The weirdest thing happened when I was at the Chicago airport on my way to India. I was sitting in the waiting area along with everyone else. I heard an announcement for the gate next to mine that everyone on that flight should start lining up. I stayed put, finishing up my last stateside phone call with my good friend, Laurenellen. A few minutes later, an airline employee came walking down the rows of waiting area seats, seeming to be checking to make sure everyone is getting on the other flight who needed to be. He was shouting “Air India!” “Air India!” and panning the crowd to see if anyone was responding. I pulled the phone away from my ear for a minute, looked at him and confusedly said, “I am Air India” (but wasn’t everyone else there too?).
He looked at me, shocked, and said, “you have to come now!” I hurriedly gathered my things, told Lauren I needed to go, and rushed after him toward the check-in counter. The woman at the counter hurriedly looked up my info, checked me in, and handed me back my passport and boarding pass. The security man gestured toward the door, so I ducked under the gate and through the door as he quickly opened for me. Somehow I must have missed my boarding! Maybe when I went to use the restroom?
I ran down the temporary hallways leading to the plane and finally arrived at its entrance, huffing and puffing.
“Namaste, Madame, welcome to Air India,” greeted the flight attendant.
I braced myself as I boarded the plane, prepared to dodge the glares of the passengers who had been waiting for me. As I turned the corner to head toward my seat, however, I was shocked to see empty seats. Not just a few, but rows and rows and rows of empty seats, stretching the entire length of this massive international jet.
Where is everyone? I thought.
Slowly, I walked toward my seat. This either had to be some kind of joke or I was on the wrong flight. I sat down and called Laurenellen back.
“Did you get arrested?” she asked, only half joking.
“No…there’s…no one here….”
“Yeah, I’m the only one on this whole flight.”
I finished things up with Laurenellen so I could figure out what was going on. About a minute after I hung up the phone, I saw a family walking down the aisle toward me—and another family behind them! The flood of people kept coming until nearly every seat in the flight was filled. So I had boarded early?
I still am confused as to why that airline employee had panicked, had me check in and duck under the gate, only to run down the hallway into an empty plane. Sometimes crazy stuff just happens in India. As my former high school German teacher used to say with a flick of her wrist and a slightly British accent, “Just – go with it!”