By now, my readers understand just how much I travel. I've teased you with little tastes of places I've travelled to. I've also shared some of the very funny stories I've had on route to my work. This week, I'm going to share a bit about what I actually see along the way....This is part one..Boarding the Plane.
So, I'm just ready to board a flight to Houston, my new United/Continental hub. The flight is just over an hour, but my traveling companion has already asked 13 times, "Where is the gate?" "Do we have enough time to make it to the gate?" "Are they serving food?" Yup, you guessed it, a newbie traveler. He is just this side of me slapping him off the tiny steps we have to climb, (in the pouring rain,) to cram ourselves, along with 46 others into a small jet that reminds me of a sausage grinder. I knew there'd be trouble.
We have boarded first, as I have status with the airline. I bring the brat along, just to be nice. I immediately know it's a mistake. Of course, I am carrying one tiny purse, as I know the overhead bins are about the size of a walnut casing. The newbie traveling with me is heaving a 200 lb. trunk, three backpacks and a bag full of greasy-smelling burgers. I plop my rearend into a 6" by 12" seat, allowing my overhang to first drop, then expand through the armrests. Junior is headed toward the back of the plane, bags slapping the other passengers like they had all been fresh to him. I lean into the aisle to watch what he's going to do with all of the luggage I told him to check. He tries like mad to push the first of his chunky backpacks into the sliver of a hole, uniquely called "an overhead compartment." I've seen bigger holes in a new screen door.
I pull back into my seat and wait for what I know will come. The flight attendant now has a line out the plane door and all the way up to the check in gate, and she's just not happy at the time it's taking this young man to "stow" his luggage. I see her grab at the microphone and crisply say, "In order to make an on-time departure, we ask that you QUICKLY stow your luggage and step into your seat to allow others to pass by."
I stretch my nexk to see what he's up to again. People are jostling him, trying to weasle by, but his third backpack and oversized piece of luggage are wedged in the aisle, making it impossible to pass. He has his arms wrapped around the second backpack in what looks like a full Nelson and is wrestling with it as he tries over and over to squeeze it into the tiny opening. A big, burley man with a huge head and no neck is mumbling something to him. I vaguely hear the terror in the newbie's voice as he squeaks, "OK," and falls into the seat across the aisle from where he'd said he'd be sitting. The big guys then lifts the suitcase and drops it onto Junior's lap where he lays flailing as the big guys and numerous others squeeze by.
By now, the flight attendant's voice is pitched so high, I have no further need of new earring holes. She yells once more into the speaker she has clutched between her pure white fingers. "PLEASE STEP OUT OF THE AISLE TO ALLOW OTHERS TO PASS BY YOU, SO THAT WE MAY HAVE AN ONTIME ARRIVAL." My friend sheepishly rises, and tries once again to jam the remaining bags into a slot the size only an envelope could enter.
All of a sudden, in one big huff, the flight attendant wrestles past the passengers who have clogged up the aiseway, and pushes herself right into Junior. "SIR." Her voice is as sharp as cheddar cheese. "THAT won't fit into the overhead compartment. We'll have to gate check it." Junior protests for only a moment, his eyes catching the nasty sneers on everyone's face who is standing behind the curt attendant. She jerks the suitcase and the two remaining backpacks from his hands and hurls them one at a time back up the aisleway. The ensuing passing of the suitcases reminded me of a bucket brigade in an old-time fire department.
In just moments, the demeanor of the plane had changed from choas to peace. I leaned once more into the aisle to check Junior's status, before pushing my face up against the window to watch the gate agent pull back the covered gate. I heard the gate close and saw the ruffled flight attendant give the thumbs up to the agent. Feeling a little jerk, I knew we were on our way. I glanced back at the gate just in time to see three pieces of luggage, two backpacks and an oversized suitcase being heaved onto an open luggage carrier. The rain was beating on the suitcases as though they were an old rug. I wouldn't make the effort to tell Junior until we arrived that his suitcases were left behind. It would be a good lesson, don't you think?