Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
The woman in the white shawl joined me standing in the crowded airplane galley area. She was on her way to India to a yoga retreat, she said.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
To Jakarta, I said, to see my brother; but I would have to fly standby from Singapore for the last leg.
“Why?” she asked, surprised.
“All the flights are full.”
“What if you don’t get one?” she said.
“Well, there are four flights today and seven tomorrow,” I said. “It seems like I’d get out on something.” That had seemed to make sense in San Francisco, when I finally arrived after my initial flight, from Aspen, was canceled; I’d been sent home to fly out the next day from Grand Junction, not permitted to re-book internationally until arriving at the Singapore Airlines desk, where the man said, “There’s a problem.”
“But you’re taking such a risk!” the woman said, and that was when my stomach churned. We were 15 hours into the flight. I was nearing the other side of the earth, and I didn’t know if I could even get where I was going.
Really, everything had gone wrong. I spent hours in the Aspen airport, finally rebooking for 6 a.m. out of Grand Junction. I went to bed at 10:30 p.m. that night, planning to get up at 2:30 a.m., and for a bonus I lost an hour to Daylight Savings time. I couldn’t sleep one wink due to the snores of the unnamed individual to whom I am married; then with tired eyes drove to Junction in darkness and blinding rain, worried about hydroplaning or even going off the road, only to find my flight delayed for two hours. Arriving in Denver, I’d missed my connection; arriving in San Francisco, I still aspired for the afternoon flight to Hong Kong, until I gradually found myself alone in the baggage area, and realized that my suitcase hadn’t made it. I would have to wait until the 1:00 a.m. flight. I would spend 14 hours in the San Francisco airport. And I could still get stuck in Singapore.
At that point, for the first time in my life, I had an almost traitorous thought, for someone who likes travel and comes from a family that travels. My three sibs do for work: Lucy is soon to leave for the Dubai region again to teach school; Meg, a financial advisor, travels more than 50 percent of the time, frequently to developing countries; and Ted, in the Foreign Service, changes government posts every three years.
The thought I had was: it isn’t worth it. To go so far. Not to someone with limited vacation time, with a job and family. Not when I was already losing two of only eight days in Indonesia, which were book-ended by my travel.
I left a message for Lucy, herself stranded by a blizzard in Leadville. She called back as I stood browsing through books, indeed standing stock-still and reading multiple chapters, in an airport bookstore.
I tried to explain my situation, and finally said, “You know that movie The Terminal? I’m that guy.”
That night when at long last I flew out, desperate to sleep, I got a middle seat.
In Singapore, though, my luck changed. I got the first flight out. I arrived in Jakarta, found a taxi, and reached my brother’s capacious house, with its smiling staff, an hour later.
And then the trip started. I got to see my brother in his milieu, having never been to any of his posts. My mother, who had arrived days before me, and I visited Yogyakarta and Bali, temples and volcanoes. Though Indonesia is a largely Muslim country, it is a modern version, infused with Hinduism, and the country holds the largest Buddhist temple in the world, the pyramidal Borobudur with its thousands of bas-reliefs and hundreds of statues. We learned about the vast variety, in housing and custom, and the 500 languages of Indonesia’s 17,000 islands.
And my flights home were just fine.
– Alison Osius (email@example.com) lives in Carbondale.
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