On Wednesday night I anticipated seeing those lights at a few minutes after 8 p.m., close to when the seatbelt sign went on and the cabin atendants on American Airlines flight 1082 were asked to prepare for landing. Chances are there would not be any handclaps like on good old Air Jamaica, but the appreciation of 'yard' would be no less intense.
This time around I ended up seeing the lights of Montego Bay and the Sangster International Airport from the air and Kingston's lights from the ground level of a Toyota Coaster bus. As for the Norman Manley runway's lights - forget it.
It was a very long way home on AA 1082, as a one hour and 49-minute trip was extended because of the runway light failure at Norman Manley.
The hitches actually began in well-lit Miami International, when the distinctive cluster of Jamaicans at D44 (trust me, there is no other gate in that airport where people lounge around quite like that) was told there would be a wait for attendants who had been on a Denver flight. OK, no problem, use the half-hour free trial Wi-Fi to notify the picking up crew at home e-mail and What's App.
The flight was corked, with sharp eyes searching out large hand luggage which was checked for free. We are on our way, the pretzels are handed out soon enough and the cabin is filled with the rustle of plastic. Apple juice runs out by back seats, but cran-apple and Minute Maid orange juice will do.
The engine note changes and you know you are about to descend into Kingston. Then comes the announcement that the runway lights are out in Kingston and you are headed to city lights 120 miles away from where you bargained for. Of course, a storm of comment breaks out, with several variations on "de airport nah pay dem light bill".
Even as AA 1082 landed in MoBay (no handclaps) we still expected to fly to Kingston. So did the flight crew (which, thankfully, gave regular updates). We heard the lights were back on and we would go after refuelling and cheered. We were told about the possibility of buses and were not pleased. We heard that the lights were off again and groaned.
Cell phone conversations were numerous (there was one woman sitting in the same row as me who was calling with updates while the plane was landing; I wanted to fuse the phone with her not very smart molars) and we are advised to open the air vents full blast as the cabin was getting hot.
Clunking underneath the plane gave away the game for those seated at the rear before the official announcement that the baggage would be unloaded and it was bus time into Kingston. I am not sure how much time we spent in the plane while it was on the tarmac, but it felt like at least an hour.
Clearing immigration and customs after 11 p.m. has its advantages - the officers don't want to see much of you.
Now, I half expected some comfortable Knutsford style buses, but lo and behold it was Coaster and another, more square type. I wound up in a Coaster, not least of all because I wanted to avoid a lady who complained a lot while we were on the tarmac. I do believe if we shared bus space her journey would have been shortened.
Suitcases stacked in the back and people settled in, off we go and I rediscover that there are tighter travel spaces, tighter than an economy airplane seat. And these seats do not recline. I do get a joke just before we set out - an uptowner accent offers, "if anyone gets hungry there is crackers and slamai." And a woman mutters to herself "a wha dat, mackerel?"
I miss a lot of the back and forth, I only hear about the fog outside Ewarton, because I am out like the runway lights for most of the trip. I do know that the Coaster makes darned good time and at a few minutes past 2 a.m.we are pulling up where people normally greet those coming out of the Norman Manley Airport.
The flight on AA 1082 and the 'ground plane' ride of a Coaster are over.
JAMAICA: A long way home on AA 1082 - Mel Cooke's journey after Kingston's airport runway lights went out
Con InformaciÃ³n de Jamaica Gleaner
SÃguenos en Twitter @entornoi