Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Gate 14

Loudspeaker announcement:
I decipher the words “Gate 14”
but nothing else,
so I know that this affects me
but I don’t know what’s happening.
I’m later than I would like to be,
no time for a cheeseburger in the food court.
I’m dragging my carry-on bag behind me,
awkwardly holding my boarding pass
and my coat and my purse,
having passed through Security,
and some old lady yelled at me
for going through the x-ray machine before her,
red-lipsticked mouth baring yellow teeth.
I’m currently at Gate 48,
staring down an endless corridor
shiny white tiles
groups of people in the way
so many people in the way,
people not in a rush like I am,
just standing there in the middle of everything.
I brush someone’s elbow,
don’t even think to apologize.
Need to get to Gate 14
and find out that my flight is delayed
or I need to move to a whole other terminal,
and I must do it as quickly as possible.
Gate 17, 16, 15, finally…I’m here,
exhale with relief, check my watch.
Chaos has erupted at the counter,
a long line of people angrily demanding
to know what exactly is going on.
Other people are sitting on chairs,
on the floors,
staring at their cell phones,
furrowed brows, bitten lower lips.
On the screen above the gate attendants’ desk,
our flight status is flashing “Delayed. Departure TBD.”
A woman is trying to comfort a screaming infant
and talk to someone on her cell phone.
I drop my coat and purse on the floor,
next to my suitcase.
“What is going on?”
I ask a glum-faced middle-aged man
wearing a rumpled suit.
“You’d better get comfortable,” he mutters.
“None of us is going nowhere any time soon.”
“How come?” I ask. “Problem with the plane? The weather?”
“No one knows,” he replies, sort of angrily, and walks away.
Another loudspeaker announcement.
Even though I am at Gate 14,
very near the woman making the announcement,
I still can’t understand what she’s saying.
I get in the very long line at the counter,
hoping to get some moderately satisfying explanation.
The woman working at the counter shouts,
So I sit down.
I pull out my cell phone,
my battery at 5 percent, of course.
Trying to access the internet
just shuts the device down.
I notice the woman next to me
is shaking, hyperventilating a little.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” I say.
“Are you all right?”
She grabs my right hand,
her knuckles white,
crushing my bones.
“My husband took an earlier flight,” she gasps.
“He’s out there, and I can’t reach him.”
“What happened?” I ask with widened eyes.
It suddenly becomes hard to swallow.
“No one knows,” she says in a near whisper.
“They can’t reach anyone at the airport out there.
It was very cloudy for a while,
then just silent.
They can’t reach anyone,
not the pilots or the traffic controllers
or anyone working there
or any of the passengers
or taxi drivers,
not that I’ve heard.
Clouds and then silence.”
Gate by gate,
travelers to other destinations
start to hear similar news.
No planes are flying in or out,
there seems to be nowhere to fly to.
Just clouds and radio silence,
across the country.
It occurs to me
that no one can reach us either,
So we sit there.
We are directionless, plan-less,
perhaps job-less or family-less.
Sometimes we get up
to get a Starbucks.

1 comment: