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Delay & dilly-dally

india Updated: Dec 30, 2006 00:09 IST
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If someone told me that I would have an entire evening by myself to read, chew on an order of chicken fingers and drain a couple of beers, the sounds of the football game chirping and crackling in the background, I’d guess that I’d found an all-too-rare window of relaxation in a hectic schedule. If I learned that this quality time would be spent at Washington Dulles International Airport’s Concourse B, I’d brace myself for untold misery and frustration.

On Christmas, to no one’s greater surprise than my own, I managed both at the same time. After a fishily jumbled explanation that included elements of both mechanical difficulty and inclement weather, my flight was put on indefinite hold. The powerlessness of air travel put me in the timeout corner.

The days leading up to Christmas were crowded, physically and mentally. Holiday parties fell two to a night. The sidewalks of Soho were perilously clogged in the rush for gifts. The fact that sharp elbows at the shopping mall have become a cliché does nothing to dull them when they connect with your ribs.

At home with my family for the weekend, there was hardly a solitary moment or meal.

Would I have traded the midnight gift-wrapping, the eggnog with friends or the cutthroat card game with Grandma for an evening on the far side of the X-ray machines? Not a one. But I needed a break more than I even realised.

Of course, I never would have taken one in the middle of the holiday madness without the help of JetBlue’s scheduling vicissitudes. And it hardly would have worked with a five-year-old to entertain or a connecting flight to fret over.

But in the empty hall that Christmas night, it clicked. I finished the entire newspaper before my original departure time, watched the Eagles trounce the Cowboys before the gate attendants had posted a best guess for takeoff, and tucked into my book with no real confidence that we would ever lift off at all. I ate and drank. I wandered, cruised and perused, with ample time to ponder the benefits of automatically flushing toilets and moving walkways. My only regret is that I didn’t get the 15-minute back rub.

I emerged from the unlikely day spa of the cavernous concourse refreshed, ready for New Year festivities. All told, the delay was over three hours. Another hour, I found myself thinking, and I could have finished my book.

— Nicholas Kulish/The New York Times