Tuesday, October 26, 2004

A Partisan Tale

As we prepared to fly to Washington D.C. a week ago Saturday, our plane had a technical problem at the gate at Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. According to the pilot, they were "getting an indicator light" in the cockpit, and it would take 15-20 minutes to fix.

As is sometimes the case, the 20 minutes began to stretch. "Sorry folks," he said, "the fast fix they tried didn't work, so it's going to be a little longer."

As it happens, President Bush (who's been spending a lot of time down here in the waning days of the campaign, as have Dick Cheney, John Kerry, Theresa Heinz Kerry, Bill Clinton, etc.) was due to speak in Ft. Lauderdale that same morning. As Air Force One approached the airport, our pilot told us that for security reasons, all activity on the tarmac would have to cease while the president de-planed and his motorcade left. In all, the presidential delay would add perhaps 15 minutes to the fix.

Shortly, the motorcade was off, and one could hear the sounds of the mechanics working on our plane again. At this point, our flight was about an hour late, 10-15 minutes of it due to the president.

A heavyset, obviously lesbian, American Indian woman sitting behind me began to get a little antsy. Since there was no estimate on how long it would take to fix the problem, the flight attendants told people to feel free to leave the plane to go back into the terminal for a time if they wanted to. The rotund lesbian was not really mobile enough to make it out, but she asked the woman sitting next to her to bring her back a Starbuck's.

After we had been delayed about an hour and a half, she began dialing her cell phone. "Yeah, I'm going to be late," she said. "Bush just landed here at the airport and they have everything shut down. I have no idea when we'll be able to leave....Yeah, Bush. Not President Bush, just Bush....I won't call him 'president'....Yeah, I'll call you later."

A few minutes later (with the whirring sounds of hydraulic equipment beneath us clearly audible as mechanics work on the plane), she dialed someone else.

"Yeah, I'm stuck here on the runway in Ft. Lauderdale. They won't let anyone come or go because Bush is here...Not 'President Bush,' just 'Bush'....We saw him land a while ago, and now we're all just sitting here and have no idea how long we'll be stuck here."

Another announcement from over the P.A. system: "Sorry folks, the mechanics are still working on resolving this issue, but unfortunately, we don't have any estimate for you yet." As I looked out the windows of the plane, I saw other airliners taxiing in and out of the terminal on either side of us. Planes are taking off and landing on the active runway. It's now been about 45 minutes since the president's motorcade left the airport, and about 40 minutes since the mechanics resumed working on the plane.

"Yeah, I'm stuck in Ft. Lauderdale," Pocahontas O'Donnell said to another unsuspecting phone friend. "Bush--not 'President Bush;' just 'Bush'--is here and they shut everything down at the airport....I'm about to miss my connection because of him," she said.

She called three or four more friends. Then she called the airline to try to book another connecting flight to Syracuse, and as soon as the customer service representative answered the phone, she said...well, you can guess what she said.

Amazingly enough, this line of talk continued even after the presidential motorcade arrived back at the airport and Air Force One had departed for its next destination. In all, our flight was delayed 3 1/2 hours before finally being cancelled, and about 20 minutes of that delay was attributable to the president's arrival.

But why should the facts get in the way of a good rant that also has the benefit of making one seem proximate to Important Goings-Ons (i.e. "Gosh, my interaction with the president is really screwing up my day...")? She called every poor soul who had the misfortune of having been programmed into her cell phone to tell them the same false story, trading on the president's importance to boost her own, even as she railed against him.

I never got to hear, but I wonder if she blamed Bush for the ultimate cancellation of the flight, too? Maybe the electrical problem in our plane was his fault? In John Kerry's America, there will be no maintenance problems with planes.

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