There are things I’ve come to expect with plane travel: I will always be frisked; I will always get delayed; and, I will always somehow be paired with the most awesome of characters. Travel brings out the worst in most people – delays, long security lines, fussy children, lack of adequate snacks. While it may not be their finest moments, it’s like cocaine for a writer or even just a people watcher. There are a thousand stories waiting at every gate to be observed and then creatively twisted to our heart’s content.
After guzzling my mocha, I headed to the curfew laden TSA checkpoint.
While waiting my turn in line, I pondered if the warning on the sign is real and what exactly you do if a terrorist happens to keep late night hours. Maybe it’s a self sufficiency thing: before 8:00 we got your back…after then, you’re on your own.
I dutifully answer the questions of the TSA agent who seems to think we are long lost relatives because our last names are the same (he’s from Zimbabwe, by the way), obediently accept my place in the frisking queue after the body scanner once again fails to label me as an innocent, well meaning country girl, and head to my gate for boarding. I suffer a brief moment of terror when my seatmate appears wielding two Mountain Dew sodas and a copy of Fifty Shades of Gray.
Thankfully, my fears are almost unfounded. With the exception of some ill-timed citrus scented burps, occasional giggles like an embarrassed 8 year old and some decidedly more adult sounding gasps of breath that caused her hand to clasp her mouth, the trip was uneventful. Mentally disturbing but uneventful. Unfortunately, I knew this didn’t bode well for the second leg of my trip.
Yep. Delayed. No surprise really. Slowly, everything on our end of the airport became listed as delayed- turns out we were being grounded by air traffic control. No idea why and we were never told but it made for some really unhappy passengers. Having expected nothing less, I moved away from the chaos to venture off in search of food. I came across this deli that had a snazzy looking sandwich even beyond airport standards. Shockingly, it tasted as good as it looked.
Still smelling of sun dried tomatoes, provolone and fresh cucumber, I ambled back to the gate to find us already boarding. I slipped into place (having already missed my boarding group), praying I would still get a window seat.
Success! I got my window seat and, like the best seatmate ever for a writer type. A cross between Robert Plant and David Johansen (depending on if he was semi-conscious or not) he was a dream come true. He kicked off his well worn brown sandals to reveal rather odorous black socks then promptly fell asleep before the doors were even closed. He would, on occasion, open his eyes halfway to glance out my window as if to make certain we were still in the air (that legendary musicians almost always die in plane crashes flashed through my mind in repeated intervals), would nod to me, prop his sunglasses more tightly over his eyes and then go back to snoozing. He was wroth a dozen short stories all on his own and I kept having to tear my eyes away from his sleeping form as I envisioned a million or so life stories for him.
Closer in to our destination, the turbulence began. It wasn’t too bad at first just some gentle jostling that caused me to keep waking the little drummer boy beside me when our shoulders bumped. Just as I was beginning to worry about bad weather for the entirety of the trip I spotted a rainbow out my window.
I’ve only seen a rare few during my flying times so I clung to the idea that this was a great omen for the trip. When the plane turned a bit, I got a breathtaking view of the full arch of the rainbow…something I had never experienced before. Even with the cloud cover and streaks of rain on the window, it was a beautiful, hopeful sight.
Feeling content and merry after my rainbow sighting, it took a moment for me to remember that rain went with rainbows. The storm hit us full force. With seatbelt reminders dinging and people further back heaving into bags, the heat and stench of the plane became almost unbearable. Kids were screaming, parents calling out desperate pleas or making cooing noises that, frankly, I’m sure didn’t help the poor folks vomiting the contents of their lunch…it was just horrible. So much for my good omen.
We finally descended safely and everyone practically ran for the front doors. I stepped out into the airport and put my feet into the state of New Jersey for the first time ever….welcome to Newark!