Home > Uncategorized > Tarmac torture

Tarmac torture

People have been asking me this question with a unique mix of sympathy and outright horror. And the answer is yes. The one that idled for 11 hours on the tarmac of New York’s JFK Airport, as we waited in vain for a gate. With two kids crawling over me, ages 2 and 5.

Yes, I was on that flight. And this is what it was like.

It was actually our second time boarding Flight 888, since the previous day, we’d been delayed until 1 a.m. and then sat on the Vancouver tarmac for three hours, until they finally sent us away at around 4 a.m. because of the blizzard in New York City. Frustrating, sure. But still within the bounds of human normalcy.

It was only the next day that things spun out into some kind of sadistic psychological experiment. My wife likened the experience to having slipped into Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. But I saw more of Jean-Paul Sartre’s play No Exit, the existential classic where mismatched strangers are thrown together for eternity in a tightly enclosed space. As he wrote, “Hell is other people.”

We landed a little after 2 a.m. Tuesday, following another three hours on the Vancouver tarmac and another five hours in the air. I’m unlikely to ever forget the pilot’s pronouncements that followed. They reminded me of a Stephen King cover blurb for the bestselling book The Hot Zone, about a breakout of the killer Ebola virus. King said the first chapter was the most horrifying thing he had ever read – and then it kept getting worse. In our case, each time the pilot’s voice came over the intercom, things kept getting worse.

Firstly, we were informed there was no gate to receive us. Oh, and he added casually, a previous plane had waited seven hours. Passengers looked at each other to check their hearing; he couldn’t have elicited a more chilling reaction if he had announced he had just chopped up his co-pilot and eaten him with a nice Chianti.

A mother of a young child in the row behind me looked as if she had just been stabbed in the neck. Seven hours? That can’t be right.

In retrospect, I would have taken seven hours in a heartbeat.

Over the ensuing 11 hours, various rationales were tossed out. A missing British Airways crew, a lack of customs officials – two for 1,500 travelers, it was said — and another aircraft that butted in line. Each time it was a couple of hours here, another couple of hours there. Soon it was morning. Then it was lunchtime.

We were able to look outside at the snowy ground, but couldn’t get to it. It was like the Greek myth of Tantalus, but with blankets and headsets.

Passengers were remarkably calm, perhaps because the aircraft was filled with mild-mannered Canadians. My wife, a fine lass of Haitian descent, claims that a planeload of trapped Haitians – a culture much more accustomed to fighting for their lives, every single day – would have resulted in different headlines. They would have likely commandeered the cockpit, secured a catered breakfast, and personally guided the plane down Flatbush Avenue by sunup.

But we Canadians sat meekly, nibbled our onion crackers, and waited for news. And waited.

As for my children, the gods took pity on us. Today’s kids are an entitled generation that expects on-demand Spongebob episodes, a Wii console permanently within reach, and a permanent supply of freshly-made pancakes with real maple syrup. On Flight 888, it goes without saying, we had none of those things.

But by some alchemy, my kids were replaced with children I didn’t recognize. They slept sweetly most of the way; the elder ate Petit Ecolier chocolate biscuits and played Angry Birds, while the younger was content to tour the plane and play in a makeshift daycare in the back, where other harried parents had gathered. It was a Christmas miracle.

As for the flight staff, they left in the kitchen, buffet-style, a modest wicker basket of crackers and peanuts, along with some open cartons of apple juice. Then they pulled off a neat magic trick: Most of them simply disappeared. I don’t know if they all gravitated into first class, or if there’s a secret hatch to a luxury employee lounge, but many of them just vanished. Can’t say that I blame them, since they were going on a couple of hours of sleep themselves, and were tasked with dealing with hundreds of passengers with no resources.

At one point I asked a flight attendant if she had ever been through anything like this, in her entire career in the air. Her response: “Never.” At a certain point she even developed fear in her eyes, as if she was concerned we were going to rise up and roast her limbs for brunch.

