Elaine!! Bring Back My Plane!!

3 min read

Do you remember near the the end of "The Graduate" where Dustin Hoffman finally realizes he's in love with Kathryn Ross and wants to be with her?  He jumps into his Alfa Romeo and races to the church where she is about to be married.

Ben (Hoffman's character) gets to the church, runs up the stairs and spots Elaine (Kathryn Ross) at the alter.  He's too late - she has just gotten married. It's too much - he erupts in despair. 

“Elaine!!”, Ben shouts again and again.  He pounds on the glass wall separating them.  “Elaine!”  Elaine sees him and suddenly her desire for Ben overwhelms her.  “Bennnn!!!”, she wails. And then all hell breaks loose. 

Great scene.  Unforgettable.  To be moved to such passion – and such despair.

I’ve often wondered: would I ever be capable of expressing so much passion, so much emotion in an explosive, defining moment like that?  

I didn’t think so, and yet once in my travels I did just that.  

And like Ben, I too got fast results.   

                           Beautiful Barbados

So me and the guys were doing a video shoot in Barbados, a beautiful little Caribbean island. It’s a tiny country, within the British Commonwealth system, full of charming, colorful surprises:

·       Ancient, stone windmills dotting the island.

·       One of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere. 

·       The plantation house where a young George Washington stayed           with his brother, Lawrence.

Since our client was the Barbados Tourism Authority, we of course photographed all these things, plus astounding beaches, coves and delightful villages. 

                  But Let’s Get Back to the Story

We’ve finished the job and we’re ready to leave lovely Barbados, except we’re stuck at the airport.  Just stuck. Nothing moving. Plane’s delayed.  It’s getting dark.  Five hours of waiting, sitting on our suitcases, cursing a well-known American airline. 

Finally, a plane comes in for us. We are moved to a new holding pen. Now… more waiting.  More shuffling like an Eastern Bloc bread line. Back when they had bread lines. I don’t think they do anymore, but we do.  Our American carriers are bringing them back.     

Now we’re on the plane, headed for Miami - tired, sweaty but finally on our first leg, going home. 

Of course by this time all flight connections are shot to hell.  The flight attendants helpfully read out new flights.    

My wonderful crew is Rochester-based, I’m LA.  So as we hit the ground in Miami and race through customs, we do our quick goodbyes until the next shoot. 

And I’m off.  But I don’t know where I’m going.  Got my gate number but where’s the damn gate?  It is very late and I’m very late. And there is NO ONE around from the airline to help. 

I run stupidly in one direction.  I run stupidly in the opposite direction.  I’m burning through time. Then I spot a sign for my gate, indicating a new corridor and I am off like the Flash - but a little faster.  

I hit the new corridor and it’s as clean as the day they laid the carpet.  I mean it is emp….ty.  No one is there.  And you know what that means.   All the plane business, all the boarding and stuff  - it’s  done.  Everyone’s gone home. 

Still fighting reality, I race down the empty corridor up to my gate and see it through the window. There it - is my plane! Dumbly rolling away.   My friggin’ plane – I missed it by seconds.  I’d come all the way from Barbados!  I was so close. And this is so wrong.

                                  And I Snap

Leaping to the glass wall separating us, I pound it.  “My plane!” - I pound harder. “My Plaaaaaane!”   I punch the glass with the fury of a young Dustin Hoffman just starting his career.    

The pilot sees me and the two of us lock eyes.  

Thank goodness, he doesn’t yell “Jonnnnn!!”, a la Kathryn Ross.  But he does something even more amazing.  He stops the damn plane!   We stare at each other.  And then the plane magically starts to roll forward, back to the jet way - back to get me. 

Wha…. What?  I’m trying to process what’s happening.  I stopped the plane?  I stopped the great, big aeroplane?   And now my emotions are catching up with me.

So you remember that moment at the very end of “The Graduate”, when Dustin Hoffman and Kathryn Ross together, run from the church, jump onto a Santa Barbara city bus and take their seats all the way in the back?  

They sit there, trying to understand their feelings about what just happened. All that they have put into motion. And you can see the ripples of thoughts and feelings crossing their faces.  In fact, they don’t even know what to feel.

Well that’s kinda where I am as I stare at the massive jetliner reversing course… just to pick me up. It’s like the giant plane… no, the entire airline industry is apologizing to me for its impatient oversight. How could they have not waited another few seconds for Me!

Maybe that’s why there’s still some simmering rage within but also now, a feeling of power and, truthfully, a little gratitude welling up. 

This turnabout happened so fast I am just not sure how to feel about any of it.     

Should I hang onto some righteous indignation? Give them the hairy eyeball and show ‘em no one messes with Jon Lapidese?

“Sir, can I see your boarding pass?”. 

I swing around to see the gate agent who has just showed up. “Sure, yes! Of course.  Thank you. Oh, thank you!”

OK…I guess I’m going with gratitude. 

As I head down the jet way, I am indeed happy they came back for me.  But, y’know, also pissed at the airline for putting me through: 

·       Waiting five hours in Barbados. 

·       Not having anyone on the ground to help me in Miami. 

·       Pounding the glass like an unhinged wackjob to stop the         plane. 

Man up. They owe me this. Show some defiance.

So I step onto the plane and face off with 30 rows of judgmental stares.  Or roughly 200 faces, all looking me over in disapproval.   

“Uh, sorry!”, I squeak with a smile. 

“You putz”, I think to myself.

I hurry down the corridor, accidentally banging my carry-on into peoples’ arms and legs.   “Sorry, sorry, sorry…”    

I hate myself. 

This goes on until I find the one, lone middle seat. Next to a very elderly lady who gives me a scowl.  I smile back at her and cram my carry-on under my feet.

I close my eyes and let out a sigh. Who cares?   I made it and after 20 hours, I’m on my way home.  Just five more hours to go.

Those five hours whiz by at about five hundred miles per hour. 

In no time I’m back in LA.  Safe and warm… just like in The Mamas And The Papas song.      

Except my bags are still in Miami.