Of Departures and Farewells

Jon MelegritoBy Jon Melegrito

The day before the world was supposed to end, I was scheduled to fly back from Detroit to Washington, after another week of doing “God’s work” (my term for being deployed as a “foot soldier” in what my union considers a “battleground state.”).  Of course, the prediction was a hoax.

But then I got a recorded call from US Airways, telling me that my flight to DC had been cancelled due to “unavailable crew.” I was directed to call a number to rebook my flight. The reason for cancellation made me wonder.  Did they walk out? Were they too drunk to fly? Were they worried that the air controller at the Reagan Airport in DC might be asleep again? Did they think the “Rapture” was going to happen the next day?

The soothing voice from customer service came back with an assurance that she rebook my flight the following day. “But I want to go home now! “ I insisted. “Tonight.”

She put me on hold for what seemed like eternity. Could the world end while I’m on hold, I wondered. Will it be a bang or a whimper? I waited.

Finally, she was back on. “Delta can fly you back tonight, Mr. Melegrito.” Yes! I pumped a fist in the air. The flight was so uneventful it was almost surreal.

Watching TV that night, I noted lots of news about the end of the Oprah Show. That’s it, I thought. The world as we know it would end with her last show.  My wife looked at me as if I’ve gone nuts. Look, I said, it’s a fitting climax to all the natural and man-made disasters we’ve experienced vicariously over the last few months: earthquakes, killer tornados, floods, tsunamis, foreclosures, evictions, bankruptcies, high unemployment. Not to mention air controllers literally sleeping on the job,  birthers demanding that Obama produce his birth certificate, Donald Trump running for U.S. President.

Remember that scenario about Filipino workers walking out of their jobs? Imagine hospitals and hotels, casinos and classrooms without Filipinos? Some would say, with good reason, that that<D> would be like the end of the world, here in America.

But it was a different scenario in Prince George’s County where nearly 1,500 Filipino teachers almost got fired.  Their world almost came to an end two months ago when the school board decided to terminate their contracts, which meant their visas will not be renewed. But the teachers fought back. And won.

So, the world just might survive after all, defying all those gloom and doom predictions. The signs are there:  bin Laden is dead. Obama’s birth certificate proves that he was, indeed, born in the U.S.A. Donald Trump bowed out of the presidential race.  The Big Three car manufacturers are finally making big profits. Gas prices might actually go down and home sales up. And my ampalaya<D> garden promises to yield another bountiful crop.

Meanwhile, “Lady Gaga” crashed the Despedida Party for retiring Amb. Willy and Mrs. Gaa at the Keybridge Marriott the day after the world was supposed to end. She danced and pranced, reminding everyone that it’s OK to let your hair down, release your inhibitions, feel the rain on your skin and not be too earthbound. The soft-spoken ambassador, who is battling lung cancer, gamely slid into the revelry without missing a beat. He joked about his doctor assuring him that some patients actually survive chemo treatments, that he may actually get six more months to indulge in his favorite pastimes of karaoke and golf.  And he took it all in, the tributes and paeans of praise, with good humor and self-deprecating grace.

The hundred or so well-wishers related in a touching way to how the ambassador was summing up not only his five years in the nation’s capital but his entire diplomatic career.

You’ll live to be a hundred, Mr. Ambassador. And “Lady Gaga” added a hundred more.

As always, the goodbyes never end.

Send your comments to jonmele@aol.com


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