Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cell Phone Fiasco

I delivered the Ritter-Moyer lectures at Evangelical Seminary, Myerstown, on Thursday as planned - as far as I could tell there was a good response! However.....getting there had a twist!

My outward flight involved traveling from Chicago to New York La Guardia, and changing airlines for a flight to Harrisburg. On paper, the hour layover at New York seemed adequate enough. We left on time (at 11:05 am) but the plane promptly stopped, and the captain announced that air traffic control had delayed our departure time by one and a half hours. A 4 year old girl with her mother and 6 month old (crying baby) sat next to me. The captain suggested we use cell phones to warn those who were planning to meet us. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my cell-phone. I asked my neighbor if I could borrow her phone though my contact John's number was somewhere in my luggage squeesed into the overhead locker. Finding it disturbed both children mightily. I left John a message saying I had no idea what the delay meant...I would contact him again. Oh, and that I had left my cell-phone at home and was borrowing this one!

We made up some time landing in La Guardia at 3:15pm, but the connecting flight was due to leave at 3:30. 'You won't make it, 'said the cheerful flight attendant. 'You have to exit this terminal, go half a mile to another terminal, find a flight, get a ticket, and go through security again.' What? Arriving breathless, I was informed the next flight was at 10:50pm arriving after midnight (with a longish drive to John's home). But another attendant found out my original flight was delayed so maybe I could still catch it. She asked the plane to wait for me. Ten minutes later, having convinced security again I was safe, I reached the gate as the attendant called for Mr Quick-ie loudly. Entering the small plane with 7 passengers I asked if someone would let me call my friend that I was on the plane, because I had no cell-phone. I was met by 7 blank stares. One businessman (reluctantly) brought out his phone - just as the captain told us to turn off all electronic devices. 'Sorry', he said, with obvious relief.

Arriving in Harrisburg I hoped that someone would remember my plight. No. But at least there would be public phones at Harrisburg International Airport. I asked a security guard where the phones were. 'Over there' he said, but the shiny booths held no phones. He was surprised, and even more shocked to learn that there were no longer any public phones anywhere in the complex. I imagined John in frustration having not heard from me for several hours. My abject look must have touched this guard's heart. 'Here,' he said, 'you can use mine.' John's relief at hearing my voice (and vice versa) was the high-point of the day. And it turned out that he was near the airport having decided to come and grade papers, waiting for me past midnight if necessary.

We both commented that cell phones are so ubiquitous now that public phones are obviously an endangered species. He refrained from telling me how absent-minded/stupid/downright badly organized I was in forgetting my cell-phone. Perhaps I shall remember in future? I think writing this will help, or at least provide some therapy. Mind you, there is a Part Two!

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