The flight to Heathrow was a red eye, and after take-off dinner was served. Before cabin lights out, complimentary drinks were brought around, and Jade ordered a glass of wine. Before Ellen could raise an eyebrow, Jade cut her off, “I’m old enough to drink in international waters and in Ireland, Mom, and this is a Pub Tour.” And Jade was surprised when Ellen ordered a glass of wine, too. White Zinfandel – a wine Jade could never understand. It was all the negative points of wine without any of the positives, like good flavor. But every woman deserves freedom from judgment in her nightcap selection, and Jade gave Ellen her airline blanket before turning out her reading light. Ellen was chronically cold, comical since they lived in the desert.
As they drifted off dreaming of their ensuing escapades, the pilot came on the loudspeaker. “Folks, I have some news,“ he said in a rather serious tone. “There is no danger at this time.” Instantly all passengers were wide awake; this was not a phrase one wanted to hear while airborne. “We have had a fire on board. It’s bad to have a fire on a plane, especially when you are flying over the middle of the Atlantic, people.” Ellen’s face was barely hiding her panic. “Someone smoked in the lavatory, and brilliantly, instead of putting out the cigarette, they threw it in the lavatory waste bin. Smoking on a flight is illegal, folks, and tampering with an airplane smoke detector is a punishable offense. Luckily for us all, another passenger was waiting to use the same lavatory and not only identified the fire and alerted the airplane staff to safely extinguish the fire; but also identified the smoker. This person will be escorted off the airplane upon our arrival in London and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Thank you for your time, and again, I want to reiterate that there is no current danger aboard this aircraft.”
Ellen was by this time gripping Jade’s forearm in a grasp beyond firm.
“Jade, this is what happened to the TWA flight, I know it. Remember that flight? They took off from New York City and just fell out of the sky into the black ocean. The investigators pulled the wreckage up from the sea, even those black boxes or whatever it is that tells you why the plane went down, and they still never figured it out. This is what happened to those people – don’t you think? I mean, it really could be.”
The attention chimes came on above Jade and Ellen, and the cabin lights came up, too. “Ladies and Gentlemen, we are pleased to offer an additional complimentary beverage service during this transatlantic flight- please have your order ready when we reach your seat,” purred the head stewardess, in an obvious effort to subdue the nerves already on edge throughout the plane.
Ellen went rapidly raving on with her revelation, almost as a conspiracy theory subscriber would, but Jade shrugged her off. “Mom, seriously, the fire’s out and we’re already stuck on this flight anyway, so there’s no point worrying about it. Just go to sleep and when you wake up we’ll be in London. Who could ask for more than that? Everything will be fine, I promise.” Jade thought to herself that she might have even managed to sound legitimate in her endeavor.
Jade nodded off to snooze in her coach window seat, a commendation to her age, while Ellen continued to fret about the on board fire. At some point during the overnight flight, Ellen must have drifted off, because when Jade awoke to the sun rising slowing over the ocean, Ellen was snoring in a slack jawed, un-ladylike fashion.
Jade watched the red orb, mirrored in the water beneath her, in a sphere of mauve and gold. As she would grow accustomed to, Jade found her thoughts wandering to all corners of the impossible, the infinite. She would learn that when traveling, anything became attainable, and opportunities abounded all around her, even if only in her imagination. There was nothing like an airplane flight to expand one’s mental horizons. Some people took drugs to get this high, but Jade realized the travel bug was just as freeing, and much healthier for the price. Jade thought of her grandmother, whose passing had made this trip possible, and of her own future. Jade’s grandmother, Evelyn, had told her once that she had wished to go to college but hadn’t been able to because of World War II. And here Jade was, on vacay from college at the very school where her grandfather had worked as a Finance VP after his service in the war.
It was a different era, and Jade felt compelled to prove her worth, even though the effort was, shall we say, somewhat needless. Jade was hard headed in an independent way, the kind of woman who never anticipated to marry, planned to support herself, and had no experience against a glass ceiling. She considered a man’s world a thing of the past, while roadblocks were merely speedbumps.
As the sun assumed it’s more normal assignation with the horizon, the flight attendants subtly began clanging dishes in preparation for breakfast service in coach. Ellen awoke, mumbled her appreciation for the late stage sunrise, and adjusted the recline of her plane seat. Breakfast service was unremarkable, and the pilot soon announced descent toward London.
Ellen and Julie both thought of the new world that awaited them, cute accents and tea service; neither could fully fathom all that another culture had to offer. Not that the ladies hadn’t experienced culture outside their comfort zone, after all border town Mexico was only 60 miles from home, and during years of safety offered the allure of tourism and bargain shopping. Provided one parked on the correct side of the Dennis De Concini Border Gate.
The ladies were coach class for this flight, and so they missed the arrest of the anonymous lavatory smoker as he deplaned. But by the time they’d climbed out of the cramped coach seats and gathered their carry-ons, both girls were excitedly interrupting one another with vacation fantasies.