"Merry Christmas, Ms. Martin"
I’m on a flight to Portland, Oregon on Christmas Day 2016.
A little over a year ago, I scribbled a list of a million things that I might want to accomplish in 2016, knowing that it would be ridiculous to try to do them all. When I was finished, I took a deep breath, said a little prayer, and circled only a few things that “felt right.” One of those things was “start a blog.” Even though I resisted the cliché of that, I knew I was supposed to be more disciplined as a writer, and that seemed like the perfect way to do that. This week I lamented to a friend over coffee that I hadn’t been faithful to this goal. She pointed out something that had evaded my notice… that there was a little over a week left in the year.
By Jove, she was right.
I’m a church-goer, and there’s a verse from the Old Testament that gets read a lot during Advent Season that says “a people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light.” It kept standing out to me this year – I kept imagining these hurting, ignorant, blind creatures, rummaging around in the dark like zombie people. It reminded me of something St. Paul says in the New Testament when he’s talking to the Greeks about God; he tells them God has worked in the world in order that people might “feel around for Him.” It’s like sleeping in a house you’re not familiar with and having to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, times a thousand. Sometimes, to me, that’s what all of life feels like.
I am not on the flight I was supposed to be on. Also, I am on exactly the flight I was supposed to be on. I barely had enough money to buy my flight for Christmas. I got what I thought was a pretty good deal from the Burbank Airport to Portland, on Christmas morning at 9AM. I got to the airport early enough (7:30AM) and already had my boarding pass in hand. After getting through security quickly I began to look for my gate information. It was nowhere to be found and there were no Alaska Airlines personnel in sight. After wandering around confused for about 30 minutes, I started to worry. Finally, I walked up to a friendly employee of Southwest Airlines and explained my confusion. He looks at my boarding pass and says “Miss, this flight leaves at 9:00 PM tonight. Not AM.”
I was mortified, but I gave the man hardly any reaction. A polite smile I think. I hurriedly walked back out through security to the check-in counter. For a moment, I was completely stoic, but as I handed my boarding pass to the middle-aged brunette woman behind the counter, I choked on my words. I barely got the sentence “I’ve made a terrible mistake!” out of my mouth before I started sobbing profusely. “It’s okay, honey! It’s okay! What’s wrong?” A tissue box appeared in front of me. “THOUGHT… IT… WAS… A.M.…” I gargled out.
She just kept telling me that it was ‘gonna be okay Ms. Martin,’ and that she’s ‘got me,’ and ‘it’s Christmas after all’… I tried to calm down listening to the sound of her nails clicking on her computer keyboard. But I was thinking about flight change fees, and all the money that I didn’t have, and how this was sooo my fault.
She said something about a “charter flight.” I was confused by that, because in my experience, that always meant a private jet. She handed me a new boarding pass and told me I was leaving at 9:45AM and that there were no change fees. How could this be?
I went to Gate B4 as instructed, and learned that the flight I’d now been assigned to was a flight that was supposed to have departed at 7:45AM, and been delayed 2 hours! The people waiting were clearly bummed out. After a few minutes, they announced that there was a flight attendant working our flight who was delayed coming from LAX, so that we were going to have to wait yet another hour for this crewmember to drive to Burbank from LAX. Profusely apologetic, the gate attendee offered us all meal vouchers. Within no time, I was able to inhale a pretty delicious and free breakfast burrito.
What happened next blew my mind. The gate attendant walked up to me and said “Ms. Martin, I’d like to give you a new seat assignment. Here’s your new boarding pass.” Minutes later, we were invited to board the plane, and I realize I’m sitting in seat 4A. It’s Business Class. From my solo row 4 seat, I watch as 9 other people board the plane and I realize, we are the only people taking this flight – and we are all in Business Class. Economy seats are completely empty behind us. There’s a cookie and a chocolate and a bottled water on my seat. I’m being offered a free mimosa and brie. The flight attendants are calling me “Ms. Martin.” They know all our names?! Why do they know my name?? They are calling me “Ms. Martin,” when I feel I ought to be called “Girl who confuses AM with PM” or “Ms. Almost Didn’t Make It Home For Christmas Because of Her Stupidity.”
I learn that all the rest of the passengers on this flight were supposed to fly to Portland on a Christmas EVE flight, which got cancelled. Alaska felt bad and chartered this flight for the next morning at 7:45AM for them, which then experienced 3 more delays. Everyone else on this plane was a victim of circumstances beyond their control, and here I am reaping the benefits of their misfortune, when my circumstances were my own fault.
What. The. Heck.
As we take off shortly after 10:45AM, the Southern California sky is crystal clear after a couple days of rain this week. I close my eyes as the plane ascends, and for a moment, even though my eyelids are still closed, the sun is so bright it hurts. “A people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light,” I think to myself. Theologians generally interpret this to be a prophesy about God descending to earth as Jesus, to climb into the darkness with us for a while, in order to show us what Light is like. And today, He was like “Merry Christmas, Ms. Martin.” (Insert cryface emoji here.)
Happy birthday, Jesus! Hope you like blogs!