Friday night was an example of travel as it should be. I was heading to Dallas for a weekend helping my family move and I was on a tight schedule. A 5:40PM flight down south on American, two days of intense moving, and a 6:35AM flight back to Boston Monday morning (to be back in the office by 11). I hadn’t left myself a whole lot of room for error.

I’m not sure if it’s just that my expectations are just so low at this point, but I was bowled over by how smoothly everything moved along. I left the office at 3:40, was home by 3:51, in the car with my bags by 4:02, and at the airport by 4:20. Having printed my boarding pass earlier in the afternoon, I was through security and incredulous that there were no delays by 4:30. What to do with myself?! So much time! No delays!

I meandered through the new American terminal in Logan where I ran into a work colleague on her way to Italy. We commiserated over Alitalia lost luggage horror stories as she nodded at her carry-on holding two weeks worth of clothing. I nodded at my carry-on holding my weekend of clothing—they were the same size.

Marveling at her deft packing abilities, I continued my lazy walk around the terminal, ears attuned to the loudspeaker, waiting for the inevitable announcement that my flight was delayed. I glanced at the departing flights teleprompters and noted the glowing red of other delayed flights. In fact, the Dallas flight after mine was delayed. Yet mine, remarkably, was still listed as on time.

Silently I scoffed. Surely, on a busy Friday night, with rainy weather up and down the Eastern seaboard, we would have some kind of delay? I watched the rain softly spreading itself over the tarmac, creating pools of shiny wetness. Still, planes moved along with no signs of slowing their gliding patterns of take off and landing.

By 5:15, I was on the plane with unfries, some kind of new healthy yogurt (Uberry I think?) and a delicious feta, cranberry, nut and mixed green salad in hand. And amazingly, the plane was a 757! Almost every flight recently I’ve taken on American (no matter the length) has been on an MD-80. Don’t get me wrong, MD-80s are fine. But for flights longer than 2.5 to 3 hours, MD-80s can get pretty boring. On American, MD-80s have no TVs, and are generally older. I had the fun experience on travelling solely on MD-80s back and forth to California in April and no matter how much you love reading, writing, doodling, creating Excel spreadsheets, napping, and playing every game imaginable on your computer, eventually your computer battery dies, napping gets old, your eyes go cross-eyed from the reading, and you are left staring at the back of the seat in front of you.

I was thrilled, thrilled to be on a 757 with more leg room….and movies! Then, almost as if American was intentionally playing with my heart, I discovered after take off that not only are there TVs, American has now partnered with NBC Universal to provide in-flight entertainment. Goodbye CBS “Eye on American,” hello SNL, The Office, The Today Show, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, and more! [This actually began in March, but given the fact that I have been stuck in perpetuity on MD-80s, I missed the announcement.]

I was shocked. What sort of parallel reality am I living in? The flight is on time, it’s on a bigger plane, the in-flight entertainment has ramped up in all kinds of fun ways, I’m not in a middle seat, and I discovered a new delicious yogurt in the American terminal!

Then it happened. They shut the door of the plane on time, but as they pulled the ramp away, the plane didn’t move. We sat. Oooooook, here it comes. The routine I’ve grown to know so well. I waited for the announcement from the pilot to let us know what sort of delay we’d be facing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Nothing.

Fifteen minutes of nothing as I nibbled my unfries. Still no announcement from the pilot. The flight attendants had run through their security announcements, but no word about the delay.

Then we moved. So slowly at first, I don’t even realize we were pulling away from the gate. And then speed. We lumbered with determined swiftness toward the runway. No planes ahead of us. In the blink of an eye, we were in the air, bursting through rain clouds as the plane struggled to get above the storm.

Despite a few bumps as we reached cruising altitude, the weather did not affect the flight at all. In fact, midway through (as I reveled in the enjoyment 30 Rock), the pilot came on to announce that in fact we would be in Dallas early. What?! I pulled my ear buds out to see if I heard correctly. Early?! Not possible.

Texas sunset from a window seat

Texas sunset from a window seat

Indeed. We began our initial descent at 7:30 (Central) and were taxi-ing to the gate by 8:05. Then, to cap off the perfect travel, a final unbelievable moment—sunset. As we moved toward the gate, a magnificent spread of open prairie sky with fierce blazes of crimson, yellow and orange set off the outline of DFW. I gasped. I forgot how much I love the vast open sky over Texas. I struggled to get my dinky phone to capture the beauty of the moment. Alas, it’s measly camera feature was not up to the task. But the memory remains. The perfect flight. The perfect homecoming.

(Unfortunately the return trip was not so perfect…stay tuned.)

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