I wanted to kiss that Northwest Airlines captain who pulled his airplane out of line for takeoff in order to rescue my family from a stupid situation. Let me just tell you right here, whenever my husband and I switch drivers in the car, we also switch keys—even in the deep cold of a Minnesota winter.
It was one of the rare occasions my husband had to travel for work. With three elementary age kids I homeschooled, and two more soon to arrive into our family, the timing for this travel was not the best. However, I planned ahead for some fun times (you know like eating TV dinners) and decided to make the three days he’d be gone an adventure.
We picked him up at work so the kids could enjoy a visit to the airport. I decided to let him drive the rest of the trek. It was a cold January day so I left the car running and climbed over the gear shift to settle into the passenger seat. We parked in a short-term parking spot as I quickly exited the car in order to keep control of three curious, energetic scamperers. My husband grabbed his luggage and a small hand as I clasped two others and headed to the terminal. Who thinks of car keys when your traversing a busy parking ramp? We didn’t.
This was during the day of low airport security and four of us could accompany a lone passenger to the gate. My children enjoyed seeing the airplane their dad would be flying on. In short order we hugged and kissed goodbye as I tried not to thing about the days of single parenting. We stood at the window and waited so we could wave as the airplane pulled away (even though he likely wouldn’t be able to see us do so). It was a delayed wait but fun to watch the ground crew change a tire. Hmm. I guess airplane tires get flats, too.
Finally, the plane began backing away from the gate and my children and I turned to make the long trek back to our car. Gratefully, I’d had a long-held habit of grabbing my keys as soon as I’m ready to exit a building, even if it’ll be long before I get to the car. It was a safety measure I’d learned back in high school to have keys—a potential weapon of self-defense—in hand, looking confident and moving quickly in public parking arenas. In this case, it was one less detail to tend to while herding my threesome into the car.
But we were not going to be entering that car so easily, as I searched my purse and found no keys. Panic turned to horror as I realized my keys were in my husband’s pocket. I spun around and saw the plane driving off. My husband had been a trans-Atlantic flight attendant for several years and I recalled him telling me that under no circumstances will a pilot return to the gate once they leave the blocks.
I’m sure I was blanched white as I approached the gate agent, pointed out the window, and said, “My husband has my keys and he’s on that plane right there.”
She looked out the window, looked at me and my three kids, thought for a few seconds and said, “Let me make some calls.”
My mind was spinning, How will we get home? No, not home; we can’t get in the house. Maybe we could taxi to a friend’s house and stay with her. Three days? No clothes. No clean underwear. No toothbrushes. No food. This would be an adventure and we could make it work but … ahhh! Lord, we need your help!
Meanwhile, my husband is comfortably reading in his tight little seat, taxiing toward takeoff. A flight attendant approaches him and quietly asks, “Are you Robert Johnson? Do you have your wife’s keys?”
That question did not fit his I’m relaxing on an airplane while my wife and kids are heading to fun at home scenario, but he reached in his pocket and discovered two sets of keys. I can see his look of mortification as our two worlds collided together in his pants pocket.
“Just hand them to me and I can get them to her,” she reassured him. So what did she do? She took them into the cockpit, handed them to the captain, who in-turn opened his window (What? Windows in the cockpit can be opened?), and hands them to a ramp agent standing on his truck. Moments later that agent walks up the ramp and hands me my keys.
I’m so glad the pilot never said a word to the other passengers about the reason for their second delay. Hours later, as my husband and I shared our versions over the phone, we laughed at the ways that story played out. What an embarrassing situation for us both, but we learned some valuable lessons.
One, be super possessive of your car keys.
Two, pilots (and airport personnel) have soft hearts for mothers with young children.
Three, God has an even softer heart and …
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28, NASB)
If God can use the sins/errors of others to accomplish His purposes in our lives, then why wouldn’t He use ours?