Flight # UA6185 San Francisco to Arcata, California
This particular trip will always remain near and dear to my heart for several reasons. First, it was the maiden flight of my traveling career. Second, it was the most romantic gesture extended to me in my life to date - I'm still waiting for it's successor.
As they sometimes say, life is about the journey, not the destination. But in this particular case, it was all about the destination and that destination was to be in his arms again.
Sufficient to say, I was young and in love. I had been dating a military man when he was abruptly transferred to Air Station Humboldt Bay in Northern California. We broke up and didn't speak for months. I was devastated but what could one do? I finally resorted to leaving my cell phone at home just so I wouldn't have to look at it every two seconds and wonder why he hadn't phoned yet. Regardless, I had a plan for when and if he'd ever call me. The plan? I wasn't going to answer. I was going to make him call me at least three times before I would nonchalantly answer the phone, "Hello? Oh...how wonderful to hear from you - I had completely forgotten about you".
In late August, I was running behind to meet friends for dinner. I had the radio blaring as I put the finishing touches on my hair when I heard the phone ring. I figured it was just my girlfriend who was patiently waiting for me in a car downstairs. I raced into the other room and grabbed the phone just in time to glance down at the caller ID. It was him.
There was an awkward pause before I said anything at all. I couldn't just hang up. So I said the first thing that came to my mind, "Hello?". In keeping with his personality, he tried to contain his excitement and emotion when he heard my voice. What came out of his mouth next shocked me more than the phone call itself. He said that he needed to see me. He wanted me to book a flight immediately and put it on his credit card. I didn't ask questions, I didn't even think about it - I just packed my bags and was on the next flight to California.
The connecting flight to San Francisco was on the best airplane I have ever been on - the Boeing 777. Each seat was equipped with it's own television screen with an array of preselected movie options. I was seated directly behind the restrooms with a large area to stretch my feet out. Aisle seat, no one in front of me - a frequent flyer's dream. Since the San Francisco flight was due on to Tokyo, we taxied into the international terminal. I had a little under one hour to spare before my flight to Arcata was scheduled for take off. I spent some time in the bathroom, skillfully applying my makeup to arrive looking stunning and impossibly fresh (for those of you wondering, yes, that is a Carrie Bradshaw quote!). What I didn't realize was that my flight to Arcata would be on a propeller plane, flying out of Gate 87A, which is NOT part of the main airport. I was supposed to board a bus, which would take me to the gate some several miles away. Needless to say, by the time I arrived at my gate, the flight had left some 5 minutes earlier. I was absolutely crushed. Luckily, there was one last flight leaving to Arcata that day and I only had to wait an hour. The lady at the ticket counter was even nice enough to give me a food voucher for the inconvenience.
As the hour passed I began to get nervous. I spent my food voucher on a lousy egg salad sandwich and began to wonder whether that tightening in my stomach was simple nerves or a case of salmonella. As the baggage handlers loaded our luggage onto the plane, I braced myself for the hour and fifteen minute flight on what might as well been a lawn-chair with hundreds of helium balloons attached - certainly not comparable to the plane I arrived at SFO on.
The flight was loud and bumpy. The turbulence did not fair well with my virgin flight legs and nerves. I was beginning to get nauseous. Just when I thought I may have to resort to using the provided air-sick bag, the flight attendant came over the intercom system and announced that we would be landing in fifteen minutes. I was struck by the formality of this gesture considering he probably could have just said "Hey everyone, we'll be landing in fifteen minutes" as he was no more than five feet away from any one passenger at any time. Regardless of the irony, I did appreciate his professionalism in this obvious less-than-desirable flight position.
I then focused my attention out of the foggy airplane window and at the miniature landscape below. It was at this moment I realized that he was down there waiting for me. This is were he lived - where he has been living since he left me all those months ago. Those were his tiny trees, tiny rivers and tiny roads. I was moments from seeing his face and being able to hold him. What would I say? As the flight began it's decent, my emotions started to spiral from my control. By the time the plane touched down on the tarmac, my eyes were already welling up in tears. Noticing my distress, a passenger seated next to me asked if I was afraid of flying. At this point I realized that I wasn't afraid of the rickety plane but I was terrified at where it was taking me. I fought back the tears as I said to her "No, I'm just very nervous to see someone".
to be continued...