Four-forty-five A.M. on the corner Broadway and Fourth Streets in Manhattan is not a busy time. As I waited there with my two small bags (and one "personal item") it was a good ten minutes before a cab showed up. The driver popped the trunk and I sank into the back seat for the ride to JFK. I said “good morning” to the driver, which was just the wedge he was waiting for. The rest of the ride through Queens was filled with stories of his arrival 20 years earlier from Pakistan and his English language classes. Alas, I couldn’t really understand him, so I can’t in good conscience recommend his instructor. There was something about a book he read in the class where an African woman was searching for her children and couldn’t find them or something. I don’t really know, but it did seem like an odd reading list for a new arrival to our shores.
After a very pleasant check-in I proceed to security and took off my shoes. Although the roads to the airport and the airport itself were both nearly empty, there was a line at security as there simply weren’t enough lanes open. My lane had some sort of glitch up ahead so I stood there, shoes in hand, waiting. The adjoining lane opened up and most of my fellow line-waiters sprinted over to that one. I had plenty of time to spare so I just stayed in place, holding my shoes.
The line monitor looked a little disgusted with the lane hoppers but carried on with his spiel (“laptops out… no liquids… no metal…)
I stood; waiting; shoes.
Then the strangest thing happened: the lane monitor approached me and said, “Sir, you can go to the other lane if you’d like.” I thanked him and sauntered over to the end of the new line. Standing/waiting/shoes.
Then the strangest thing happened: the monitor motioned to me and actually brought me to the front of the line. I can only imagine he appreciated the fact I hadn’t stampeded over when I had the chance. I can’t say for sure but I did think it boded well for my journey.
The waiting area at the gate was nearly empty which proved to be an accurate prediction of the flight itself; the 737 held a mere fraction of its total capacity. I had three seats to myself and promptly started to snooze as I waited for the plane to pull back from the gate. It did so right on time, and then the aircraft made a sort of groaning sigh as it, well, went to sleep, I guess.
Some navigational computer needed to be replaced so we waited. Not too long, but long enough for me to be concerned about my connection from St. Maarten to Saba. Sure enough I missed my 12:00 flight by about 10 minutes. The next plane out wasn’t until 4 PM so I had some time to kill (and to finish the little iMovie I made of my going away BBQ this past Saturday.)
But… Patrick and Sophie, my El Momo friends would be waiting for me at the Saba airport. Not only do I not have my cell phone with me, I don’t have the number of El Momo, nor could I send an e-mail. What to do? I explained the situation to the lady behind the Wynair counter. And then the most amazing thing happened: she got on the phone and called the airport on Saba and had Sophie paged. The Saba airport isn’t much bigger than a drive-thru Photomat, but still, I was suitably impressed. I mean, it's an island.
4 PM approached and still no sign for a flight to Saba. I asked at the desk and the guys said it had been delayed to 5:20. Oh, well. I’m going to be here for three months so another hour won’t kill me. I felt bad that Patrick and Sophie would have to make an additional trip to the airport and then have to wait an hour, but I couldn’t really reach them to let them know. Close to 5 o'clock the flight to St. Eustatius (a.k.a. Statia, a neighboring island) was posted. I figured my flight had to be the one after that, right?
I guess I must have dozed a little, because the next time I looked over toward the gate the passengers for Statia were walking out toward the plane. The crew closed the gate door and I looked at the monitor: still no flight to Saba. And the waiting area was deserted. I went back to the counter and shrugged a “so……?” to the guys behind the counter. “Aren’t you going to Statia,” one of them asked. No, Saba. “But that’s the plane for Saba leaving now.”
Instant panic. Hanging out at the airport all day is one thing; overnight? No thanks.
Why didn’t they call me when the flight was leaving? Turns out the flight to Statia and the flight to Saba were both half-full so they combined the two. Somehow a second boarding pass with my name had been printed and someone else had used it to board the plane (“Homeland security!”) so their passenger list was complete.
What was I going to do?
And then something truly amazing happened: they called the plane back from the runway where it had already started to taxi off! The little 20-seater came back to the terminal and the gate attendant walked me out onto the tarmac so I could board the plane.
The looks I got… More “who is this V.I.P.” then “who is this idiot,” but looks they were.
I landed safely on Saba, Patrick and Sophie picked me up and brought me to my amazing summer home, I tried to nap but was so filled with excitement there was no chance, I walked into town a little later and met P/S for a wonderful BBQ dinner at a local joint, I came back home and stood on the terrace for a bit looking out into the inky night sky and then I crawled into bed and slept the sleep of the contented.