The Not So Friendly Skies (for all you frequent fliers)
I was reminded that while I love flying, I have grown weary of flying commercial, which unfortunately, is how I have to travel these days. There was a time that I worked for a company that had a plane and I got spoiled by that “Time Machine, N599EC.”
This week, I had an overnight trip to Pittsburgh, PA, which originated in Augusta, GA. Aside from the first week in April, this is a great airport to use as my starting point. Twenty-five minutes from home, easy parking and generally small crowds. I then connected in Charlotte, and made my way to Pittsburgh.
Here is the story of my four “seatmates.” In the unlikely event that any of them read this and recognize themselves, their rebuttals are welcome.
After getting scrutinized by the TSA in Augusta, I was walking to my gate (mind you, it was 4:55 in the morning) and I noticed a guy about my age, sitting on a bench and looking a little bit distressed. My Fire/EMS background has wired me to notice stuff like that and as I walked by him, I casually asked if he was OK? He was clearly not impressed with my caring and asked me if I was OK? (but not nearly as politely as I had asked him) I mentioned that I was an EMT and it looked like he might not be feeling well. He was dismissive and as I left him, he let out one of those “Jeeez”, to emphasize his displeasure with my intruding. I continued on my way and he will be re-visited in two paragraphs.
I boarded and took my seat next to a woman who was very polite, talkative and had ingested a significant amount of garlic the evening before, which was easily detected on her breath. Since it was not a full flight, she opted to take another seat on an empty row. As she got up, she said, “Not that I don’t like you, but I’m moving.” I smiled and said, “I understand.”
We had a quick, uneventful flight to Charlotte, but then I had to walk from the farthest gate in E Terminal to the farthest gate in C Terminal and that was a little tough on my arthritic ankles, but I survived, only to learn that the person sitting in the middle seat in my row, was my friend from Augusta. He was not amused and immediately closed his eyes and did not open them until we landed. He deserved the middle seat.
Now, if you have stayed with me this long, here is the real reason for writing this. . .
With my meetings over, I was driven to the airport and began the wait for my journey home. After boarding, I was seated and people had stopped getting on and the seat next to me was still empty. Maybe my lucky day? Then she boarded. A woman, about 30-35 years old, with a pet carrier. She was dressed as if she was going to Southern Florida to party all night, which I learned was exactly what she was going to do. This post is long enough without me describing how she was dressed, plus my wife would not be pleased that I took the time to notice (sorry honey, not much choice).
She was traveling with her cat “Smokey” and I soon learned that she was mad because the airline had not allowed her to use her cat carrier because it was too big and they forced her to purchase one of theirs so it would fit under the seat. Unfortunately, that process caused her (I never did ask her name) and Smokey to miss their scheduled flight and they were now sitting next to me and I couldn’t help but notice the alcohol on her breath. She was very concerned about the cat and insisted on holding the carrier on her lap, which was not exactly what the flight attendant had in mind. Her response was “I spent one hundred and twenty f—kin’ dollars to bring my cat, he’s scared and I’m holding him”. The attendant explained that if Smokey wasn’t put on the floor, none of us were going to Charlotte and she acquiesced, possibly with the help of my gentle affirmations. As soon as we took off, she put him back on her lap, opened up the case and began playing with and talking to him. For the record, this observer thought the cat was doing just fine, but mamma may have overlooked taking her medication that morning. Not fun, but entertaining and better than the garlic lady. At one point she started crying and bemoaning that taking the cat was a mistake and she was apologizing to Smokey for putting him through this ordeal. As we prepared to land, she and the attendant re-visited the rules and after a little more cursing, Smokey took his appointed place under her seat and we landed. Once the plane made the gate, she was the first one up to get out the door, . . . from row 19. I received lots understanding looks from folks seated near us, with a few rolling their eyes. Good luck, Smokey.
Finally, it was time for the final leg home, just as big thunderstorms were closing in between Charlotte and Augusta, and the plane was a turbo prop. Swell.
I boarded the Dash 8 and made my way to my row. Sitting in the isle seat was a woman who made me (I’m 6-3, 240) look petite. She had ear buds in and never looked at me or took them out during the entire time she was on the plane. As loud as the Dash 8 is, there wasn’t going to be much conversation anyway, so I spent that 35-minute flight thinking about the good old days when no one would dare get on a plane without wearing a suit or dress and everyone was polite and conversational. Unfortunately, I’m old (and grumpy) enough to remember those days.
There was actually more to this story, but it is too long already and I’m sure I lost many readers early on. For those that hung in there…thank you. I’m just thankful that my life does not have me traveling much.