“I’ll call the Poor Clares [monastery] and ask them to pray for your trip,” my mom said on Tuesday, the day before my flight to Orlando.
“Can’t you just pray?” I whined. “We don’t have to ask the Poor Clares pray for every little thing,” I said.
These are the words that will go down in history, just like the captain of the Titanic who said, “God himself could not sink this ship.”
Wednesday was a big day for me: it was the day I would be meeting my boyfriend, Rob, in person for the first time—which is a story in itself, for another time. We had been looking forward to it since our first FaceTime conversation, just one month before that.
“Come visit my church for Easter,” he said, which—for the record—is a great pickup line for me. “I think you’d really like it.”
To the normal person, this might seem like a hypothetical suggestion. But to Jenny, who flew internationally (and solo, for the first time) to Scotland because a girl I worked with, and with whom I’d only exchanged five words, said, “Come visit me while I’m studying abroad!” I perceived his invitation to be plausible and sincere. A week later, I had plane tickets.
It should be noted that Rob is a man of chivalry: when I told him I wasn’t sure what dates to book because there was a $300 discrepancy in prices, he did a flight search while we were on the phone. “Can you fly on Wednesday?” he asked. “Frontier Airlines says it’s only $30 each way,” he said.
“What?!” I said.
“Yup,” he said. “I’m booking it for you.”
I can’t recall flying Frontier before, but I know how cheap airlines work, and I suspected that the cost of a suitcase (check-in or carry-on) would be at least as expensive as the plane ticket itself, which was true. Still, the total price was only half the cost of the flights I’d been looking at, and this was a direct, 3-hour flight, so it seemed like a great deal.
After three weeks of waiting for Holy Week to arrive—which tripled the amount of time Rob and I had known each other—the day was finally upon us. I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm, read the psalms and journaled, did a HIIT workout in my apartment, showered and made breakfast, paid rent, and finished packing. In just a few short hours Rob would pick me up from the airport, and take me on our first official date (Greek food, obviously). Then we would go to his church.*
*for Holy Unction service, not a wedding. He’s a pastoral assistant and chanter.
It seems so flawlessly straightforward. One flight. Arrive at 3pm. Easy breezy.
My friend Chinyere takes me to the airport. “So, like, didn’t you just meet Rob the last time we talked?” Chinyere asks. “Wasn’t that two or three weeks ago?”
“Four,” I correct.
“Oh, okay.” We talk all the girl talk en route to the PVD airport, and she drops me off with a masked hug. “Good luck!” she says.
I stand in line for the Frontier desk to check my bag. The woman who gives me my bag is cheerful and kind and has a great British accent. I head to my gate.
I text Rob: “Aaahhhhh I get to see you soon!”He sends me an updated timer.
I notice from my plane ticket that boarding will begin at 11:03. Only three minutes away!
No one has boarded. There is an announcement from the front desk that maintenance is on the plane “checking something out.” The person across from me says, “That doesn’t sound good.”
Rob: “You’re expected to depart in 18 minutes.”
Jenny: “Except that no one has boarded yet.”
11:49am (one minute after our departure time)
Jenny: “I’m not in the air right now.”
What if Rob can’t pick me up? I fret. If my flight is delayed too much, he’ll hit traffic and not be able to make it to the airport and back to church on time.
Rob: “You will be well received no matter what. And we still have plenty of time.”
Frontier Airlines: “Flight 1183 to Orlando has been delayed. Expected departure time: 12:15pm.”
Rob: “‘Behold the bridegroom comes in the middle of the night!’!”
“Lol” he adds.
Rob: “Expected to depart shortly?”
Jenny: “No idea. We still haven’t been asked to board. Can you exorcise this airplane?”
Frontier Airlines: “Flight 1183 to Orlando has been delayed. Expected departure time: 1:15pm.”
I do the math. If I leave at 1:15pm, an hour and a half later than I was supposed to, I will be cutting it very close for Rob to pick me up and get back to the church. He talks to his priest, who says he can arrive at 6pm, when the service starts, instead of arriving early. Rob sends me his housemate (we’ll call her Q)’s contact information. “Just in case.”
