"How much longer do you think it might be?" a fellow passenger asked the reservation clerk.
"We have no way of knowing, sir. We'll be underway as soon as possible."
Russ and I gazed out the gate window at Portland International Airport, watching snow fall on the mechanics. An hour-and-a-half later, the crew completed the repair. The pilot queued up in a long line for takeoff.
Our arrival in Los Angeles, two hours late, sent us sprinting in vain toward the international terminal. Two elated standby passengers now occupied our seats on the closed-door aircraft.
"I can't believe it," I groaned.
Russ spent considerable time on the phone. Extensive negotiation enabled us to reschedule our flight and accommodations.
"Ladies and gentlemen: Please stow all electronic devices, ensure your seat backs are in an upright position and your tray tables are locked away," the flight attendant went through her usual spiel over the public-address system. We sipped our drinks and munched our peanuts as we thumbed through the in-flight magazines.
The pilot welcomed us aboard. "Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. The skies are calm. Conditions look good for a quick flight into Tahiti today."
Tahiti!? I dropped the magazine and my mouth followed. We'd made it on the jumbo jet, but our final destination — wrong.
"Excuse me, miss. I believe we're on the wrong flight," I said, grabbing the attention of an attendant as she hurried down the aisle.
"That can't be possible. Your destination is Tahiti. Is that not correct?"
"Yes, that is not correct. We're trying to get to the Cook Islands. We're not having good luck."
She shuffled us off the plane. Russ and I returned to the reservation clerk. "It does appear that there has been a small error."
Small error? More like a several-thousand-mile miss. The airline offered their apologies. They then got us on the next flight — with a first-class upgrade.
"Those are the kind of mistakes I like," I said, reclining in my plush seat. I dabbed at my face with a warm cloth scented with fresh lemon while sipping complimentary white wine from a crystal-stemmed goblet. I planned to read my USA Today after I'd finished my chef-prepared entree.
"Chicken or ponds?" asked the primly dressed Air New Zealand attendant, interrupting my planning. Outfitted in a cornflower-blue, double-breasted suit accessorized with an ascot and bowler, she presented a polished appearance.
"Chicken or ponds?" I thought to myself. Feeling hungrier than thirsty, I decided to go with the chicken.
"Seafood," she said, as if reading my mind. Perhaps my quizzical look gave me away. "Ponds are seafood."
I pondered for awhile. A light bulb came on. "Oh, I get it. Prawns."
I'd had my first exposure to the sort of pronunciation we'd be hearing often.
"You know, this is the life. I always wondered what went on 'the other side of the curtain,' " I said. "So this is how the other half lives."
"Don't get too used to it," said Russ. "We aren't always lucky enough to be so unlucky."
We slept through most of the 18-hour flight. "Fresh towelette?" the attentive stewardess offered, arousing us from our slumber.
"Don't mind if I do," I replied. I noticed dawn breaking outside the window.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee filled the cabin. I heard the landing gear drop. The wheels hit the Tarmac.
"We may have gotten off to a bit of a slow start, but if getting there is half the fun — this has turned into one sweetheart of a trip."