On Your Mark, Get Set...
March 23, 1999-
March 23, 1999: I am performing with the New Jersey State Ballet all week at the State Theater in New Brunswick. Carmina Burana, principal percussion duties and the complete instrument rental for the production. Start making a list of all the instruments needed for these performances and see who will be performing in the section.
March 24: Took a call to play a series of concerts in Prague and surrounding countries next week. Even though this is short notice, I accepted. Check flight information, call airline and confirm regular seat.
March 25: Called Czech Air, ticket confirmed, CSA from Newark. Flight departs Sunday, normal time, normal seat. I forgot how much equipment I need for the Ballet concerts. Concerts are going well at the State Theater. Performance time is two hours. Need to start packing for Sunday, bring new timpani mallets, passport and overnight bag.
March 27: We have our final performance tomorrow at 2:00 p.m. in New Brunswick, the group sounds good.
What have I DONE!!!!! Tonight we lose one hour due to daylight savings time kicking in. CALL THE AIRLINE!!! Are we leaving at the normal time of 5:35 or 4:35? If the flight leaves at 4:35, I don't see how I can possibly make it to the airport in time.
March 27, 10:00 a.m.: Worst fears confirmed; CSA flight is departing at 4:35. My concert will finish at 4:01 in New Brunswick!! 34 minutes to make it to Newark Airport is not possible...Sunday, March 28: I am sitting on the plane as I type: the events, which have just concluded, are extraordinary to me.calling CSA, only to discover the one hour time change of my flight, I tried to find a replacement for my 2:00 p.m. performance in New Brunswick. But it was one of those Sundays where every percussionist on the east coast was working. I called all my friends and even my graduate students; no one was available.previous performances that week, I knew that the performance would last exactly two hours and one minute if we started on time. The trip from the theater to the Newark Airport is 30 minutes IF there is no traffic. This would get me to Newark International Airport by 4:31 p.m. Before the performance began, I spoke with the conductor and my section about my predicament. The conductor told me she would help out by beginning exactly at 2, not the respectful 2:05 for any late-comers. My good friend and percussionist Alan offered to pack up my rented instruments and drop them off at my studio. I accepted. He has a van and assured me my instruments were in good hands.to the more-than-normal size of the production (including large number of dancers and instrumentalists), additional stagehands were also required to ensure the success of this production. As fate would have it, I knew one of them well. After explaining my situation to Pierre, he reassured me that he would hold a parking spot for me at the stage door. With my car pointed north for a quick getaway, I felt more secure in my unbelievable challenge. The conductor instructed me not to wait for a bow or curtain call of any kind; “just split” were her words. So before the final note had the chance to decay, I was out the door, in my car and on my way.brother had come to the performance, and had the car all set to go. Also, he would drive and drop me off at the airport, so I wouldn't have to put the car in long-term parking. Once I reached the car, my testosterone kicked in, and I told him to move over and let me drive. My brother drives fast, but I drive faster; he agreed and moved out of the driver’s seat.contractor for this Ballet lives down in South Jersey. She advised me not to take Exit 14 (the one I was certain to take) to the airport, because I was coming up from the south. "Take 13A," she suggested, “it is more direct and should cut off a few minutes of travel time.” I never take Exit 13A but then again, I never travel in from the south, always the north. I was hesitant to take her advice but, reluctantly, I decided to place my trust in her suggestion.
I pushed the speedometer to a new high. I asked my brother to call ahead to the airport and ask for my favorite airline representative, Irena Jehlicka (Jehlicka means needle in Czech and for good reason). When Miss Jehlicka picked up and heard of my emergency, she assured me the flight would be held. I had my brother ask Irena to have one of those motorized carts ready at the ticket counter to hustle me over to the departure gate. (Looking this over, it never would have happened this way in the wake of 9/11).off the turnpike at Exit 13A, I pulled directly into the airport, cutting off several people in the process. Finally, I arrived at the entrance for International Departures. I hugged my brother and grabbed my bag. Darting inside, I spotted the waiting cart for me, jumped on, and off we sped. As we hurtled down the corridor, Miss Jehlicka checked my passport and handed me my usual seat, 2A. The entire time the cart driver was on his walkie-talkie shouting, "Hold the door, hold the door!" Reaching the gate in record time, I jumped off, thanked my deliverers and sprinted down the ramp. The last few steps, I slowed down, trying to gain some composure. My hustle had been admirable, yet the entire Business Class section shot me a collective look that would kill. The gentleman sitting in 2B had all his personal belongings on my seat. Through the slits which resembled his eyes his look said "you have got to be kidding me." I asked him to remove his belongings so I could take my place.
The ever-attentive stewardess brought me a cold drink in one hand and moist, warm rolled-up mini-towel in the other. After a moment or so, I was feeling refreshed. I opened the wonderful little package CSA Business Class offers, filled with tooth paste, tooth brush, ear plugs, eye mask, cologne, deodorant and my absolute favorite item, slippers. I removed my shoes, which covered my swollen feet, and slipped on the little pieces of heaven.
By this time, I was completely in decompression mode. I knew we were moments, if not seconds, from taxiing to take off. It was then that it dawned on me; I remembered one of the percussionists had bet me $20 that I wouldn't make it to the plane on time. Easy money., the plane, my business class companions, the couple of hundred in coach and I have been sitting here now for nearly two hours. The door is jammed, and they cannot get it to fasten securely. It is now 6:20 p.m., nearly two hours after the scheduled departure time.