The punchline: When we finally deplaned on Tuesday afternoon, in a different terminal and without a single Cathay staffer to receive us, customs officials told us we couldn’t leave the area without our bags. Which, since the airline didn’t have any baggage handlers, meant perhaps another couple of days sleeping on benches in the airport terminal.

Faced with an armed insurrection — and the “extenuating circumstances,” as one kindly guard put it – security decided to let us out of JFK Airport. With no bags, and psychologically debilitated, but at least with our freedom. In the taxi line, we all looked around and squinted as if we’d just been released from the hole on Rikers Island.

I’m not sure how much longer we all would have lasted, fresh out of baby milk and patience. But if there’s an enduring moral to Cathay Pacific Flight 888, it’s this: Whatever life throws at you, you plaster a smile on your face and keep moving. Or not moving, as the case may be.

Chris Taylor is an award-winning freelance writer in New York City. He can be reached at christaylornyc@yahoo.com.

Philips 46PFL5605H/12 116,8 cm (46 Zoll) LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, 100Hz, DVB-T/-C) schwarz TecTake Wandhalterung 94cm (37 Zoll) bis 132cm (52 Zoll) silber PLasma LCD LED TV Wandhalterung neigbar 12 Grad für 32” 37″ 40″ 42″ 46″ 47″ 50″ 51″ 55″ 60″ passend für… Panasonic NR-B32FW2-WE Kühl-/Gefrierkombination / A++ / 249 kWh/Jahr / 225 Liter Kühlteil / 90 Liter Gef… Acer S273HLbmii 68,6 cm (27 Zoll) slim LED Monitor (VGA, HDMI, Kontrast 12.000.000:1, 2ms Reaktionszeit)… PHILIPS® LED Lampe E27 MyAmbience warmweiss 2700 Kelvin – 7 Watt = 35 Watt LED-Taschenlampe Panasonic silber (inkl. 2 x LR03 Batterien), Aluminium-Gehäuse Panasonic Viera TX-L37DT30E 94 cm (37 Zoll) 3D LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, 400Hz bls, DVB-T/-C/-S,… ATC Fernseher Wandhalterung, kipp und schwenkbar für Pioneer LG Samsung Toshiba Philips Panasonic Sony S… Samsung UE46D6200TSXZG 116 cm (46 Zoll) 3D-LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full HD, 200Hz CMR, DVB-T/C/S2, CI+)… LG AN-WF100 WiFi Dongle für alle WiFi ready LG Fernseher Wii Component Cable Samsung SyncMaster T22A350 55,8 cm (22 Zoll) widescreen TFT Monitor (HDTV-Tuner, LED, HDMI, Scart, VGA, … Jung LED-Lichtsignal Ampelfunk. LS 539-2 LG LEDRG PlayStation 3 / PS3 Slim – Eye Stand – black – Kamerahalterung -PS Eye- für Flachbildschirme Panasonic BL-C160CE Outdoor IP-CAM mit LED`s + Infrarot Sensor,MPEG4,10fach dig. Zoom,Farbnachtsicht 3lu… Hama MiMO Wlan USB2.0 Adapter mit zwei eingebauten Antennen und WPA2-Verschlüsselung LG HW300Y LED-Projektor (Kontrast 1000:1, 300 ANSI Lumen, WXGA 1280 x 800 Pixel, Wifi, HDMI) schwarz Panasonic TX-P42C3E 106 cm (42 Zoll) Plasma-Fernseher (HD-Ready, 100Hz, DVB-T/C, CI+) schwarz Philips 40PFL8505K 102 cm (40 Zoll) LED-Backlight Fernseher (3D ready, Full-HD, 200Hz, Ambilight Spectra… Acer S232HL LED 58,5cm 23″ Full HD