So, traditionally speaking, if you get bumped from an airline flight, sometimes you can get two free round-trip tickets as compensation for your inconvenience. And for a while there, my parents had a few trips in the queue because they had volunteered to surrender their seats on a full flight. They had kids in two different states, they had people they wanted to visit, and they didn’t mind taking a later flight if it meant also getting another trip on the calendar. It’s a good gig if you can get it.
A few years ago, my mom arrived at the airport for a flight somewhere, and she approached the ticket counter to say, “If you have need to bump anyone from this flight, I would be willing to take a later flight.”
They kindly said thanks, but no thanks. “We’ve got plenty of room on this flight, ma’am. We don’t anticipate needing to ask anyone to fly standby.”
“Okay. Sounds good. Just wanted to let you know, just in case.”
As they waited to board the plane, as people milled about the gate and negotiated their seats, she offered her spot once again. Still, no dice.
On her third offer, the flight attendant responded with something like, “You do realize you booked this ticket because you wanted to go on this flight? Do you not understand how this works?”
“I do. And I want to go. I’m just letting you know that I’m flexible.”
“Thank you, ma’am. We’ll go ahead and plan on you boarding the plane and making it to your destination today.”
Fast forward to a half-hour later, when the plane was filled with all its scheduled passengers, preparing to take off. The captain’s voice came on the loudspeaker to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to tell you, we’ve had a slight delay. Just like any other vehicle, airplanes have weight limits, and it looks like we’ve exceeded ours. We are moving some luggage around down below, hoping to adjust the balance. Bear with us for a few moments, and we shall depart soon.”
And so they waited. And waited.
His voice came on again, “Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize again for the inconvenience, but it looks like we are about twenty pounds overweight. We will need to remove one passenger from this flight, and then we can take off soon. Please stay patient, and stay tuned.”
Just like that, my mom looked up to see that same airline attendant coming down the aisle of the plane, looking left and right, down each row of passengers. She was looking for my mom, who had so persistently offered her seat. But nobody else knew that. To everyone else, it looked like she was looking for someone carrying those extra few pounds that had put the plane over its limit.
Of all the horrors, she stopped at my mom’s row, glanced over, pointed and said, “You. Come with me.”
And my mom had to gather all of her belongings, walk the long center aisle, and deplane. To be clear, the plane was carrying an extra twenty pounds. My mom was not carrying the extra pounds.
(I mean, maybe five extra pounds. As she recalls the story. That’s her clarification, not mine. Just to overclarify.)
But she could hear women all around her, elbowing their husbands and quietly gasping, thanking the Lord it wasn’t them who had been escorted off the plane, and promising to begin their diets again tomorrow.
And that, my friends, is one of my mom’s shiniest and most embarrassing moments. And I mean, it’s a good one. I’d certainly like for that to never happen to me. Not ever.
Yesterday was her birthday. My brother flew in as her best birthday gift ever, and I laugh-cried my makeup off by lunchtime and peed my pants a few times during the day. (It’s the dollar bets that put me over the top. More on that later.)
Happy birthday, Mom. You’re a grand piano in a world of uprights. We celebrate you with cake and frosting and laughter and love.
And may all the free airline vouchers be yours.