Awaking this morning differed in the extreme from other mornings so far this week. I set the alarm for 5:45am last night, planning out my schedule:
5:45 – Awaken, shower, pack toiletries, make coffee, smoothie, pack lunch
6:45 – Load truck, buy chile-lime cornuts at 7-11 for Dad and Uncle L.E.
7:00 – Drive to airport
7:30 – Check in, relax and wait to board plane at 9:00am.
I like having a plan, even if I don’t follow it. Following the plan is not my thing, having one is.
The tiny hammer continues to hit each bell mercilessly at tip top speed. It seemed nostalgic at the time of purchase. Now I wish I had something else luring me from sleep. My eyes can’t quite open, but I reach over trying to stop it. I don’t use the alarm enough to know exactly where the turn off button is. I force my eyes open, it doesn’t help. I can’t read anything without my glasses. Thank goodness the earplugs lower the volume a bit. I push a few buttons and finally, silence.
The drive is easy. I pick up my friend who lives ten minutes from the airport. He’s going to drop me off and park my truck on his street. How nice to avoid the whole shuttle thing! Sah-weet.
I have my electronic boarding pass that I both printed and downloaded to my phone. One day I’ll try the phone thing, for now having the pass in my hand brings me comfort. I zip on through, no lines to wait in. I’m feeling smart and prepared and happy. I searched the baggage size requirements online but somehow missed that it costs $25 to check a bag. I think I saw that and assumed it did not pertained to me. Ah, the joy of denial! I put my bags on the scale.
“That’ll be $60 for the two checked bags”, says the sophisticated woman attending me.
“There’s a fee to check bags?” I say even as the computer screen appears in my mind…I want to be upset. I want to protest. I know she’s right.
“There is.” She says, matter-of-factly. “Would you like to pay that cash or credit?”
How many times a day must she repeat this to lame passengers that don’t do their research. She’s not phased one bit. I don’t want to be that pain-in-the-butt person.
“Oh, then I need to take one on board.” I speak the obvious, and pull one off the scale.
“Do you have any liquids, lighter, or matches?” She continues with no judgement or impatience. I appreciate this very much.
“I have matches and liquids.” I admit, hoping I remember where they are.
“The matches can go on board the plane, but not in the checked bag. The liquids need to go in the checked bag.” she instructs helpfully.
“I’ll need a minute to regroup,” I say, gathering my bags. “Can I just do that over here?” I point to a spot in front of her counter, but out of the way. She nods. I remove things and rearrange them in front of the world. No one pays me any mind, but still…I pay the $25 in cash, and proceed to the next line. And so it begins, the lovely airport dance.
The bag is heavy, because I hadn’t planned on carrying it. I’m now wearing my coat that I had originally placed in the suitcase. All my pride in how little I packed yesterday slowly dissipates as I revisit the purpose for all the stuff I’m carrying. My arms hurt. They begin to stretch slowly, like Olive Oil’s. It’s a long, slow walk to Gate 48A. I see a woman with a small rolling Gucci suitcase and matching bag. So compact, so smart-looking, good idea. I want to ask her if she also checked in a bag or two, but I’m embarrassed. Now I’ll never know. I prefer to believe that someone as put-together as she looks is capable of traveling that lightly. I’d really like that to be me someday soon.
The delightfully dreaded scanner waits ahead. I pull over three plastic bins, pull my laptop out of its case and place it in one bin; my purse and lunch bag in another; pull my black and pink Sauconys off my feet, remove my coat, scarf, hat and place them in a pile on the third bin. My carry-on follows.
“Any metal in your pocket, or liquid in your bag?” Inquires the 6’3” guard. Has it been a few hours since he had his first cup of coffee, or is he just beginning his shift?
“No sir.” I smile. I think a quick second, then add, “I ‘sirred’ you in the youngest sense of the word.” Clarifying before walking through the scanner. He smiles a big, friendly, young smile. This isn’t so bad, I think to myself as I cross through the scanner, gather my things, put my running shoes, coat, scarf, and black Stacy Adams fedora back on. I strap my computer bag diagonally over my chest, grab my purse, and lunch bag. As I lift the extra bag, reality pulls me, heavily toward the gate. Using the restroom is a bit bothersome, but I’m grateful that it’s clean and stocked and free. (Have you ever discovered a restroom attendant waiting for a tip in a foreign country and realized you had no small bills in their currency? Her hateful glare boring into you as she hands you a tiny non-absorbent paper towel that melts like cotton candy in your hands? Not fun.)
