The Delta 2064 FAR-MSP…..CAT…..DCA Story.
By Brad Beckstrom.
Sitting at Gate 21 Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport. I had about 40 minutes until my next flight en route from Fargo, North Dakota to Washington, DC. Hanging out with Rami Matan Even-Esh, better known by his stage name Kosha Dillz. Rami is a freestyle rapper that rhymes in English, Hebrew, Spanish, and often in a language all his own. I met Rami last year at Misfitcon, a small event in Fargo North Dakota for creatives, misfits, and troublemakers.
Like everyone else I met at #misfitcon, we hit it off, and we were catching up on all the great people that we hung out with in Fargo this year and talking about what’s next. Rami is getting ready to head out on the Vans Warped tour this summer and is slammed recording new music and launching a kickstarter campaign. He mentioned he really wants to tour Asia but said he just doesn’t like flying that much.
I, of course, jumped in and said go. I gave him my whole ”I waited too long” spiel about world travel. And, I added, flying is safer than driving or walking around US cities, looking at maps on your iPhone. He offered me some coffee but I told him I planned to sleep all the way back to DC. I was also swearing off alcohol for at least a week after all the amazing cocktail and beer “sampling” I did at misfitcon. I wished him luck on the tour and headed off to my gate. I was going to go grab some spicy chinese food. My plan was to enjoy my szechuan chili chicken, do a bit of reading, then pass out. None of that would happen.
Just as I was getting to the gate with my Chinese panda bowl in hand, 43 sixth and seventh graders arrived at the gate with matching backpacks for VIP boarding. They were on their way to visit the nation’s capital. Each of the Day-Glo backpacks included their name on duct tape. Their excitement was palpable.
After a brief moment of dread, I thought how awesome. How amazing is it that these sixth and seventh graders are getting to fly halfway across country to visit Washington DC? I grew up an hour away and never got so much as a half-day field trip there on a crappy yellow bus. It’ll be a trip they’ll never forget. Just then the hipster in front of me checked into the flight by waving his Apple Watch at the barcode reader and walking onto the plane. Ain’t life cool?
After a slight delay, as Delta realized there were more people booked than seats available on the plane and proceeded to offer free vouchers for those who would be “bumped”, we were on our way. I apologized to my seat mates in advance about any odors from my szechuan chili chicken and explained that I just didn’t have time to eat, rushing to the gate. The teacher sitting next to me said no worries “I bought 43 six and seventh graders with me on this flight. There’s not much that’s going to bother me.” Cue foreboding music.
The pilot came on the PA declaring it would be a beautiful afternoon for flying with clear skies all the way to Washington. He asked us all to welcome some of our first-time flyers on board this afternoon. Fist pumps went up in the air from many of the sixth and seventh graders. They were headed to DC, no parents, livin’ large, airplanes, hotel rooms, snacks and soda, Air and Space Museum, lots of cool stuff to see.
Great, finally on our way. After we reached altitude, I popped the lid on my Panda Bowl… and began picking at my spicy chili chicken. That’s when it happened.
Whop Bam Bang
What the F………
Then Whop Bam Bang again
The guy two rows ahead bounced up so high that his head hit the luggage bin and popped it open. Stuff was flying everywhere, backpacks, magazines, phones. Flight attendants had hit the deck and were holding on to the drink cart.
My Chinese food literally rose up in front of me then blasted off in four different directions covering people as far as two aisles away. They didn’t care, because we were all about to die.
Whop Bam Bang, Lights off, lights on, red lights on, beeping, somethings fucking very wrong.
The entire plane screamed in unison as what felt like the bottom dropped out and we all went down again. I was towards the back of the plane and ice cubes and soda cans flew everywhere.
I actually yelled “climb motherfucker climb” like I actually knew some solution to this situation we found ourselves in.
Whop Bam Bang again and then the terrifying high pitched whining sounds of jet engines, revving, like something out of the TV show Lost.
Then it stopped. It was over as fast as it started. The kids were all still screaming. The seventh grader behind me screamed “I will not leave this life sitting next to Slowinski!” Just like a seventh grader, had to get one more dig in, just before he thought it was all over.
Slowinski, still crying, shouted “I will never fly again. We are driving back to Minneapolis!”
Still no word from the cockpit. The Delta flight attendants were amazing, calming the kids down and helping everyone clean up their stuff. I could see some of my carrots and snow peas in the woman’s hair across the aisle, luckily the flight attendants helped with that as well.
Our attendant leaned in and said “in 14 years of flying I’ve never felt anything like that.” I cracked up as she told me that the entire bucket of ice cubes rose up in front of her face and then flew off in different directions around the cabin. We had both experienced the same bizarre moment of weightlessness. So crazy, but I was still shaking.
As we leveled off, the pilot came on and shared that what we had just experienced was a rare occurrence of severe clear air turbulence. It’s called “clear air” because it’s virtually undetectable and does not appear on any of the plane’s instruments. I thought it sounded similar to another unpopular phenomenon like windshear. The pilot then said that it was a perfect example of why we need to stay buckled up even when the seatbelt sign is not illuminated. Tell that to the poor guy who came out of the restroom. He also mentioned that there would be some paperwork just to make sure everybody was okay.
His announcement was so full of metaphors about life. Buckling up for those unforeseen bumps. The kids from Minneapolis had earned their wings today. I never would get that nap or the Chinese food. The flight attendants were offering cocktails which I gladly accepted. Then, just like that, we started our descent and our flight was over, hugs, handshakes, back slaps all around.
Every year when I come back from the amazing group of people that are #misfitcon, I always have a bit of a letdown when those inevitable challenges just crop back up. This year I got that all out of the way in about three minutes.
I was thrilled to be home and, after a hug, Kelly asked me why I smelled like Chinese food.