California Day 15: A Mad Dash To LAX

img_1755  Monday, August 20, 2018

Well, we were packed; and ready for our day of flying back to Richmond.

Abby was going to drive us to the Flyway in Van Nuys. There we would take a bus into the madness at LAX.

Art was leaving for work, and we were able to say goodbye and thank him for all of his hospitality.

Seemed like it was going to be another quiet, warm day out here in the high desert. The sun was just about finished casting its early morning shadows as it continued to rise. Our pace was calm, we made last minute checks of our bags and the room where stayed, and then a text arrived on Betsy’s phone.

The airline was notifying her that our flight had been canceled.

Instantly, this tranquil California morning became chaos. The Flyway bus plan was tossed. Abby was going to drive us to LAX. We quickly moved about the house, grabbing our bags, and backpacks and hustled them and us into the car. Clearly, this was going to be Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride.

Abby worked her way through the twisting canyon road, and in minutes she had us out on the highway. The pace and progress was good along this long route. We had no delays, no slight pauses, we were always moving. Even when we connected with the larger freeways we were optimistic that getting to LAX and meeting the departure requirements was going to work.

Abby kept her focus, choosing the correct lanes, making the right moves. In a few spots, we slowed a bit, but we kept moving. Soon, we were approaching the exit for LAX.

Amazingly, we made it off the freeway, onto the main street heading to the airport, and then it grabbed us. 

Our luck changed. The luck that had escorted us from Agua Dulce to the LAX exit vanished. That luck disappeared like jet wash on a runway. It was gone with no intention of returning. We were stuck, stopped, frozen, immobile. Even when a stoplight changed, we didn’t move, not an inch.

All hope was gone. No miracles were to be found.

Tension inside our car could have ruptured a pressure relief valve on any type of pipeline. I could picture a newspaper headline in my mind— Church Employee From Virginia Arrested After His Meltdown In Stalled LAX Traffic.

Gradually, we started to move. But, the movement would not register on the speedometer. We moved at slug pace.  I suspect a sure-footed turtle on a sidewalk with a good GPS would beat us to our departing terminal.

Even when there was movement, it was short-lived. Lanes of traffic had to converge into the airport’s travel lanes. At one stalled point, I briefly got out of the car to look ahead. That scan only brought more discouragement as I saw no hope.

Somehow, we continue to creep forward, and we reach the point of the log jam, and at that moment, I almost had that meltdown.

I have a deep respect for police officers. In my previous life as a school administrator, I worked with many police officers who were always of great assistance to me no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Right at this critical merge of irate drivers and their passengers sat three LA police officers on their motorcycles. That’s correct, they were perched on top of their motorcycles taking in this scene not even contemplating an attempt to sort out this mess by directing traffic.

I couldn’t believe it. So, I used really bad juvenile adult judgment. As we drove by the officers, I rolled down my window.  I shouted out, “Thanks a lot!” One of them heard me as he looked in my direction. 

At that point, I thought Abby was going reach into the back seat and grab me by the throat, but luckily for me she still had to drive the car.

Abby got us to our terminal. We made sure we had everything out of the car, said our goodbyes, and hustled into the madness of trying to get on a flight back to Richmond.

Gradually, the luck returned. The airline booked us on another flight. We had a bit of a wait in an overly crowded terminal. 

Eventually, the opportunity to board the plane started. The flight was packed. We taxied away from the terminal. The pilot waited for permission from the air traffic controllers to depart. A flurry of activity continued around us. Planes were landing, taking off, and poking along on tarmacs.  I’m not sure an airport is ever motionless.

Our clearance came. The pilot goosed those massive engines and all that power lifted this big bird up. He made a wide turn and for several minutes we were out over the Pacific. I could see its magnificent blue surface shined and polished by a sparkling sun. 

The plane continued to climb and turn. Soon the Pacific blue was gone. 

But, once again, California had done its duty. 

California and all its charms had etched into me more memories. Memories that I will hold and cherish until the good Lord has had enough of me.

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