Lewis Carroll’s Song at Newark Airport
Despite the wealth of words I spent,
There's little to relate.
I saw a Delta flight agent
A-sitting by the gate.
"I raced to make it here by noon!"
I cried. "My flight's delayed?"
But the agent laughed just like a loon
And made me quite dismayed.
"Your flight has been delayed because
The cockpit filled with rain,
Entailing a seven-hour pause
To get it dry again.
And once we get it dry," he said,
We'll cover it with wax
To keep it sealed, unless instead
We tamp it down with tacks."
But I was reeling from the news
That I was therefore early,
Wondering at the agent's views
And more than somewhat surly,
But having no answer ready-made
As a passenger with no rights,
I echoed, "You mean my flight's delayed?"
And threatened to punch out his lights.
The agent retreated to his stand.
"The plane's in a holding pattern,
Circling without a place to land—
It might end up on Saturn!
This airport's just not big enough
For all the traffic here.
To stack planes ten-high would be tough
And might take half a year."
But I was thinking of a plan
To reach my destination
By catapult or catamaran
Or a bus to the railway station.
I vaulted the counter and grasped his snout,
Squeezing till he was blue.
"Now tell me what the delay's about!
And will we depart by two?"
He wheezed, "The airplanes are being replaced
Part by part, as they rust.
Your engines came in half-effaced
In a pool of shavings and dust.
Or sometimes the planes will all fly south
During the freezing season
And live in a trailer park hand-to-mouth,
Though you might not accept this reason.
"Sometimes there's been a pilots' strike
That grounds all planes for eight days.
You can purchase a private jet if you like,
Or wait for the pilots' pay raise.
The cleaners and caterers also rate,
Their unions have such sway.
Last time, they mislaid the pretzel snacks,
Causing five hours' delay."
I understood or thought I did
And released my grip on his jaw.
Maybe he wasn't trying to kid;
This was just things as he saw.
If a plane gets delayed, it may just be that
The propellers are screwed back-to-front,
Or the anchor is down; all the tires are flat;
The tail drags and is bearing the brunt.
Only now that my plane has departed
Into the cloudless sky,
Six hours late but started
On the sweet by-and-by,
As hastily as it will go,
I weep, for I will still be late,
My journey wandering and slow,
More sluggish than becalmed airflow,
As if I'd flown in on a crow
Waiting for the wind to blow,
The quad jets thrusting sweet but low,
Like giant mixers mangling dough,
And oh so oh so oh so slow.
This never-ending tale of woe,
Spawns memories that ever grow:
The flight agent I thought my foe,
Whose name I didn't catch—not Joe?
Whose every utterance meant "no,"
A-sitting by the gate.