight attendant who was sitting in the back of the plane was reading a magazine and eating ice. Very nonchalantly. Wasn’t she feeling this heat? This must be flight attendant protocol. Rule Number One: always remain calm. Never panic or look even slightly phased.
I walked up to her and she raised her head from her magazine with her eyes peering at me over her reading glasses. She smiled.
What I wanted to say was, “Is this normal? I don’t think this must be normal. How hot can this plane get? What is the plan here?!” But I couldn’t say that so I said, “I think the plane feels hot. Is it hot in here?”
Calmly, with a slight southern drawl she said, “I know honey. We’ve had some complaints. Something is wrong with the air. The pilot called it in.”
Ok. My mind takes off like a rocket – Something is wrong with the air? What does that mean? We are an hour over the ocean. What do we do? How hot will this get? How hot is too hot? We can’t open windows. There is no air. What do we do?
“I’m just going to stand back here for awhile if that is okay,” I said.
As I’m standing there, more and more people have the same idea and the back of the plane is starting to fill with people who are wanting to know what is wrong.
“It’s hot in here” and so on and so forth. Her response is always the same. “I know honey. Something is wrong with the air. The pilot called it in.”
Not too long after we have all gathered, a cooler is opened in the back of the plane so that people could stand by it to cool off. Temporary relief, but not a solution. I was still very hot. I was wearing a dress with leggings and realized the leggings were only a hinderance at this point, so into the bathroom I went to remove anything that could help me to cool off.
I realized I could not stand back there for the remainder of the flight, so I reluctantly made my way back to my seat. I was trying not to pass out, or panic. The last thing needed in that type of situation is for someone to start panicking. There was an overriding sense of people trying to keep their cool – literally. I knew I needed to keep it together and try my best not to vomit or do any of the other things that comes with feeling incredibly hot.
The flight attendants began to push carts around offering whatever comfort they could to the passengers. Even though they were pushing around the carts that were supposed to make people feel a little better, the male flight attendant couldn’t help but to grumble about his long sleeve shirt. I couldn’t blame him. I would grumble too. He was dripping in sweat and his face was bright red.
We still hadn’t heard from the pilot and were making our way across The Pond in this oven in the sky – headed in the opposite direction that I would like to be heading. After what seemed like way too long – the pilot’s voice finally boomed out from the speakers to let us know the plane was hot and they were having some difficulty with the air. Hmm. Really? He went on to say that it was well over 90 degrees (I believe from the way that we were all feeling that means into the 100s….but he probably couldn’t say that) and it had been decided we would turn around and fly back. Because of the storms in LA, we are headed to San Francisco.
Thank goodness.. I did not want to continue over the ocean any longer in this plane. Unfortunately, the gentleman behind me (who may have started celebrating a little bit early…if you get my drift) did not feel the same way. He was determined to get to Maui and said if we could all just start taking off our clothes, then we could make it. He became his own Maui Flight Pep Rally. He said he was going to talk to the pilot.
A minute later he was back in his seat. Thankfully his talk with the pilot didn’t go as he had planned. I didn’t think it would. The idea of all of us getting naked didn’t seem like something American Airlines would go for. It wasn’t that kind of flight.
We were turning around and I was ecstatic, but still covered in that anxiety blanket of what-ifs and how-hot-is-too-hots and all of that stuff that comes to mind when you are in a plane over the ocean and that plane keeps getting hotter and hotter.
I closed my eyes and began to pray. I prayed for peace. I prayed for my family. I prayed for the people on the plane. I prayed.
The red-faced, sweat-covered flight attendant came back around. I asked him for water and he handed me ice – never acknowledging my request for water. I realized they must be out, or something like that. I didn’t ask, I just took the ice and started eating it and rubbing it on my forehead. The man behind me was persistent and determined and started to ask him why we couldn’t just go to Maui? Couldn’t we endure the heat? The flight attendant calmly reminded him there were elderly people, infants, children with asthma and pregnant women on the plane and they were not going to wait to see what would happen to them.
That was the last I heard the man behind me talk about enduring the heat to get to Maui.
As we turned around and headed toward California the plane did cool off a bit. Not much, but a little. I spent the rest of the flight with my eyes closed. Praying. Thinking. Holding on to Patrick’s hand and realizing that everyone will have a moment that really is their last. Whether this was my moment or not, that moment would eventually come. I became very introspective during the end of the flight and determined to make the most of my life. I felt my blanket of anxiety being replaced with a blanket of peace. I wish I could say that happened the minute something went wrong on the plane, but it didn’t. I got there eventually. It just took awhile.
It’s funny how those anxiety blanket moments are usually blessings in disguise. Like most of life’s challenges.
This is already long, so I won’t bother going into detail about the going up and down as we were supposed to be descending. Or the fact that toward the end of the flight the plane started beeping – and wouldn’t stop. Not a normal beep. More like a warning. Or the fact that when we left the plane the pilot was sitting in the first row of First Class staring at the seat in front of him. He wasn’t standing at the cockpit waving and telling us goodbye. He was sitting there. Staring. Straight ahead. He didn’t look well. I think he was as happy as the rest of us that the plane had landed safely on solid ground.
We walked out and felt the cool air – I had never been so grateful for cool air. I felt an enormous amount of gratitude in that moment. Deep, all-consuming gratitude.
Our trip was starting out differently than planned, but that’s how much of life is. We would get to Maui eventually. But for now, I was just happy to be anywhere at all. I was on solid ground, with my sweet husband, and I could not wait to call and talk to my children.
Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21
*This is part one of a three part Blog post.