I went to Washington, DC for work at the end of April for a day – a fly in, work, fly out kind of deal.
My flight inbound was late, and in a mad panic to get to my destination I kept misreading my directions. Cutting across five lanes of traffic. Pulling frantic u-turns, which culminated in a doozy of a turnaround in the road leading into the Pentagon. As I pulled hard on the wheel to spin myself back out, I noticed the giant “NO U-TURNS” sign and gulped nervously. Peeling down the highway, I gulped even MORE nervously thanks to a black SUV that was now in my rearview mirror. For half an hour. Thankfully, I eventually lost my tail and made it to my function.
My return home six hours later seemed uneventful enough. It was a warm, sunny day and the good people of Washington were their usual friendly selves. I entered the terminal to check in for my flight and was surprised at how quiet it was. Too quiet. Like “Was there an apocalypse and I missed the memo?” kind of quiet. No people. I checked myself in and walked through the terminal still not passing anyone, and began to feel a bit anxious.
As I breezed towards security a loud chiming of the elevators rang out and echoed across the terminal. I paused and looked as the doors opened and out spilled what felt like hundreds of seniors. Family members. Small children. Balloons. All of them sporting matching t-shirts or jackets with an airplane blazed across the back (obviously not the balloons. Balloons don’t wear clothing). I blinked in surprise and pondered internally “the HELL?” as I was engulfed by the sea of seniors and pushed towards the security gate.
As I looked around helplessly a security guard happened to pass through the line, who stared at me in scrutiny. “M’am,” he started in a gruff voice, “You’re not supposed to be here, are you?” At this point I thought, “This is my tail from the Pentagon! They found me!” and I stared back, dumbfounded. “Come with me,” he responded as I was herded away from the crowd towards a new entrance point. He spoke in almost a whisper with the guard at the scanner before I was waved forward. As I neared the scanners, he smiled warmly and invited me through the staff entrance to avoid the line-up, and wished me a happy journey.
The sigh of relief that I exhaled was massive.
I picked up my things and walked briskly to the door out to the terminal, and observed the sea of seniors slowly clearing the checkpoint. “Score one for me,” I thought as I pushed through the doors and was greeted by another even more unexpected sight. And sound.
As I cleared the doors an energetic band erupted into song with a sea of American flags. As the band members realized I was, in fact, not a large group of veterans but instead a rather-confused blonde woman the song slowly petered out, ending with an awkward symbol crash as I stopped in front of them. “Erm,” I started, looking around the group, “They’re coming.” I motioned over my shoulder to the swinging doors and awkwardly moved my way around the band as they looked on in surprise. A moment later they erupted again and the rightful recipients cheered with joy, and I smiled as I went to find a quiet corner to read.
And that’s how I nearly ruined (but thankfully didn’t) an honor flight ceremony.