What I’m Thinking When I Fly Without Enough Coffee

Goodness. I just realized that I’m flying home from Chicago late this evening, and I haven’t even said my piece about the trip out here yet. Before more airport entertainment and frustration bumps the stories and personalities I already have on deck, here are a few comments I owe various random strangers and loved ones from Tuesday morning:

Red Top Cab Company: I understand that most of you can’t drive, but it’s still your job.

Alison and I crashed at my place Monday night with the intention of cabbing to the airport. Yes, there was freezing rain that evening and in the early hours on Tuesday, but we should not spend 45 minutes on hold (with tortuous music) just trying to be told by Red Top that they don’t have anyone to send our way to get us to our flight. Came down to it, I dug us out and drove to the airport, but I’m going to hold my parking receipt for the week against the boys in red.

Need-Coffee-Now Guy: NO COFFEE FOR YOU!

That, when he got charged for my coffee. I’m in line at the coffee kiosk in the American terminal, where you order at one end of the cart, then work your way down to the end to receive your cup of hot caffeiney goodness and pay. Waiting to order, I’m standing slightly out of line, but anyone who flies knows precisely what I’m doing. When Need-Coffee-Now Guy approaches and asks, “Are you in line?”

“Sure am,” I responded, and nodded my head for extra emphasis. So … he steps in front of me and waits in line without … having … ordered … anything. So I shrugged, ordered my coffee, and waited behind him. And chuckled just a little when they asked him to pay for it.

NCNG: “I didn’t order that.”

Me (mildly): “No, I did.”

NCNG: “You said you weren’t in line.”

Me: “I said I was in line.”

NCNG (addressing the barista): “I’m not paying for that.”

Me (less mildly): “Then get out of my way so I can.”

NCNG (trying not to go through the ridiculous line again): “Can I order here?”

Confused Barista: “Order back there.” … and gestures, for extra emphasis.

Me (not even a little mild): “You order back there, where I was standing when you cut in line. Excuse me, jackass.”

Look on the bright side, douche. This time you’ll actually be waiting in line to receive something.

To Chilly Willy: You’re doing it wrong.

I know I’m not going to dissuade people from talking on the phone in the terminal, but When you are repeatedly yelling, “What?! What?!” into the receiver, I’m going to guess it’s because you have a heavy woolen shawl wrapped around your head, and you’re trying to listen to whomever you’re torturing with this conversation through it. And you’re responding through yet more of that scarf which is wrapped around your mouth, so you’re shrieking at that person, as well.

Don’t try to tell me the face covering is some kind of decency thing, because I (everyone) overheard the conversation you were having.

To United Airlines: This is why we’re flying American.

Granted, American is having some issues getting flights off the ground with the snow and ice, but they’re the kinds of issues that experienced travelers expect to crop up. My advice? Don’t get on the intercom and tell a terminal full of passengers that you’re delaying their flight two hours because of a “crew rest” issue in Tennessee. No one wants to hear that you’ve booked your flight personnel on a schedule that is so aggressive that it has actually become illegal, that they aren’t sleeping enough to satisfy federal statute.

“Not to worry, dear passengers,” you trill. “After a brief catnap, we’ll have these otherwise exhausted pilots here in a jiff to take you to wherever you’re planning to crash enroute.”

Similarly, I’ll admit right up front that I’m not an expert on cold-weather flying issues. But if you’re going to de-ice a plane at Dulles Airport and fly it over to National to pick up passengers — some 40 miles and however long in transit time — how about you make up some other reason for the delay in acquiring the plane? Alison and I looked at each other, then out at the snow and ice outside, and agreed fervently that we would never board a plane to Chicago that hadn’t even been de-iced at the airport from which we were taking off.

To Jet Blue: Your marketing is so good, it’s spooky.

So we arrive at the airport, having fought our way through the snowy, icy hell that is Arlington. We have to be there on time, of course, but the airline has no problem delaying the flight by half an hour at a time … it shifts from 0830 to 0900 to 0925 to 0950 to 1030 to 1100 … eventually we’re leaving home three and a half hours late, but the airline makes damned sure that everyone is there and poised to go whenever they get their own shit together.

Jet Blue, on the other hand, used to send me a ridiculous number of emails advertising low fares to here and there, but it’s tailed off quite a bit in about the last year … presumably because I’m not buying. But Lo, JB, you hit me with an email literally within about 30 seconds of the high point of my frustration with travel? Bravo. And also, WTF, because if that’s not coincidence, what kind of ridiculous occult access do you have to my brain?

To Short Asian Couple: Ha! Congratulations.

We arrive in Chicago and I’m waiting for Alison while she hits the head. There is a VERY old, VERY short East Asian couple walking down the main corridor between the gates, and they’re doing the old-couple thing: she’s chattering, gesticulating, laughing and he’s walking along and nodding sagely and tolerantly at everything she says. But she’s getting even more animated as they go. Then I put the pieces together … they’re both ridiculously short … and then I notice that there’s a blond white girl (about 4’1″) walking down the corridor right in front of them that’s even shorter than they are. And that’s what she’s laughing about, pointing at, even slapping her husband to make sure he knows.

This couple was walking three feet behind the woman they were laughing about (loudly), so they get huge points for a) finding someone shorter than both of them, and b) having such a good time without getting caught by anyone but me.

To texters and clueless walkers: New Rule: I’m allowed to kick you.

For free. No kickbacks, bitch. If you’re in a crowded corridor of an airport and you’re trying to read your email as you blunder along aimlessly, I get to walk up to you, announce myself to make sure you enjoy it, and kick you as hard as I can. Corollary rule: if you’re pulling a suitcase on wheels as you’re douching your way along the passage, I get to kick you in the head.

To Owl Guy: Stop looking at me.

We’ve all been here, right? You’re in a crowded place – a subway, a waiting room, line at the grocrey, whatever – and you accidentally meet someone’s eyes. A minute later it happens again, by coincidence. Eventually either you are staring them down, or the other way around, depending on who is the more paranoid of the pair. Well, on the day in question, sir, you were the more paranoid because every time I glanced even into your half of a crowded terminal, I could see you were staring me down. Maybe you thought I was shady; maybe you figured out that I have a very attractive girlfriend; hell, maybe you thought my girlfriend had an attractive boyfriend. Whatever the case, stop staring. Or at least blink.

And, to Alison: You’re probably right.
The airplane is probably not the place to hold a year-end review of flight safety procedures, or to talk about what does and doesn’t make sense with airport screening. I probably don’t need to pick this moment to tell you how I’d go about getting the flight crew to come out of the cabin despite new regulations, or speculating how I’d go about smuggling dangerous substances onboard, or discussing the real odds of survival in a crash no matter how many colorful inserts and videos they make about putting your head between your knees.

But serious, these seats have so little leg room that I don’t think I could get my head between my knees. And if it was that dangerous to have your cell phone on, terrorists could stop worrying about bombs that detonated from cell phones, and just turn the phones on – they don’t even restrict them. And despite the possibility (probability?) that someone sitting nearby has a fear of flying and an even greater fear of wackos talking about how to take down the flight, these things are interesting to me now.

Alison misread the napkin, so I wrote down what she thought it said and we giggled for about five minutes.

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One Response to What I’m Thinking When I Fly Without Enough Coffee

  1. Paul says:

    You have a good eye for what goes on around you.

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