The time I thought my plane would crash

FullSizeRenderkkThe plane went through a zone of turbulence late yesterday evening.  I was on a flight from Newark, N.J. to Charlotte, N.C.   As it shook and rumbled, the calm voice of the lead flight attendant assured us that it would end in a few short minutes.  I had a flashback to almost two months earlier, to a flight with Transaero Airlines from Moscow to New York, when for a few long minutes, I believed that our plane was going to crash.

I have been flying periodically for many years.  Once or twice a year I fly domestically, and two times (there and back) I fly transatlantic to Russia.  I am not afraid of flying.  In fact, it relaxes me, and I usually sleep through most of my flights.  Of course everyone who flies knows that the plane goes through zones of turbulence.  While not always pleasant, it is normal.

On the flight from Moscow to New York in late August, the flight attendants did not pass out blankets.  When my mom inquired, they said they only have enough for children.  My six year old niece did not get one.  The small television screens on the back of seats were not working.  No one dared to ask if the plane had a stash pillows or ear-phones.  Obviously, it did not.

I have always taken for granted these small amenities that where offered to you when you pay $1,000 for an 8-hour flight.  I did not realize that such things went a long way to reassure me, as a passenger, that the airline and the crew had it together.

I sat there wondering if the plane had enough gasoline to fly over the Atlantic Ocean or if it was going to run out somewhere above Greenland.

Note to self: these are not thoughts you want to be left wondering when you are already up in the air.

Sometime after we were served frozen (!) pierogis and the lavatory completely ran out of toilet paper (maybe they did not have any to begin with), the plane went into a zone of turbulence.

Instead of a calm flight attendant reassuring me that it would end momentarily, we were greeted with chaos.  The flight attendants on board, two men and three women, did not stop for a second to say a word to the passengers.  Instead, they were running from one end of the airplane to the other, to fasten themselves in a seat.  Ivan, one of the male flight attendants, practically pushed one of the woman out of the way, running in long strides to get to his seat.

Worst of all were the looks on their faces.  Gone were the cool and collected blank facial expressions… All of them looked utterly mortified.

A woman in front of me was telling her elderly parents in a high-pitched, near hysterical voice to buckle up their seat belts.  Her father was fighting against her.

For two minutes, as the plane plunged up and down, I was praying with an urgency I have never prayed with before.  I do not want to die.  For a split second, I thought I would.

I thought of my mom and niece sitting next to me.  I thought of my weak faith.  I thought of friends and family; even the afterlife. I thought of many things.  But, mostly, I thought that I do not want to die.

When the plane finally steadied, all of the flight attendants disappeared.  Mom said that they must have been summoned to an impromptu meeting with the pilot.

While I believe that this was one of the most ill-trained, unprofessional crews in the history of aviation, I also believe that something was amiss.

I am sure that this was not the first time these flight attendants were on a plane (even if at times it seemed like it was), so they had to have experienced zones of turbulence before.  Their reactions that day showed that the turbulence was abnormal, and that they were afraid.

My greatest wish, for you and myself, is to never see a frightened flight attendant.  It cannot possibly mean anything good.

My mom muttered every swear word she knew under her breath.  All I could say, as if my rewind button was broken, was, “Mom, I was so scared.  Mom, I was so scared.”

After we calmed down, we managed to crack a few jokes about the most ridiculous flight, airline, and crew.  For the rest of the flight, every time we saw Ivan, Mom would snicker, “There’s the one who s**t his pants.”



Eating McDonald’s, or catching our flight

I’m lovin’ it!

Every year, I visit my family in Russia for three months in the summer.  This year, I made the cross-Atlantic journey with my mom and 5-year old niece.  We were flying from CLT (Charlotte) to JFK, and JFK to VKO (Moscow).  The morning of our flights, I prayed to myself for everything to go smoothly.  I made sure to repeat the prayer multiple times, and I did this not because I’m paranoid, but because I know that when I fly with my mom, things hardly ever go down without some sort of adventure.  I prayed, nonetheless.