Out of sheer panic and nerves, I walk the length of the PVD airport, talking to Rob. He’s on the computer looking up backup options. Southwest has a flight leaving at 1:40pm, but it has a layover in Charlotte. Jet Blue has a direct flight at 4pm, and there are two seats available. “Let’s hope I’m not still here at 4pm,” I say.
When I return to my gate, there are people standing. The jetway door is open. Something is astir!
Jenny: “They are boarding!”
Rob: “HOORAY. You’re on your way!!”
Jenny: “Not yet. But God willing, soon.”
Frontier Airlines: “Flight 1183 to Orlando has been delayed. Expected departure time: 1:45pm.”
“At least they are likely to hit that one,” I text to Rob.
Rob: “Keep me posted. This is going to be a great first date story.”
I go to the bathroom before I board. I check my watch with a bit of uncertainty, but I think, We still have a lot of time before 1:45.
I consider buying a snack but hold off. Roommate Q texts me, just in case.
Boarding has stalled. For reasons unknown. I pace nervously in circles.
I ask the woman who checked my bags (whom I learn is Jamaican, but was raised in England) if she knows why boarding has stopped.
“They took the door off the plane,” she says.
“But they’re putting it back on now,” she adds.
Well. That’s a good reason, I suppose.
Jenny: “‘THE DOORS, THE DOORS. GUARD THE DOORS**!’ Wait. What? There IS no door?”
**this is from Orthodox Liturgy.
Rob, at least, thinks I’m funny.
Q asks me if I like chocolate. I tell her Lindt dark chocolate 78% is the best. We then trade quips about ice cream. I like Roommate Q.
We have a door!
The people at the desk announce that we are only waiting on someone to sign the paperwork. My friend Sarah says this happened to her in Roswell once, but the only person who could sign off had left for the day, so it took forever.
Frontier Airlines: “Flight 1183 to Orlando has been delayed. Expected departure time: 2:15pm.”
Rob: “I don’t even know what time to set the count down to.”
I decide to buy a snack.
I eat the entire bag of popcorn while sitting on the floor of the airport near the gate, hoping they ask us to board.
The jetway door opens! And behind it are all of the people on my flight who had already boarded. They are un-boarding the plane.
I stand in line to speak to the Frontier operators about “how we can make things right” (Rob’s verbiage). The woman in front of me in line says her travel agent is booking her on Southwest, so she’s cancelling her Frontier flight and asking for her luggage. The man behind me is cancelling his flight and rebooking for tomorrow.
While I stand in line, Rob looks at flight options for me. The two seats we once joked about on Jet Blue are gone and things are not looking good. “They will be able to help you at the desk,” Rob assures me.
The Frontier employee says there’s nothing she can do. BUT they are still expecting to fly today. “I’m just waiting for an email,” she says. While I could cancel my flight and get a refund, I have no good option to rebook anywhere else. I concede and do nothing.
I walk the length of the airport again.
Rob listens to me vent. “They say they’re just waiting on paperwork. But my friend Sarah had that happen to her and it took forever!”
“Maybe the inspector is coming from Boston,” he jokes.
I don’t think the joke is funny.
I find my favorite employee, the British Jamaican Frontier worker whose name I learn is Jennifer (!), and ask her if the inspector is coming from Boston.
“Paris,” she says. She’s laughing, but this is not a joke.
They announce we are getting a new plane. It’s considered an “emergency rescue,” and our projected departure is 9:00pm.
At least I can go home for a few hours! I think. I text my friend Morgan to ask if she can pick me up, until I hear that TSA will stop working around 5:30. Thus, unless I returned in an hour and a half, I’d be unable to get to my gate.
I call my dad. While I’m talking to him, I hit 10k steps on my FitBit and announce my victory!
This makes him laugh. At least the day has a silver lining.
