Delayed Observations


My flight was delayed in November.

It happens. Especially in November. And December, too. And then there’re the summer months because everyone’s going on vacation. Oh, and holiday weekends cause a bit of trouble as well. There’s the occasional weather delay—if not here, it’s where you’re headed. And who hasn’t experienced the “there’s something wrong with the plane” delay. (That’s my favorite actually. Except I don’t like when we end up leaving on that same plane.)

During one of these delays, I enjoyed a ridiculously large cinnamon-sugar pretzel while I watched the arrival of a plane and its passengers.

A family of four caught my attention first. The mid-teens boy and his mid-forties father wore matching kaki pants and navy sports coats. They were both pale except for the flush in their cheeks that I can only guess was caused by the slight incline of the jetway. The girl wore tight jeans and black boots that cuffed below her knees, and although she wasn’t dressed like her mother, they walked the same. Both pulled suitcases with patterned initials that I recognized but didn’t know, and they both supported heavy purses with the crooks of their elbows. I wondered who was watching their golden retriever while they were away.

Then I became preoccupied with a grown man carrying a pink and purple book-sack, slung awkwardly on his shoulder. He held the hand of his small child—at least I assumed it was his child—and paused to look at the Arrivals and Departures while answering his/this little girl’s questions: Why is that man wearing that hat? Why do my ears feel funny? McDonald’s! Can we get a happy meal?

Other children remained quiet at their parents’ sides, taking in everything around them just the same as me. Their mouths hung open slightly, but their eyes were as wide as they’d go.

A woman wearing four-inch heels and a scowl made her way through the crowd. She rushed past me with a large tote bag that said LOVE.

More girls wearing boots. More still, wearing boots will elastic expanders at their calves.

Then little girls with their own rolling suitcases in pink with Minnie Mouse and Barbie smiling back at me. One held a stuffed rabbit by only his ear.

Babies rode in strollers tagged with the same green cardstock that identified my luggage. Babies as luggage made me laugh.

Then there were just two little girls waving to one another as their families pulled them in different directions. They looked like tiny adults setting out on their own little journeys. One screamed, “Bye Kaitlin” across the growing distance. Her mother pointed her finger and told her not to scream in public places.

Parents followed by stumbling toddlers.

An announcement said my plane was ready, and men and women in uniform were invited to board early. They rose and walked to the front of the line, and everyone in our area clapped. It was one of the most genuine applauses I’d ever been a part of.

I found my place at the end of the line and dusted off the cinnamon and sugar that hadn’t quite made its way to my mouth. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the time I spent delayed. What was so significant about creepin’ on people and eating a pretzel?

A man next to me asked his children if they wanted to hold their own tickets, but he thought better of it before their little fingers could close around the paper. He put them in his pocket and said, “When we get on the plane.”

Delays happen. But then they’re over and you’re on the plane holding your own ticket to a place you’re already headed.

Eat pretzels and watch strangers and enjoy the delays.

Because they happen. In November and December. In the summer months and sometimes during holiday weekends. And the weather causes them sometimes—here or where you’re headed. And who hasn’t experienced the “we don’t know what’s wrong with this plane” delay?

But then they fix the plane and your pretzel’s gone. And all you have are stories about strangers.

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