Year Two. Month Eight. #SEA.

My hands grip the steering wheel and I can feel my heart racing. Time seems to be moving in slow motion, or maybe it's just my car, stuck in the worst traffic I have ever seen in my life. I flip through radio stations at rapid fire, hoping for some answer as to why the interstate seems to be a giant parking lot.

No such luck. No reason. Just really, really bad holiday traffic.

Tick tock. The car clock switches to 4:36pm.

I am not going to make it.

I am going to be late for work.

I keep hoping that I will startle myself out of this nightmare. This is what we all dread, what we all prepare for so that we don't fail to show up on time.

Getting to work is more than just a simple twenty minute drive for most folks. There's the packing. The mental checklist of required items. Commuting by plane for some people, or even just getting into your car (or onto the light rail or metro for some folks) without wrinkling your uniform. Driving to the airport employee lot. Swiping in with badges, finding a good parking spot. Getting on the shuttle bus to the airport. Elevators. Known Crewmember lines. Shuttles, trains, moving walkways to your concourse, your gate, your airplane. Outdoor ramps, at times, carrying all of your belongings up and down stairs, hoping a nice pilot will help you out.

And this is all before you even start to get paid. It's a crazy life.

And then there's the inevitable obstacles. It will happen to everyone once, at least. A flat tire. A forgotten badge or flight manual. A late check-in. Or, in my case, the night-before-Thanksgiving-traffic-jam-of-all-traffic-jams.

I return to the present and try to control my panicked breathing. This is not happening to me, I repeat over and over. I am never late. I arrive early, relax at the airport, enjoy a coffee and crew lounge gossip. I go to the plane early, settle in, adjust my lipstick.

I like the order of it all.

But today, there is no order. There was no way to prevent this, minus leaving my house six hours before check-in. But who would have known that an hour and a half drive would turn into four painful hours on the road?

I find an exit and pull off the road to call Crew Scheduling. They understand that these things happen, but they urge me to please, please come in. I ask if there's anyone I can switch shifts with, so that my flight to Juneau, Alaska can go out in time.

There's no one else to work the flight, she sighs. Just keep driving.

And so I get back on the road and focus my attention on driving. Every minute ticks by and I grimace as my check-in time approaches, is reached, and then I pass my original check-in time and am still stuck in traffic.

By the time I pull into the employee lot it is seven minutes past departure. I call Crew Scheduling again to let them know I have arrived and race through the airport concourse to my gate. As I run full speed up to the gate, beyond embarrassed, I notice a big red delay code on the board.

Weather Delay.


We couldn't have taken off, even if I would have been there.

I run onto the plane and check in with my crew, who seemed unfazed by my late arrival. They inform me that no planes have been getting into Juneau, but the flight has still not been officially cancelled. There is a glimmer of hope a few minutes later when we are informed that there might be a tiny sliver of opportunity if we are able to take off in the next twenty minutes.

We board the plane, and I greet the holiday travelers. Tired, worn out, there poor folks just want to get home. I welcome them aboard and help with bags. We make our safety announcements, do our sweeps and prepare the cabin for departure. We dim the lights, take our jumpseats and get ready to go to Alaska.

It's been a long day.

The Captain's voice suddenly comes on over the PA. "Good evening, folks, again, we apologize for the weather delay. It looks like the delay is going to unfortunately be a little bit longer than expected. We are being told to return to the gate, and customer service representatives will be on hand to assist you with rebooking."

That's airline speak for "We're canceling this flight."

This day is about to get a little longer.

We return to the gate, and apologizing genuinely, deplane. Most travelers understand the concern. Juneau's airport is one of the tougher places to land in inclement weather.

The rest of the crew is released from duty for the night, but I am called to sit reserve for a few hours. I return to the crew lounge and throw my bags in a pile, flopping into one of the chairs.

"Long day?" another pilot asks me.

You have no idea.


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