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Eleven Stray Words

Why I was (briefly) America's Most Wanted

A friend and I were flying from San Francisco to Chicago. Five minutes before takeoff, a gate agent from the airline came on the plane and said to me, "Get your bags and come with me."

I got my bags out of the bin and followed her into the jetway. "Why?" I asked, "Is this a random security check?"

She said, "The captain refused to have you on this flight."

We walked up the jetway, me now realizing I'm probably going to miss this flight, and wondering, What in the world is going on? In the terminal, she pointed me to the black vinyl seats. "Sit there. A supervisor will come talk to you."

I'm waiting here, perplexed, looking out the window as the plane I should be on backs away from the gate. I know this airline has no more flights to Chicago for ten hours. I demand, "What's going on?"

The gate agent says flatly, "A supervisor will talk to you."

I sit back down. Suddenly it hits me: My friend had been ordered out of the line for a baggage check and thus boarded the plane much later than I. When ...

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