The crispy Bogota air had the rich aroma of brewing coffee and the lingering spice of a new day full of possibilities.
Scrappy the super bird woke up early feeling refreshed and had a delicious breakfast of leftover grasshopper parts. Being careful not to overeat, he took to the clear sky for his morning exercise and found that the sheer tingle of being alive moved him to fly higher than he ever had before.
“You can do it, Scrappy!” his lower flying friends shouted as he pushed higher and harder than he ever had before. The very clouds seemed to part way for him as he beat his wings with the athletic fury of a champion. Soon, his friends were merely small black dots far below him. He took a deep breath and let out a sigh at how good this morning was turning out, basking in the sun and the wonderment of it all…
Scrappy crashed through the window of my plane.
At 500 MPH, Scrappy never saw it coming and neither did my pilots. All 200 of us passengers felt the sudden decrease in airspeed however as the pilots throttled back just 45 minutes into our flight. I have flown enough to know that something didn’t feel right, so I waited patiently for the impending PA announcement that was sure to come.
I can’t even fathom the sheer trigonometry of it all. The math problem would boggle Einstein. The velocities, the flight paths, the departure times in milliseconds — so many variables that had to line up just perfectly on this fateful day for Scrappy. Somehow, for whatever reason, they did and my flight was officially over.
The pilot announced to a dim murmur of moans that we had “cracked the windshield” but the third (and final) safety pane in his cockpit window was holding well. I felt gravity push me deep into my seat as the plane did a U-turn.
We were going back to Bogota.
When we deplaned, I can understand exactly why the pilots had put the brakes on. The “crack” as the pilot had calmly called it to keep us from getting nervous was actually a completely demolished and caved in cockpit window. With 500-MPH headwinds and a thin safety pane threatening to turn the broken glass into a shrapnel facial for the crew sat up front, I don’t blame them for aborting the mission!
We landed at an alternate runway far from the main terminal with waiting ambulances and firetrucks all around in case the window finished breaking on touchdown and caused us all to have a very bad day.
Under normal circumstances a bonus night in an interesting place like Bogota would have been welcomed. Today, however, I had spent a sleepless night sitting up in the cold Bogota airport waiting to check in for my morning flight. I sat for 12 hours in the dim glow of a closed McDonalds finishing Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde for the second time and listening to the squeak-thump of arriving passengers landing. I was the only one sitting in the closed food court, but there is no proper waiting area outside of the security check-in in Bogota.
I had flown in from Santa Marta the night before, exchanging my 97F degree weather for friendlier people but MUCH colder weather in Bogota. There is just something depressing about wearing jeans and being cold when gritty sand is still clinging to your skin and backpack, but I wasn’t complaining because it was Christmas and I was heading home. Gifts had been purchased, money had been exchanged, and my heart was already sitting at home — waiting for my body to catch up.
Instead of being happy, I found returning to the same airport dreadfully demoralizing. I do have to give Delta credit, however, they handled the situation very well by providing us transportation and a free night in a five-star Crowne Plaza which turned out to be the nicest place I have stayed in years! After hosteling for so many months, this place was posh. Dinner in the exquisite restaurant was included as was a three-minute international call to let family know what was going on.
The room was incredible and with my bag still being checked on the plane, the staff provided toothbrushes, face soap, and everything else a stranded traveler might need. I had to resist the urge to pocket the plush toilet paper in the bathroom as I had been doing for months. South America is a very bad place to be without toilet paper indeed!
They even gave us $100 vouchers for good measure. If they keep treating me like this, I might make it a point to hit more birds when I fly.
On a positive note, they were able to finagle me a new flight straight into Atlanta rather than stopping over in Orlando for the night as previously planned. I owe Scrappy one.
We were up the next morning at 5 a.m. I put my sandy jeans on for a third day in a row and was herded back onto the same plane which now had extra attendants in case we got grumpy and even mechanics flying with us in case something else went wrong. Six hours of in-flight trivia, Bookworm, and two movies (including Tarantino’s awesome Inglorious Bastards!) later I found myself flying over the green horse farms that surround my city.
The approach into Lexington is simply beautiful and always makes me happy. Maybe it’s the thoroughbreds grazing in green fields, the painted fences, or the very welcoming vibe in a manageable airport where I know people. Maybe it’s because I know loved ones are just minutes away…or maybe it’s the fact that I have survived yet another trip without getting stabbed in the face.
I could feel relaxation creep around my shoulders and neck as I slowly came out of survival mode for the first time in months.
After collecting my bags, I borrowed a friendly Indian man’s mobile phone to call for a pickup, and within minutes, I was exchanging hugs and ending the vagabonding year successfully.