Friday, December 25, 2009

Plane to See (Westport, CT)

As if I hadn't had enough of the snow in Richmond, where it doesn't even belong, I've gone into the heart of snow country in the middle (or the beginning) of winter. I'm in New England, amidst lawns and fields and fences covered in the white stuff that won't melt until June or July because it's so flippin' cold. I am, quite obviously, completely out of my mind. But I had no choice.

I don't get to see my family often, so I have to take the opportunity to do so even when Nature conspires against my nature. I have two weeks off during ChrismaHanaKwanzaa, so I took off a coupla days ago for points north. Let me tell you about the trip....

I get to the airport two hours early, as required. Already have my boarding pass but stop by the USAir counter, anyway, just to make sure all is in order. It's 7:15 a.m.

The clerk asks if I want to change my ticket to the flight that's already boarding. I say no. But then she tells me that my flight, scheduled for departure at 9:27, is already delayed. So I jump on the chance to go while the going is good.

"You'll have to hurry," she warns me.

"What if I don't make it?" I ask.

"No problem. We'll put you back on the original flight."

So I head for the security check point. I pass through without a glitch but with some pleasant banter with the screeners.

As I jog, rolling my roll-on toward the gate, I hear the final boarding call for my flight.

I break into a trot, but that's when my carry-on bag #2 (the suitcase masquerading as my purse) decides to slide around and off the handle of carry-on bag #1 (the rolling suitcase proud to admit its true identity). I attempt to rearrange #2, and #1 slips out of my grip and crashes to the ground.

By the time I've gotten myself and my gear into gear and arrive, sweaty and panty, at the gate, there's no one at the gate. Suddenly, a uniformed attendant appears and asks if I'm on this flight. I nod and she shoves two yellow tickets at me, instructs me to attach them onto my bags, and says that my carry-ons won't fit on the flight.

Frantically, I try to wind the elastics around my carry-on and carry-all-the-rest, all the time contemplating being fitted into the last empty space in the plane (a.k.a. flying sardine can). And I am anticipating that the obese man, who is destined to sit next to me and who should have purchased a double row to accomodate his heft, will be overflowing into my lap and beyond, trapping me like the victim of a volcanic eruption, under flowing mounds of ashy, flabby flesh and fleshy flab, but at least I won't be cold. (Yes, I realize that volcanos spew lava, but work with me here, okay?)

I jerk, upright and uptight, as the gate attendant hisses (yes, HISSES): "Run!"

I charge down the tunnel and reach the door that opens into the airplane, with its smiling stewards performing their preflight rituals. Except that it is quite plain that there is no plane.

There is a staircase (a.k.a. a metal ladder or stadder), however, which I bump my bump-on luggage down. I'm on the ground now, searching for my flight.

About 200 paces in front of me rests a solitary plane. As the sweat on my palms turns to ice, I wheel towards the metal bird that will deliver me to my destination. Its wings sparkle so brightly in the cold winter sunlight! And I am so intent on flying away, so focussed on this particular eye-soar, that I don't see the slicks of frozen water and/or oil (a.k.a. ice) that cause my legs to fly out from under me. I land, stunned, on the knee that always takes the fall, the one that -- just that very morning -- I'd realized with a contented sigh, I hadn't even thought about for a while because it no longer hurt.

I gaze towards the plane, which I now realize has no stadder that I could have scaled, and wonder if they've already sold out my original flight and if I'll be spending my impending staycation in bed, alternating applications of frozen bags of peas with hot compresses on my throbbing knee.

By chance, as I heave myself upright, I look to my left. There is a flight attendant, eyeing me from the top of the stadder of the plane that is awaiting me. A luggage handler scurries over and asks if I'd like to be taken back to the terminal for medical attention, but I no thank him away.
I limp towards the plane, trying to preserve whatever dignity I never had.

The flight attendants all hover. "Are you okay?" they chorus.

"Oh, sure," I say, wincing in a dignified manner, as they remove bag #1 from my grip and take it to be stowed in the bowels of the airliner. "Where should I sit?"

"Anywhere in the back," an attendant answers attentively.

The plane is practically empty. I sit in my own row, actually my own three rows, the other four passengers equidistantly spaced. The obese man who was fated to sit next to me has obviously been stowed in baggage, along with the other things that wouldn't fit into the compartments above our heads, below our seats, or within the cabin.I seatbelt myself in and prepare for takeoff.

Twenty minutes later we are informed that our departure will be delayed indefinitely so that the wings can be de-iced. I consider requesting a doggie bag to place on my knee.

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