If you sense a build up you'd be correct. Before leaving Miami the gate agent announced that we would be stopping in San Juan, Puerto Rico to take on fuel to make sure we would make it to Salvador. This seemed a bit odd but I was happy to hear that someone was watching the fuel needle. Being thankful that the tardiness of our departure from Dallas hadn't caused us to miss our flight in Miami I didn't really give this much thought. The group happily boarded unaware of the fate that was upon us.
We landed in San Juan to take on fuel. Taxied to the gate? Then all hell broke loose. First, someone in the front of the plane passed out and by all reports turned blue. I did not witness this with my own eyes, but an alarming event. Flight attendants took action. Oxygen was administered. EMTs arrived to assist. Date with death averted, date with destiny for remaining passenger sealed. After all the commotion a flight attendant announced on the overhead that she was sorry but we would be spending the night in Puerto Rico. Now, did I mention the beer in Salvador. There comes a point in any crisis where you realize with startling abruptness that your plans where not in harmony with those of the fates. Everyone on the plane was standing on this precipice.
There is an old saying, "nothing bonds like a common enemy". Imagine the focus that roughly two hundred people now had on that enemy. From a bystanders point of view I cannot imagine how the seen must have appeared. Being to close to it emotionally my perspective is a bit warped. Sort of like how a theoretical physicist might explain that the closer you get to a black hole the more you can't take rational relative physical foundations for granted anymore. Chaos ensued. Realty as we new it was slipping away. The passengers turned on anything that represented American Airlines and the full emotional accounting of what had happened was met by the flight attendants on the plane and then immediately visited upon the gate agents that this travesty was put upon. Both parties couldn't have been more ill equipped to deal with it. The band of multi lingual, angry and entitled passengers hell bent on getting to Salvador completely resistant to the fact that they were not going to be enjoying that beer at noon. I was a bit embarrassed for humanity, to be honest. The anger is understandable, the lack of responsibility by the airlines is inexcusable and the coming together of these two things over the next twelve hours caused me to lose a little faith in the base line nature of my common man. The compounding of multiple mistakes and mistruths, in all likelihood, had caused this to happen to the unsuspecting passengers. Passengers who had invested a great deal in the happenings on the other end of the pipeline that was this flight. Seemingly, most of the passengers were not willing to let go of this and to counter that, no one at the airlines seemed to care. The band of gypsies had bonded for their fight against "the man"!
As passengers it had been communicated to us that we would have a room to stay in that would be paid for by a voucher we would receive provided to us by the gate agent in Puerto Rico. The same gate agents that didn't know anything about said voucher only minutes before we landed in San Juan. To say they were ill prepared for our arrival would be the understatement of the decade. The line quickly formed for vouchers and it became immediately apparent that it was not going anywhere. Many of the passengers would rather argue with the gate agent about their circumstances than accept their voucher. Long story short I spent the night on the lobby floor of the hotel at the airport only to be kicked out at 7:30 in the morning after about two hours of sleep. Most of the families in my group got a room. I am thankful that the Chongs took Connor with them to let him sleep on the floor in their room. A room that had one bed for the four of them. This seemed to be the norm. Confirmed by the Vandams who had an even smaller room with one bed.
This entire exercise confirmed one thing for me. Anger is a deconstructive emotion to which there is no end. You can poor your energy into it and it will give you nothing back except more anger. I feel for the passengers. In this case the airlines had thrown them into a pitch blend of anger that would have unsettled even the most patient person. They should be ashamed of the waste of energy they visited upon us, yet I really don't think they give a rip about it. More corporate soul sucking without anybody taking responsibility.
In the morning I reconnected with the Chongs who let me shower in their room. More good Karma for the Chongs. We grabbed a bite to eat and headed for the line to get through security, then joining the rest of he families for a margarita before heading for the gate to finish the trip. To add insult to injury we were delayed another hour. Finally we were allowed to board and in the collective wisdom of the angry gypsy band someone decided they had to give us the intel they had on why we were forced to stay the night. Perhaps they thought it would assuage some of the emotion we were feeling about the extra night's stay. He was even invited by one of the attendants to give his accounting over the intercom. Nearly the minute he picked up the intercom and started speaking he was invited to join the captain on the jetway for a conversation. Needless to say the passenger quickly took his seat vibrating with unresolved anger and fear that he would not be allowed to travel on to Salvador. He stayed seated for the rest of the flight. Then the captain had his turn.
There was some talk about the captain abandoning the flight at that moment. My hope is that this is just rumor. I want to have more faith in him than that. Then he took to the intercom. The man that had caused the entire turn of events was finally willing to tell us himself why we had been forced to stay the night in San Juan. The simple message was that he and the crew had a very long and difficult day and in the interest of passenger safety he decided to stay in Puerto Rico for the night rather than risk flying tired. The pilot was tired, and he didn't feel like flying any more. That's why my beer came late. That's why two hundred people were thrown into chaos. That's why we were all angry. There was no apology offered at this point but we were now going to head to Salvador including the passenger threatened by the captain.
There is so much more that could go along with this story, but I fear I would lose your interest if I took it any further. Needless to say I am happily writing you from La Manga Rosa in Salvador. I quaffed my first beer with the Buley's while enjoying the friendship and camaraderie of an entire bar full of soccer fans watching the Holland Mexico match. Harmony and balance have invited themselves into my life once again.
Know that you will always have more than you need and never have less than you want. Signing off from Salvador, Brazil, wishing you peace and happiness.