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March 2018

When I Was Called to the Cockpit About Carrying a Gun…

by Marlene Goldman

Airplane Cockpit Sketch

Airplane Cockpit Sketch

The warning started even before I boarded my United Airlines flight to New Orleans—a capacity flight with too many bags, some would have to be checked. It wasn’t looking good.

I was one of the last on and the overhead bins were all shut. I was told to head to the back of the plane where I was informed there was no more room. I begged and pleaded. To no avail.

“United has lost my bags before,” I pointed out. “There is an expensive tripod in here.”

I walked with my bag to the bag tagger and again reiterated that United has lost my bags so please be careful with this one.

As I headed back to my seat all the way at the rear of the plane—the Meetings Today content team always travels in style—I was intercepted by one of the flight attendants.

“The pilot needs to see you in the cockpit,” he said, handing me a paper printout of a boarding pass with my name and seat number.

I thought this was related to my bag issue.

“I already checked my bag,” I said.

“No you need to go to the cockpit,” he tried to explain. “I can’t say the reason out loud.”

Was it my comment on United losing my bags? Did I offend someone?

Was I about to get kicked off the flight? Should I sit down and refuse?

Would I get dragged off the plane screaming and be splashed all over social media?

By now the whole plane was staring at me as I headed to the front of the plane where the attendant who had tagged my bag briefly intercepted. There was some code scribbled on the ticket that obviously gave me clearance, and she smiled and showed me into the cockpit.

It was smaller than I imagined. I didn’t see any extra seats if they were making amends about previous lost luggage and letting me sit with the pilot.

The pilot took my boarding pass and said, “I know you are armed, so I just need to go over some things.”

Armed? I’m actually a pretty good shot at the shooting range and as a yoga instructor can knock a few people over with my standing bow pose, but I wasn’t packing any heat.

“I just have a tripod,” I said, seriously worried they thought I was a danger to the flight for being uneasy about checking my bag.

He looked at me and then again at the ticket, where my name was clearly printed. He could see I had no idea what he was talking about.

“Is this you,” he asked, pointing to my name?

“Yes,” I replied.

Hmmmm… He got up and handed the ticket to someone and said there had been a misunderstanding. It sounded like someone else was armed and the seat number was mixed up.

He apologized to me and said I could return to my seat.

“No worries, this is awesome,” I blurted out.

He looked even more confused. “Awesome?”

I took one last look inside the cockpit, since it’s not likely I’ll see one again, and chuckled all the way back to my seat, exaggerating a smile so the passengers wouldn’t think I was making a fuss and holding up the flight.

My only regret was not asking for the coded boarding pass as a souvenir.

“There was some mix-up about the thing I can’t say, but it’s all settled now,” the attendant said, smiling.

Confusing me for a sky marshal didn’t exactly instill confidence I would ever see my bag again, but I’m adding it to the resume.

As a footnote, the bag arrived and I was set for my four days in New Orleans exploring what the city and the NOPSI Hotel can offer groups. You can read all about my meetings press trip to New Orleans here.

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