When you fly as much as I do, strange things are bound to happen. However, in the last 48 hours, I have experienced two of the most surreal events in my flying experience. Buckle up, return your seat to its full upright position and read on:
Wednesday - New York LaGuardia
I was third to board the flight to Atlanta and I made myself at home in my assigned seat, 3D. About 10 minutes later, a boarding passenger stops at my seat and says, 'Are you supposed to be in 3D?' To which I said yes I was. He then informs me so is he. Seat Dupe. Awesome. Experience has taught me to not move from my seat, so we flagged down a flight attendant. The flight attendant took his boarding pass and looked at mine on my iPhone, and he did a triple take. He said, 'You both have the same name, you know that, right?' Um...how would we know that, Copernicus? Turns out we had the same exact name and the same seat assignment. The flight attendants were incredulous and the gate agents looked perplexed. So ML2 made his way to Coach to wait it out while the agents did their thing. As usual, boarding was chaotic. I was asked two more times by different agents if I was who I said I was and then the door shut and we started to back away from the gate. I figured ML2 found a seat in Coach. And then a flight attendant ran up saying we had to stop since there was a passenger in the back with no seat assignment. Alas ML2 was sans a seat, so we taxied back in and a gate agent came aboard. I did not release my seat belt. I had no plans on leaving. A few short minutes later, ML2 was invited to disembark. But, he didn't leave empty-handed! I gave him three, count 'em, three free drink coupons. See, I'm a giver that way. That and the fact that I don't drink.
How surreal it was to be looking at someone who shares your name! While an awkward circumstance, it was kind of funny. Surreal but funny. The next incident was decidedly not funny but even more surreal.
Thursday - Atlanta
I was flying back to Connecticutistan after a long, but rewarding, day of meetings. About 15 minutes after take off, I was ensconced in 3B, and was anticipating my ice cold Coke Zero, when el capitan's voice comes over the PA and announces there is a minor issue with the hydraulic system and that we would be returning to Atlanta, post-haste. A few groans from passengers, but what are you going to do?
Then things got interesting. I noticed all four flight attendants were huddled I the galley, reviewing their red plastic emergency evacuation checklists. Yep, things just got real. A couple of them moved past me quickly, cards in hand to start preparations in the rear cabin. I then decided I needed to offer my help. I went up to the galley and said to the two flight attendants, 'Do you need some help?' Now, bear in mind, they've made no announcements yet, but they sensed I had something of a clue as to what foolishness was underway. I was told that there was a paraplegic in 4D and that they needed me and the guy in 4C to carry him to the exit and get him down the slide when we landed because, and I quote, "we don't want him to be trampled in the evacuation." Things got really real. The captain had announced we'd be circling to burn fuel to lighten us for our landing. I then got coached in what commands to listen for upon landing. They kept saying that they didn't know what was going to happen but that I should be ready for anything. We went back and talked to 4C and 4D and then they had me come back to the galley to review instructions again.
Just as they were going to begin the PA about the emergency instructions (bracing, etc), one of the flight attendants came up for the back, saying that we were too heavy to land in Atlanta safely and that we'd go on to Hartford. The captain came on and announced it had been deemed safe enough to soldier on. Really?!
So soldier on we did. It was a very quiet 90 minutes. Landing was uneventful, although I held my breath, saying more than one prayer. The cabin broke into applause once we realized that whatever had ailed us took a long enough breather to let us land safely. Massive props to the flight attendants for their calm professionalism and to the pilots for doing their thing.
So I've had some close calls in my years of flying. The last two days though have been surreal. But it was bound to happen at some point. I'm just glad the stewardess was NOT flying the plane!