The Power of Flight Delays

Scary fish

At Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle

Anyone who has traveled by air in the past century has heard some form of the following words “Sorry, everyone, there has been a slight delay. We are getting a warning light on the (landing gear indicator/temperature gauge/coffee pot system) and so we are waiting for a mechanic to check it out.”

Followed a little later by: “We are returning to the gate while we fly in the part, but don’t go far as we will hopefully be re-boarding soon.”

And then: “We’re flying in a mechanic, so that will hopefully do it–but if you need to rebook your connecting flight, just talk to the gate agent.” (Everyone runs to get in line.)

Sadness? No, not if you’ve got a great book. Those of us who crave more reading time hunker down for hours–possibly many delicious hours–of full-immersion reading.

Reading for hours at a time without interruption has for me become a huge, rarely experienced luxury. I have to get in as much reading time as I can in smaller snippets–kids and work and projects and writing all demand attention.

But small snippets don’t work for every book. Some novels are difficult to jump in and out of like that, especially long, sprawling stories that require keeping track of lots of characters.

I recently had a reading-intensive trip to Seattle. My flight was delayed by a coffee pot light malfunction* (true story), and so I missed my Minneapolis connection (several times, as I kept re-booking and missing flights.) Finally, I was able to get Minneapolis and then a flight to Seattle, but connecting in Houston. A total of almost eighteen hours to read!

Fortunately, I had the perfect airline-delay books: Connie Willis’s Blackout/All Clear time travel novels. These two books are really one very long story, which I loved–but I’m not sure I would have loved them as much if I’d only read them in short bursts. I think the tension in these novels set in London during the Blitz might have been dissipated for me if I’d been slogging through them in little bits in my regular life.

I’m flying to Baltimore soon. It’s a direct flight, and only two hours, but I can hope that something in the pre-flight checklist is a little off, and maybe I’ll need to rebook and have to connect through LA or maybe Amsterdam.

Hmm…definitely need a good, long novel…

*To be fair, I think the airplane crew was worried about the light indicating other electrical problems. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t just about coffee being a mandatory element of flight.