DVI 12.000.000:1 JELLYFISH DAS ORIGINAL MIT WALLWASH FUNKTION DURCH DEN TRANSPARENTEN FUSS- DIE ERSTE LED TOUCH PAD LEUCH… Toshiba 26EL833G 66 cm (26 Zoll) LED-Backlight-Fernseher (HD-Ready, 50Hz, DVB-T/-C, CI+) schwarz Philips 42PFL6805H/12 107 cm (42 Zoll) LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, 100Hz, Eco LED-Serie) Gebürstet… Panasonic Viera TX-L32DT35E 80 cm (32 Zoll) 3D LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, 400Hz bls, DVB-T/-C/-S,… Maxampere – Original Vogels Wandhalterung EFW 8105 Superflat M für Acer LED / LCD / Plasma Fernseher 19 … Panasonic Viera TX-L24C3ES 61 cm (24 Zoll) LCD-Fernseher (HD-Ready, 50Hz, DVB-T/-C, CI+) silber Philips IMAGEO LED Candle 12er Set weiß Philips MASTER LED Spot 4W MR16 TC 2700K 12V 827 24° TecTake 400124 Wandhalterung für Flachbildschirme 36cm (14 Zoll) bis 102 cm (40 Zoll) LMP LED E14 Toshiba golfb.frost 6W dim. Acer S243HLAbmii 61 cm (24 Zoll) slim LED Monitor (VGA, HDMI, Kontrast 12.000.000:1, 2ms Reaktionszeit) … Toshiba 42RL833G 107 cm (42 Zoll) LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, 50Hz, Wi-Fi ready, DVB-T/-C, CI+) LG 47LV570S 119 cm (47 Zoll) LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, 500Hz MCI, Smart TV, DVB-T/C/S ,CI+) schwarz Acer AT2326ML 58,4 cm (23 Zoll) Slim LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, DVB-T, HDMI, VGA, EPG) hochglanzs… Philips 46PFL7605H/12 116,8 cm (46 Zoll) LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, 100Hz, Ambilight Spectra 2, D… Acer S230HLBD 58,4 cm (23 Zoll) Slim LED Monitor (VGA, DVI, 5ms Reaktionszeit) schwarz Sony BRAVIA KDL-26EX325BAEP 66 cm (26 Zoll) LED-Backlight-Fernseher (HD-Ready, DVB-T/-C/-S2, CI+) schwarz Wansview WiFi 802.11g 2-way audio IP Camera Kamera W-lan 720P LG 42LW4500 107 cm (42 Zoll) Cinema 3D LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, 100Hz MCI, DVB-T, DVB-C, CI+) s… Radiohalterung Doppel-DIN + DIN mit Ablagefach für Chevrolet für Camaro ab Baujahr 2010- Einbau-Kit, Das… LG W2261VP 54,6 cm (21,5 Zoll) Widescreen TFT Monitor HDMI/ DVI-D/ VGA (Kontrastverhältnis 50000:1, Reak… LG LB08E827L0A.E20JWE0 LED Bulb E27, 7.5 W 2700K Samsung SyncMaster S23A550H 58,4 cm (23 Zoll) Widescreen TFT Monitor (LED, VGA, HDMI, 2ms Reaktionszeit)… Toshiba 46SL833G 117 cm (46 Zoll) LED-Backlight Fernseher (Full-HD, 100Hz, DVB-T/-C, CI+) schwarz Samsung LE22C450 55,9 cm (22 Zoll) LCD-Fernseher (HD-Ready, DVB-T/-C) schwarz Acer A191HQLbmd 47cm (18,5 Zoll) LED Backlight Monitor (VGA, DVI, 5ms Reaktionszeit) schwarz glossy Panasonic Viera TX-L24D35ES 61 cm (24 Zoll) LED-Backlight-Fernseher (Full-HD, 50Hz, DVB-T/-C, CI+) silber Acer AT1926D 47 cm (18,5 Zoll) Slim LED-Backlight-Fernseher (HD-Ready, DVB-T, HDMI, VGA) hochglanzschwarz mumbi LPF60 ultra flach Wandhalterung Plasma LCD LED TV Halter / 32 – 60 Zoll (81cm – 152cm) Wandhalter …

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: ,
  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: