Touchdown was a little rough. Maybe the instruments needed calibration or maybe the pilot was a little hungover. Whatever the case it coaxed a weak overhead storage bin door latch to pop open and two of the three personal carry on bags came down in my lap. I didn’t receive any injuries from the mishap but it might have gone very wrong for this airline. I could probably count a good 200 lawyers that would feverishly take the case to quench the thirst for their insatiable quest for blood money.
They wouldn’t touch it if it were an insurance company or a pharmaceutical company. The amount of law firms and the quality of the counsel these types of companies keep on retainer could fuel a small countries economy for years.
No, it wasn’t the corporate office or even the pilot that clearly made some mistake on the rocky touchdown that expressed interest in my ordeal. It was the stewardess. Though I guess we don’t call them that anymore. Evidently the name offended one of them so we changed it for all. The flight attendant was the only one showing any form of human concern.
She sprang to life from her seat and retrieved the bags one at a time and moved them to the hanging compartment in the first class section of the plane. Upon retrieving the last bag she almost touched me inappropriately, though she and I pretended not to notice. I believe these little inappropriate incidences happen quite frequently on our mass transit systems these days but the affected populace just look the other way pretending nothing ever happened.
This all happened in twenty or thirty seconds, maybe a minute tops and then the strangest thing happened. Like touch and go operations on an aircraft carrier; as soon as the pilot had the plane under control we began to accelerate and with wheels up, we were airborne once again.
I looked at my watch and thought it seemed to have stopped. It was the same time as I had last checked, 1:58 PM right before the rough landing and the bags came tumbling down. The plane made a hard list to port side and slammed into the runway. Like instant replay on Monday night football, the latch gave under the strain and once again the bags came slamming into my lap. I recall with great clarity the attendant moving these bags from my lap, yet here they were, physically in my lap once again.
She came to my rescue but this time I noticed something different. She still grabbed the bag and moved it to a safer place. On the second one as her hand brushed my leg, her eyes met mine and with a lingering smile she turned and vanished with the personal carry on bag.
As before we seemed to be on flight ops in the Indian Ocean practicing touch and go. We accelerated again and I heard the wheels tucking safely up into their wells.
I looked at my watch and it glowed 1:56 PM. I glanced around to see everyone seated and as we made a quick decent I could see through the window the cement of the runway coming up fast to meet us. My watch had been on 1:57 for a while and I fumbled with the seat belt buckle and freed myself just as the time shifted to 1:58 PM. With the precision of a gunslinger from the old west, I sprang from my seat just in time to catch the door release as the latch gave way.
The attendant which was becoming very familiar sprang from her seat and assisted me as I removed the bags one by one. She carried them to a safer resting place in the first class cabin. She returned and reached for the third bag and as she did the plane dipped once again to the port side and as it did she fell full body contact into my arms and I held her up till she could regain her footing. She looked up into my eyes with a smile and silently mouthed the words, “thank you.” It was a tender moment for us both.
This time we didn’t land and we didn’t take back off, we just remained on a steady level altitude with the occasional speed bump out there undoubtedly caused by an air mixture of varying temperatures. Turbulence they call it.
I don’t remember returning to my seat. My mind kept replaying the events like an old VCR rewinding and playing it over and over. Then rewinding all the way back through the third then the second, then the first scene which the bags came tumbling down. I recounted the differences in each scene and made mental notes. I could feel her hand brushing my leg and then I could not only see but feel her eyes probing mine. She seemed to be searching for something in my eyes. It was like I held an answer to an unasked question. I didn’t, but it seemed that way.
Then just as crazy as everything seemed to be moving along a timeline only to return and replay the same scenario, everything became silent. There were no hiss of the jet engines hanging on the wings outside the window. There was no sound coming from the little round air conditioner ports above everyones head. There were no dings from the intercom signaling an attendant in the rear of the plane wanting to talk to an attendant in the front galley.
I was floating on a pillow of air. Not turbulent air, it was a very peaceful and warm air beneath and surrounding me.
I felt her hands and could immediately and correctly identify the flight attendant to which they were attached. This time she wasn’t attempting to touch me inappropriately. She was firmly but gently grasping my shoulders to awaken me from a deep sleep.
“Sir, could you please bring your seat back to the upright position?”