One more adventure survived, I thought. I theorized that if I didn’t acknowledge aloud how the plane skidded askew down the sandy runway, it didn’t.
Two days later, my husband worked up the audacity to say, “Were you looking out of the cockpit window when we landed? Sideways!” Was it more horrifying that I had a view through the cockpit window or that we nearly tumbled into the Eleuthera International Airport stall belly over back?
At the Pineapple Air desk in Nassau, I reluctantly surrendered my carry-on bag, then my husband and I and a smattering of additional passengers exited the double doors to the tarmac. An airline employee locked them behind us. As I mend the rips in my recollection, stitching together snatches I deleted, it occurs to me that she anticipated our urge to sprint back and rattle the hinges until someone met our desperate eyes and denied us access anyway.
Peering around the airfield, I searched for Pineapple Air jet. “Where is our plane?” I muttered, even while ascending the steps of a 12-seat, double-prop, puddle-jumper. Two pilots kneaded themselves into the cockpit. One clicked open his window to accept the flight manifest scribbled on a yellow legal pad page, which he crumpled under the solar-powered calculator balanced between their seats.
No stewardess pointed out the exit door or alerted us to life vests under our seats or told us how to use oxygen masks. There were no life vests. There were no oxygen masks. The exit was obvious.
No one instructed us to fasten our seatbelts or stow our personal items. Five people did. Three didn’t. A woman in front of me played Candy Crush on her phone during takeoff. No one cared. If the plane went down, flying debris, seatbelts and cell phones would be the least of our worries.
Eight backseat drivers watched the cockpit duo manipulate the controls. I braced myself for the pilot on the left to look over his shoulder to reverse the plane.
Aft, I spotted my suitcase piled in the cargo hold. It was carry-on luggage after all.
Once in the air, white caps boiled in the ocean not far below us. I nudged my husband and pointed to a duct-taped square on the ceiling. “That’s where someone tried to dig out a life boat,” I yelled over the engines. “Planes like this float,” my beloved concocted, but he checked his pocket for his passport in case the authorities would need to identify his body.
I took inventory, too. If we went down in the Caribbean, we could collect rain in my shoes. My inflatable neck pillow would hold my head above water. I rehearsed the junior-lifesaving technique of tying knots in the legs of my pants and filling them with air for flotation. At the bottom of my purse, I found a pen with a flashlight on it. We could signal for help and cross the lost off of the manifest. I had a ration of pretzels saved from the Atlanta to Nassau flight.
Fifteen minutes later, while I dug for safety pins so we could attach our passports to our underwear, the landing gear connected with earth. I looked through the cockpit window to see blue sky replaced by scrubby landscape. Our plane screeched down the runway crossways, at odds with aerodynamics.
It righted and decelerated. One of the pilots casually extracted himself from the cockpit, opened the door and reached out to stop the propeller. The woman in front of me still played Candy Crush. We had survived another adventure that I was content to believe didn’t happen, until my husband forced the issue. (And if you're wondering, YES, I would do it again.)