To stay or not to stay, that is the question. Do I wait at the airport for five hours and book a new flight (on Southwest FOR SURE) for tomorrow? Or do I stay and hope that the new plane actually gets me to Orlando?
When I ask Rob, he says, “Whatever you want.”
“Do you want to pick me up at midnight?”
“I will pick you up any time.” Then he sends me the poem “Invictus” by William Ernest Henley and advises that I “make a choice and embrace it.”
“I want to go to Orlando today,” I say. “I will wait for the plane.”
“Awesome!” he says. Even though we’re on the phone, I can hear him smiling, and this makes me smile.
Frontier Airlines: “Flight 1183 to Orlando has been delayed. Expected departure is now 9:00pm.”
Frontier gives me a meal voucher, so I buy a quinoa salad. (The voucher specifies that alcohol is not redeemable, so I take my meal to another restaurant and drink wine.) Things are looking up.
Jennifer, the British Jamaican Frontier employee passes by where I’m sitting and says hello. I invite her to sit and chat.
It turns out that she’s awesome. And we are freakishly similar–we’ve traveled to the same places, we have similar interests. Granted, she’s a widow and her eldest son is almost as old as I am, but other than that, we are basically the same.
While we’re chatting, she gets a text message releasing her from her duties. “Come visit my gym,” she says. “First class is on me.”
I’m happy to have made a new friend 🙂
I find an outlet to charge my phone and work on my laptop, making actual progress on my Thassos book. It only took seven hours in an airport to do something productive, but this day is turning around!
The Frontier employee at the desk makes an announcement. “We have a plane!” she says. Everyone starts to clap and cheer. I’m still not convinced, but I clap anyway. Beyond my wildest expectations, they start to board the plane.
I’m ON THE PLANE.
A maintenance guy is also on the plane. I start fervently praying: Jesus, you destroyed death by trampling down death. You are victorious over evil. DO NOT LET SATAN WIN TODAY.
Maintenance leaves and we pull away from the gate. I thank God many times.
We land! Everyone cheers. I text Rob to let him know, and he is already at the airport waiting for me. I am so excited!
The pilot makes an announcement. “So…we are supposed to be at gate C17, but there’s another plane parked at the gate. We have to wait on the tarmac until it can be moved. They estimated 15-20 minutes.”
Everyone curses and boos.
Jenny: “I’ll just be here crying.”
Rob: “Remember when you were freaking out and wanted to cry in the airport?”
Rob: “I mean earlier. Not this moment.”
Rob: “The earlier time.”
Rob: “The first earlier time.”
Jenny: “Thanks for specifying. They all blend together.”
Rob: “Imma just run out on the tarmac and deplane you.”
Jenny: “That’s the sexiest thing anyone’s ever said.”
Rob and I meet AT LAST! Nine hours and 15 minutes later than expected, but it was worth it for the hug. Rob gives great hugs. “You’re here!” he says. We walk to baggage claim and talk about the day we’ve had.
What. A. Day.
There’s an announcement in baggage claim. “To Flight 1183 coming from Providence, thank you for your patience. Unfortunately, there was a motorized wheelchair blocking the luggage compartment, so it took a while for us to access your luggage. But it should only be another 15-20 minutes.”
We let out a collective sigh, but at this point, no one is surprised.
Rob adds that it’s an hour’s drive to his house.
Roommate Q texts me, “Tell Rob not to hit a deer.”
I’m afraid to entertain this idea.
We arrive at the house (praise the heavens) and Rob shows me to my room. It’s decorated with gifts (Roommate Q bought Lindt 78% chocolate bars, chocolate truffles, balloons, and an Easter Bunny). Rob points out the coffee fixings in the morning and leads me to the pantry, where he’s purchased my favorite brand of peanut butter and the cereal I’ve been eating, and to the fridge that’s stocked with oat milk, berries, and vegan ice cream.
I’ve only just arrived and already I feel so loved.
And–as I soon learn–this is only the beginning.
To all of my Orthodox brothers and sisters: Kali Anastasi! Xristos Anesti!
(Happy Resurrection, Christ is risen!)