I think it was Paul Theroux who said that the worst thing that can happen to a travel writer is that nothing on a journey goes wrong. If that’s the case, then based on what happened before we even left the ground in San Francisco, we’re in for a fruitful trip, at least as far as this blog is concerned.
Anne-Claire graduated from her master’s program on May 19th, and after a few days with friends and family, we launched into moving mode, shoving just about everything we owned, save the few items in our backpacks for this trip, into a storage container that was picked up on Thursday afternoon. We said our last goodbyes, swiped a dust rag over a few final spots in our (now former) apartment and headed up to San Francisco to spend the night with a friend.
The whole week felt like one long slog of nonstop goodbyes and preparations to finish the last few pages in this chapter of our lives. Sleep wasn’t a priority, especially Thursday night, as I wrote a final few emails to shore up business before we left the States. Still, I suppose my body felt differently, as I woke up at 2:30 in the morning with my head planted in the crook of my laptop and a few hundred repetitions of the letter “y” on my screen thanks to my nose. Whatever I was trying to communicate would have to wait until the morning.
Getting to the airport was easy, and we boarded our first flight to Newark more or less on time. As we waited on the tarmac to take off, a few shrieks came from far in the front of the plane. A wave of cries followed, reaching an uncomfortable volume when the high school girls’ soccer team just in front of us caught sight of the stowaway:
Flapping vigorously, the pigeon looked out of breath passing over the aisle with its beak held partly open. It did a few laps back and forth with the flight attendants making a few half-hearted attempts to snag it before it would take off again. Finally, a passenger managed to capture the bird, to which we all applauded. But apparently, it’s not OK to take a bird across the country, so we had to pull out of the queue for takeoff and head back to the gate, presumably to toss the bird to a befuddled gate agent. That meant we needed more fuel and another round of safety checks, and I watched as our Newark arrival time on the flight map in front of me ticked closer to our departure time for Paris. Two hours behind schedule, we were finally in the air.
When we landed in Newark, Anne-Claire and I snuck off the plane with a raft of fellow passengers trying to make an even closer connection to Delhi; the flight attendants had asked that they be given way by everyone else and we figured we were in the same predicament.
I’d been preparing a rebuttal to the defense that our errant pigeon fell under the “acts of God” section of our passenger agreement, should United try to use that defense, absolving themselves of responsibility for our tardiness. Alas, my zeal turned out to be unnecessary, as we sat in the waiting area, succumbing to another delay of about an hour, though this time, I doubt a feathered frequent flier was to blame.