my tour of the runways of queens: a delayed flight to los angeles


Whenever someone I know moves to a new city or country, I immediately begin the mental exercise of planning a trip there.  So, when earlier this year a friend of mine said he was moving to Los Angeles, despite having spent some time there almost twenty years ago, I did the same.  Quite frankly, I was a bit less than enthused about this particular city, as to me a city is not a city unless one can get around solely by accessible public transportation [if you haven’t heard, carbon footprint chic is all the rage in the twenty-first century]. 

From Greenwich Village, I took the A train to the Air Train to get to JFK airport.  The entire trip took around an hour and cost a little more than seven dollars.  On the A train, I interacted with the usual bevvy of New York oddities, including an “end of the world” preacher [I thought that job had lost its luster since the world didn’t end on May 21], a tattooed gay couple who had that day been joined in a Civil Union, a few “pants on the ground” types, three Orthodox Jews in full black and bearded regalia, a woman with headphones who was doing what she thought was a private singing performance of Bootylicious, and a man with a shopping bag full of corn.

After about forty-five minutes of that, I made it to the Air Train, a relatively new monorail that connects the Subway with JFK airport.  I needed to get to Terminal 7 to get my United flight.  I think it was my first time at this particular terminal, and based on how far it actually was from the Subway station, I got worried/excited that the Air Train was really headed to the Magic Kingdom. 

At the terminal and finally through a very slow but thorough security process [no latex gloves got near me this time], I was in.  I already knew that the flight, scheduled for an 8:29pm departure, was going to be late due to a late arriving plane.  As these things go, we didn’t get on the plane until 9:30, left the terminal, and sat on the runway.  Then the captain made the dreaded announcement: storms over the rust belt so we were going to sit on the runway with engines off until further notice.  A few Facebook status updates later, I contemplated the relatively new three hour rule regulating the maximum amount of time that an airplane can sit on the runway.

What would I do for three hours?  I didn’t think it would have been a good idea to touch myself inappropriately for attention, as it was not that kind of flight.  As luck would have it, there was a great 80s radio station, and I was listening and dancing in my seat.  I think the two early twenty-something girls next to me thought I was having convulsions.  In my defense, it is difficult to dance to DEVO when you are in an airplane seat.

As this was happening, the plane began moving around, and thus began an extended tour of the runways of Queens.  I’m not sure what the purpose of the tour was, unless the airlines have to “walk the plane” so it, too does not get restless [I’ll have to ask the one pilot I know].  After about an hour of this and coming to grips with the reality that I may never make it out of Queens, we were abruptly told we had been cleared, and took off within five minutes.

To add insult to injury, once in the air, they announced that the in-flight movie would be “Country Strong” with Gwyneth Paltrow.  I didn’t watch, but I think she dies in the end.