When we landed in JFK at around 12:45 p.m., we knew that we didn’t have much time before our next flight at 2:20 p.m.  However, my niece kept yelling, nonstop, “I’m hungry!  I’m HUNGRY!  I’m H.U.N.G.R.Y!” Mom desperately needed coffee, and when I checked our boarding pass, it said, “Boarding at 1:30 p.m.”  I figured that, my goodness, we had plenty of time to stop for a quick bite!  So we took some time tracking down a McDonalds and placed a big order.  My niece started to crave pretzels after JetBlue offered her a small bag on the flight from Charlotte to New York, so her and my mom went shopping for pretzels while I waited for our order.  Nonchalantly, and out of pure boredom, I glanced down at my boarding pass.  Humming to myself, I skimmed through our seat numbers, airline name, and destination, before my eyes glided over the boarding time again.  My heart stopped beating for a second, and I reread the fine print, which clearly said, “Boarding until 1:30 p.m.”  I glanced down on my phone, on which, in bold, bright numbers, it read, “1:45 p.m.”

Now let me tell you that in my 20 years, I have never stepped away from a McDonalds order.  There are very few things in this life that are more important than my large fries and iced coffee.  However, if anything can top that list of priorities, it is missing a trans-Atlantic flight that cost us thousands of dollars with a hungry 5 year old, my wild mom (more on her later), and $20 in my bank account (I tend to shop a lot for these trips to Russia) in, of all places, New York.

So I drop everything, grab my bag, and begin to run around the airport like a half-baked fool.  Worst of all, Mom was no where in sight, and I had no idea where she went to buy the damn pretzels!  I run up to the nearest security guard, look her dead in the eye, and say “Idon’tknowwheremymomisandIammissingmyflightpleasehelpmetrackherdownortelltheplanetowaitorkillmecallsomeoneforhelppleaseIamdying.”  To which she, of course, replies, “Okay, do you know where they went?”


I didn’t even bother replying and continued running around the McDonald’s in circles with frantic eyes.  I finally spot a lanky child digging her hands into a large bag of pretzels, and run up to my mom and niece.  I thought of how to quickly explain the whole situation, but the only words that came out of my mouth were, “Hurry!  Late!”  I grabbed my niece and ran towards Gate B31 which was, naturally, located on the other end of the airport.  My mom was 20 feet behind, and I kept yelling at her to hurry, but all I saw was her muttering words under her breath (nothing good, I’m sure) before she completely disappeared from my view.  I just remember thinking, “Aw, hell!  This ship is sinking and I’m not going down with it! Sorry, Mom!”

At around 1:55 pm, we ran up to Gate B31, my mom coming up behind me a few minutes later, only to see a huge line going around the gate. The passengers had not even boarded yet.  While the flight was running a little behind, I knew that boarding would start any minute!  I turn to Mom, who swears one more time, and says, “What about the food?!”

Wait, what?  She can’t seriously be worrying about the McDonald’s order…

“The food!” She yells again, “We left our food!”

I look at her wild-eyed as she goes up to one of those airport golf-cart cabs, and asks the driver to drive her back to McDonald’s so she could pick up her order.  I stood there, watching her and not knowing whether I wanted to laugh or cry, until she got onto the taxi and drove off into the crowd.

Forget the flight, my mom wasn’t going to let anything stop her from getting McDonald’s.

Part of me wanted the flight to depart just so I could say, “That’s what happens when you choose a Happy Meal over boarding your plane!”  But then I thought about the aftermath of such a catastrophe, and figured, “Eh, maybe I don’t want that after all.”

Twenty minutes later, before boarding ever even begins, Mom pulls up in a golf cart cab like the Queen that she is, towing a large paper bag filled with fast food.

Thankfully, we boarded the flight and safely arrived in Moscow, but we couldn’t have done it without some swear words, a golf-cart cab, and McDonald’s (which was delicious as always).

All is well that ends well.  I hope you have an awesome Thursday.

Much love,