I finally reach Gate 48A, get my laptop out, begin eating my delicious cantaloupe, when I hear: “Passengers headed to Dallas/Ft. Worth, your attention please. This flight will be completely full so we will not be able to accommodate all the on board baggage, we encourage you to check in any bags at this time, free of charge.” Ah, I’m in luck! (The free of charge bit.) The young man directly in front of me wears a white T-shirt, green Sunwave shorts, flip-flops. He’s going to Dallas wearing that? I wonder. I’m pretty sure it’s cold in Dallas. Maybe his final destination is Florida or something…I’m grateful for the strong elastic waistband that holds his shorts on as he bends over to look in his bag. I’m not forced to see more than I care to this early in the day, and that’s a good thing.
Back at my seat, I hear eight Brazilians engage in lively chat. The girls talk about their iPad and the boys talk about girls. Listening to the melodic language makes me happy. It’s like taking in the aroma of freshly baked cookies. Sweet memories float through my mind. I want to go over, like a friendly puppy and say, “Oi! Eu falo portugues. Eu amo o Brasil! — Hello! I speak Portuguese. I love Brazil!” But it might be awkward, or wierd, and I don’t want to lose my seat.
They’ve called first class passengers and groups two and three. I’m in Group 2, but I prefer to sit here typing with personal space for a bit longer. I relent and get in the boarding line. A very tall man, seven feet or more is ahead of me. All of a sudden I notice that the woman speaking to him comes to my shoulder, if that. I’m 5’4”, so that’s not very tall. She’s telling him about getting clothes tailored to fit. They have this in common. He’s pulling both rolling bags and I vaguely remember that the attendant asked someone if this man was carrying her bags for her and how nice that was of him. This must be them. What are the odds? There’s a wait probably a backlog of people attempting to stow their luggage overhead. I look at the man and woman engaged in conversation. I think of how lucky I am to see people that are so different from me in one sense. We probably have a few things in common.
Before I begin to wonder about those things, the line crawls forward and I set foot on the plane. A sticker notifies me that there’s wi-fi on this flight. Attendants and the pilot say hello and good morning. First class passengers sit in their wide two per side seats sipping orange juice. Could it be freshly squeezed? Nah…right? Nah. Now I enter the narrow, three per side seats, locate 10F and see a woman in my seat by the window. I smile and say hello. She and the guy on the aisle seat get out completely so that I scoot my way in.
The plane takes off and I see the Playa Del Rey, the beach, the three palm trees from Saturday night’s sunset! This is me now on a plane over the water, taking off to a far away place. For some reason Chet Baker begins to sing “I’ve Never Been In Love Before”. I like it. It’s soothing. I picture his beautiful young self from the cover of the My Funny Valentine album. When the captain says we can turn our devices back on, I search iTunes for the song, and play it. Nice. Chet confesses dreamily: …it’s all too strange and strong, I’m full of foolish song…so please forgive this helpless haze I’m in, I’ve really never been in love before…and then he plays gorgeous horn of his.
My neighbor works varying shades of blue thread on her needlework project. She’s coming from New Zealand and headed home to Missouri. Her business is truck parts. In this part of the country trucks are those big, huge things, not my little Rav4 [smile]. She met some of her clients in NZ, they’ve become friends.
“What kind of business are you in,” I ask.
“You ever watch CMT’s Trick My Truck?” she asks.
I know what CMT is, thank goodness, I do have a little country in me, but I admit that I haven’t seen that show. Her son was on that reality series. He was the boss man. I ask about that. I wonder if I can catch it on Netflix? She tells me about the tornado that came through Joplin in May. I think about Route 66. Joplin, Missouri, Oklahoma City is mighty pretty…It’s a good think thoughts don’t float above our heads like the ticker tape on CNN! She tells of the devastation, and how grateful they are that so many were spared, and how people came from all over the country to assist in the clean up. I wonder why people continue to live in tornado country. I continue to live in earthquake country. I guess we hope it’ll never be our home that’s destroyed. Where else would we go?
We’re flying over dry land filled with circles. Every trip I wonder what that is, and forget to ask. Squares with circles in them. Some of them are green or brown, or cut into fourths or halves. There’s a circle with a smaller circle in a quarter portion.
We’ll be landing in thirty minutes. Home sweet home. Bags, please be there waiting for me.
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