We woke up to torrential rains the day of our return to D.C.
I always dreaded the puddle-jumper flight from Vieques to San Juan and rain never failed to dial up my anxiety level another notch or two. Yes, I’d come a long way from my hyperventilating, white-knuckle days of two and a half years earlier, but I was still haunted by a horror-fantasy involving:
(1) the pilot choking on a wad of gum
(2) a long and heroic struggle on my part to keep the plane aloft
(3) the inevitable spiral to a fiery death.
My only consolation was that the view on the way down would be truly spectacular.
By noon, the rain had tapered off slightly, which wasn’t saying much—it was still bucketing down.
“There’s no way they’ll fly in this,” Michael stated matter-of-factly.
“I hope not,” I chirped in an anxious, squeaky voice, appalled at the thought that they might even consider launching a tiny, single-engine plane into this churning maelstrom.
He called the airport to confirm his doubts. “Come on out!” the man who answered the phone told him cheerfully. “It looks like the storm might break up a little. If it does, we’ll give it a try.”
Michael repeated the conversation. “Give it a try?” I whined, my stomach churning. “What are they, stunt pilots?”
We closed down the house in record time.
Rain lashed the windshield on the way to the car rental office…
…but by the time we checked in the car it had slowed to a steady drizzle, and as we approached the airport it stopped.
Controlled pandemonium reigned at the terminal. Flights were called, then canceled. Airline employees with clipboards bustled (at least by Puerto Rican standards) up and down the airport’s circular central staircase. The rain came back in full force, giant raindrops pounding the tin roof.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 11:30. At 11:20, during a barely discernible lull in the storm, they herded us all together (actually there were only five of us) and led us through the rain to the plane thirty feet out on the tarmac. Then they sorted us by weight, as they always did, and distributed us according to some unfathomable and vaguely insulting equation.
Michael was instructed to take a seat two rows behind the pilot. Everyone else was seated next to or right behind him, while I was plopped down in the last row by the exit (or, by my definition, the “certain death”) door.