Waiting ( Day 18)

Airplane passengers waiting for take-off.

The Challenge for Day 18

Today’s challenge seems straightforward enough, Jeff asks us to ” Write about Waiting.” One particular incident comes to mind, not one of my proudest moments, but here goes anyway: “Waiting”



I’m sitting beside my son and daughter, on an Aer Lingus flight from Dublin airport to Faro, waiting for take-off.  The hand luggage smiles down at me from the rack, reminding me that this is an adventure. Enjoy the journey, it’s part of the holiday, says my logical self. The rest of me is relying on a few pre-flight wines to stay calm. And loads of Hello magazines for distraction. Reading anything more serious is out of the question, my brain feels like mashed potato. My face probably looks the same colour. Am I going to get through this without a panic attack?

My daughter fixes her belt and hands me another magazine. I’m on my third now.

” You okay, Mam?”

” Yeah, of course, just can’t wait to get this over with.”

She whispers something to my son, who’s sitting on her other side. He smiles and leans over.

” We should be taking off any minute now, it’ll be grand.”

It’s years since I’ve flown, and the irony is that I used to be a fearless flyer, not this scared little mouse. I remember hopping on a tiny 25 seater plane, heading from London to Paris. It shook so much that almost everyone puked. But not me, Little Miss Brave. I was the one handing out the sick bags and telling my friends there was nothing to worry about. Just imagine you’re on a bus.

” Attention, passengers. There will be a slight delay in departure time, due to unidentified baggage in the hold”

Great. Just what I need. I feel my heart thudding. I’m trying to breathe away the image of hijackers and focus on something positive. My daughter, mind reader extraordinaire, hands me our holiday brochure. We flick through the images of unending blue skies and beaches, stopping at a photograph of the pool. It’s set on a height, overlooking the ocean, and it’s one of the reasons we picked this location.

“Look, Mam, imagine that’s what we’ll be waking up to in the morning!”

I’m trying now, I really am. I start thinking about The Algarve, the ocean, the heat, the freedom. We could try different restaurants every night, maybe take in a couple of day trips.

Fifteen minutes pass in relative calm. Then the Captain makes another announcement.

” We are sorry for the extended delay, but hope to have the problem sorted soon.”

More waiting. Is this ever going to end? My son glances up from his Harry Potter book, sees I’m still in the seat, and gets on with his reading. My daughter is stuck into a teen magazine, something about the latest craze in runners.

I marvel at how relaxed they are. But wasn’t I like that once? What happened to change things? There’s no logical answer. Some say that becoming a mother can trigger a fear of flying, so maybe that’s it. A diet of Air Disaster documentaries doesn’t help either. I don’t want to embarrass them, so I try to stay in the moment and focus on what’s going on around me.

The young couple in front of us is starting to mutter about the delay. The man kneads his forehead with both hands.

“How can it take so long to sort out one bit of luggage? This is ridiculous. Did you bring the paracetamol?”

“Calm down, honey. No, you put it in your case, remember?”

Their daughter opens her seatbelt and starts jumping up and down. The father tries to strap her back in and her long, curly hair gets tangled in the clasp.

“You’re hurting me, you’re hurting me,” rings out around the cabin.

Several heads turn in their direction and the father slinks back down into his seat. An air hostess helps the mother disentangle the child from the clasp.

There is a lot of chatter now, people are shifting around in their seats, rooting through their luggage. A backpacker in the aisle beside me drops a bag of sweets on the floor and it bursts open. His girlfriend helps him gather them up, then pops them one by one into their mouths. He grins and puts his arm around her. They look like a teenage Hansel and Gretel with all that chocolate on their faces.

I’m doing my best here, but it’s hard work staying this focused. I look at my watch, it’s been nearly twenty minutes since the last announcement. A new fear jumps out of nowhere.

“Do you think there’s something wrong with the plane that they’re not telling us?”

Just then, the Captain’s voice booms through the cabin.

” I am pleased to inform you that we have been cleared for take-off. Apologies for the delay, but your safety is always our first priority.”

My son smiles over at me, ” See, Mam, I told you there was nothing to worry about.”

I take the glucose sweet my daughter is offering, ” This will stop your ears popping.”

I’m feeling relieved now, glad that the waiting is over. The plane taxis down the runway, then suddenly starts to accelerate.  Why is it going so fast? Then the engines begin to roar, ten times louder than I remember, it’s like being sucked up in a giant avalanche. Help! I grab hold of my daughter’s hand and cling on as if it was a mountain guide rope. I close my eyes, they are more in danger of popping than my ears. Gradually, the noise lessons, the plane steadies and I dare to look around.

“Mam, you are hilarious! Lucky I wasn’t the one beside you,” my son says, pointing to his sister’s hand.

Her poor hand is dotted with fingernail marks.

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t realize-”

“It’s okay, Mam, ” she says, “I’m just so proud of you for doing this.”

She starts chatting with her brother about some teacher in school and I leave them to it.  I settle myself into the seat, wrapping my little crochet cardigan around my bare arms. I feel as exhausted as if  I’ve climbed Everest and after a few minutes I doze off.

” Mam, Mam, wake up! We’re landing!” my daughter says, poking me awake about three hours later.

It’s kind of surreal, I can’t believe I’m just about to step off the plane into the balmy Portuguese air.  It’s been worth the wait.




Today is Day 18 of My 500 Words 31 Day Challenge, hosted by Jeff Goins. Waiting.

Photo by Suhyeon Choi on Unsplash

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