Five Hours on the Tarmack

For the past few weeks, Kirk and I have been enrolled -- pretty much against our will -- in something we have come to call PTP, or the Patience Training Program. We have encountered far too many situations within this short period of time -- and often in multiple forms at once -- that, taken as a whole, seem too bizarre to blame on human ignorance or obliviousness. We've concluded God must be storing up deposits of patience in us for the future.

Oh, boy. I wonder what that means about our future.

It was encouraging, however, to discover that He's made progress in us over the past few weeks of this after seeing the way we responded to the five -- count 'em, five -- hours we spent on the tarmack in Baltimore this past Sunday night, trying to get home from the conference.

When we boarded the plane at 2:45, it had begun to very lightly snow. It was pretty. We watched it blow softly in the air from our seats by the window. But after everyone had boarded within the next half-hour, they decided they needed to de-ice the plane. This required waiting for the de-icing truck. And then finding out, after we'd been sitting there for about an hour, that the buildup of the very light snow (which was not so light anymore) would require a second session of de-icing the plane.

Only then the de-icing truck broke.

What happens when a de-icing truck breaks? According to the flight deck, it means you call the authorities and find out about getting a new truck dispatched over. And then waiting and waiting for them to come. Only to find out there isn't another truck to be dispatched, and then waiting some more to find out what we're supposed to do now.

At this point, we'd been sitting on the tarmack over 2 hours. It was about time for all of us to be catching our connecting flights in Atlanta. Some people, like those going on from Atlanta to Germany or Tel Aviv, wouldn't be able to catch a different connecting flight and so decided they wanted to get off the plane. Which our flight crew allowed, but this meant harnessing another jetway and ground crew to get them all off the plane. Chalk this up to another hour of waiting.

Finally, finally, finally we heard back from the authorities who said we could make our way over to the de-icing station and get our plane hosed off from there. Hooray! Cheers erupted from every row. Except that when the flight deck spoke with the de-icing station directly, they found out the station didn't know when they'd be able to fit us in. Delta flights don't come to the station itself, they told our pilots. Trucks go out to meet those planes at the gate.

Well, of course they do. Except, of course, when the only truck available is broken. What now?

We'll see when we can fit you in, they said. Which meant more waiting. When finally they had a spot for us, we pedaled our plane on over there, only to find out that after a 10-minute wait for the plane in front of us to finish, it was going to take another 45 mintes to get ours de-iced. Argh!

I should probably tell you that at least there were no screaming babies on this flight. However, there was a group of about 12 high school girls sitting directly behind us who not only started out trying to solve the crossword puzzle at the back of the airline-provided magazine as a collective group (complete with calls across the aisles and rows about their guesses to each query on the puzzle) but also proceeded to call their parents after every announcement -- and we got announcements about every 15 minutes -- to reiterate the news we'd just gotten. Usually this news was that we were still waiting. Which all of us already knew. We were pros at this waiting game by this point.

Finally, after the 45-minute de-icing session, we made our way to the runway. Our pilot said we were third in line, but we were able to watch six planes go up ahead of us before we finally hit the runway with a vengeance and got ourselves on up into the air. But at least we were in the air finally. Hooray! More cheers from every row.

All told, we caught a new connection in Atlanta and made it home in Orlando by 1:30 in the morning, just six hours after the time we were supposed to be home on the original plan. Whew!

I say all of this quite tongue-in-cheek because all of us on the plane were intoxicated with a little hilarity by about the third hour of the wait, but actually it didn't seem altogether that terrible for Kirk or myself. We were surprisingly calm. Though the gaggle of young girls had been disruptive and somewhat annoying at the beginning, pretty soon I grew to find them intensely amusing. I started laughing at their attempts to make up dialogue for the movie on the screen that no one was watching, for instance.

And all Kirk and I could do, after we realized we weren't at all freaked out about this situation, was shake our heads in amazement and say, "God must be making some good headway with us on this whole PTP thing." Thank goodness. I don't think I would have responded with even half as much amusement and grace if this had happened in December.