But it was stolen.

And all we had to go on was that our computer snatcher had brown shoes, a Grateful Dead T-shirt, and a tight connection to Madison, Wisconsin.

Fortunately, that turned out to be enough. Just barely enough to catch him in the men’s room near his gate. You just can’t make this stuff up.

I was shocked to get it back in time to catch our flight…and even more so by the fact that some friendly Delta agents took the time to help us with the heist. God forgive me for all the ugly things I’ve said about Delta agents.

Proof that miracles do still happen. Kinda like the time that the bag of apples confiscated from me at security were returned as I boarded my flight. Only more so.

Anyway…that brings me back to this particular day and the fact that I didn’t have a boarding pass for my Dulles to Lancaster flight.

I arrived in Dulles with a few hours to kill; I planned to kill them by working. I had plenty of juice in my laptop which, as of yet, had not been lost, left, broken, or pilfered by followers of the Grateful Dead. Yes, same laptop. She and I go way back and all the way around the world quite a few times. Yes, there are more stories where those come from.

But before I killed too much time, I decided to go ahead and track down my boarding pass for the next flight. Upon surveying the screens, I saw that there was an earlier flight to Lancaster leaving right then and both were operated by a United affiliate I had never heard of before. Something about the Sun or the Sunrise…it sounded a little too close to “Lucky Airlines” for my comfort, but hey, I had my lucky laptop with me.

I was surprised to see four men standing behind a small desk at my gate. One of them wore an orange vest and the other three wore dark uniforms.

“I need to check in.” I said.

“Are you Danielle Walker?” They asked.

That’s a little weird.

“Do you want to get on the earlier flight?” Orange Vest asked in broken English. His name tag identified him as being from Trinidad.

“Sure…” It might just mean I end up killing the same time on the other end, but I believe in taking a seat in a moving plane when it’s available.

“We have to call to change your plans.” Orange Vest from Trinidad informed me. He dialed up a long number on a cellular flip phone and handed it to me.

The lady on the other end sounded like it could be his wife. Still in Trinidad.

“You want to get on the flight?” She asked me.

“Yes…”

“Fifteen dollar.” She said.

“You’re joking.”

“Fifteen dollar.”

Did she really think I was going to give my credit card information…over a flip phone…to Sunshine Airlines…in Trinidad???

One of the men at the counter said he was finalizing a report for the flight. “I’ll add you in by hand,” he said. And he started writing on a clipboard in pencil.

“How much do you weight?” Orange Vest asked me (emphasis on the “T”).

I looked around the uncrowded terminal. Hmmm… Maybe I should just wait for the next flight.

One of the men picked up my bag. “Probably 30 pounds.” He guessed. “Maybe 40.”

The men were eager for me to finish my phone call which ended in a fight between Orange Vest and the lady, and before I knew it, the four of them were escorting me outside. No boarding pass. No other passengers. Just me and the mafia, for all I knew.

“Visibility is terrible.” One of the men commented as he lowered two stairs up onto a small aircraft. “But I think we’ll make it.”

You can take a seat anywhere, the pilots instructed. That is, two of the men evidently were the pilots although it was stretching it to call them “men.”   They didn’t look old enough to be allowed to touch a razor. Orange Vest was the wing walker. The fourth man climbed in a different plane headed for parts unknown.

My one checked bag appeared on a seat next to me. What? A bag on a seat? Talk about breaking every FAA rule I’ve ever heard.

I’m pretty sure I broke a few myself when I put my feet up on the rear-facing seat across from me and pulled out my laptop. Ahh! No one to bust me for such crimes as putting my seat back before take off or not tucking a bag far enough under the seat in front of me.

One of the pilots did, however, give me a safety briefing and he managed to keep a straight face the whole time despite the fact that I was the sole passenger in an eight-seater plane with no oxygen masks and a ceiling so low, he had to do it sitting in the seat next to me. I nodded appreciatively as he pointed out the safety exits. I agreed to help in the event of an emergency.

As we pulled from the fog into the clouds, I started to really enjoy my private ride from Dulles to Lancaster. All the while, of course, wondering what kind of tax dollars were subsidizing this ride and enjoying the fabulous view from out my window[s].

The pilots, who were right in the cabin with me, put on their headsets and I reveled in the fact that I would not have to worry about another passenger stealing my computer. Of course, there were bigger worries—like whether two kids could land a plane in the soup, and what the lady in Trinadad was doing with my credit card info—but I chose just to sit back and pretend this was Air Force One. It isn’t every day I have my own crew to fly me to my destination on my schedule.

There was no red carpet rolled out when I arrived. No crowds. No photographers. No latte salutes.

But one of the pilots did pull off my check bag for me so I could claim it inside. Really, I assured him, that wasn’t necessary.

Even my imagination wore thin by the time I waited 30 minutes for my driver. He showed up in a green 1980-something Chrysler with crumbs littering the floor boards.

“Sorry.” He said with broken English and a broad smile. “Taxi broken.”

This is more like the travel I know and love.

“You like Ethiopian food?” He asked me as we zoomed past corn fields and Amish buggies.

“I don’t know.” I said. “I’ve never had it.”

“You should travel more. I take you to Philadelphia. They have good Ethiopian restaurant.”

“I appreciate the offer, but…I think I’ve had enough travel for one day.”

Only in America.

the view
They weren’t kidding about visibility…I took a picture so I could share the view with you!


 

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