Dakine beach/tote bag as a birthday gift from a dear friend to use on my trip to meet Grandbaby O. I could put everything in it--purse, notebook computer, Kindle, progress reports to be written, snacks, Simon the Genius in My Basement even. When the fellow passenger on the shuttle from Park 'N' Fly going to the terminal realized he'd forgotten his wallet at home, I could give him a sad, commiserating little smile and hug my perfect bag a bit closer.
My wheelie suitcase slid nicely into the overhead bin for row 12, and I settled into the skinny middle E seat. A pleasant fellow had the aisle seat. For a long time it seemed the window seat might stay empty. Ah, wouldn't that be a treat?
The last minute passengers arrived to take the A and B seats across the aisle. The petite pretty hippie chick sat by that window. Her boyfriend, a 6'6" blond guy with rasta hair and a black Labrador service dog folded into the B seat. The dog's head hung over the seat in front, just an inch above the pony-tail of a young Barbie coed. The dreadlocks hung over the seat in back.
Finally boarding is an AARP couple. The woman wants to wedge a large piece of luggage up into the overhead bin, but is too short to see the bin is already overflowing. A chorus of frustrated passengers who got up at four a.m. chants, "It won't fit, it won't fit, it won't..." She squeezes into the middle E seat in the row in front of me after taking her carry-on to the back of the plane. Then she pantomimes instructions for her spouse to sit in the window F seat next to me. His hearing aid isn't working. The pleasant man and I exit row 12 so the elderly fellow can enter the row.
Two flight attendants have arrived to arrange a move for the rasta and his dog. No, he's fine.
"Well, I've never seen the airline seat a service dog in this row."
No, he's fine.
"The service dog cannot sit in the aisle."
No, he's fine.
"The service dog will block the beverage cart."
No, he's fine. The dog will sit on the rasta master's lap.
"No, I've NEVER seen the airline seat a service dog in this row."
The pony-tail is rolling her eyes. The AARP man is searching for his seatbelt.
A trade is arranged so the rasta and his dog can sit in the bulkhead aisle, but he won't go without the hippie chick. Another trade is arranged.
Meanwhile, the AARP man is waving the head end of his seatbelt in the air like a snake-charmer's puppet show, but cannot locate the tail end. The flight attendants want the AARP man to move across the aisle to the seat vacated by the rasta dog since the plane has pushed away from the terminal. That means the pleasant man and I will have to get out for AARP man to exit. He stands up, and I reach under his butt to fish the tail end of the seatbelt from beside his seat. Why, just lookie here! We can strap you in now, sir!
"This must be the Chinese fire drill row," says one attendant, with a barely perceptible strain to her smile.
The first beverages are served without rolling over the service dog. The AARP man is proud that his wife found this better flight to speed them toward Boise, you know where the football field is blue, where their daughter is expecting twins, but they may have an eight-hour layover in Portland. This is an improvement? PDX is a nice airport, but I wouldn't want to camp there.
After my nap things are surreal and groggy. The AARP man's wife pantomimes emphatically that he should get out and walk in the aisle so he won't be stiff. Swell. The pleasant man and I exit the row so he can go on a march. The flight attendants take our beverage orders. This time the pleasant man and I both ask for coffee, fresh, steaming coffee. No sooner are the cups on our tray tables than AARP man wants back in. We put our tray tables up, and pleasant man steps up. I burn my tongue on the coffee and spill on my fabulous new tote bag. My shoulder tremor is acting up. I stand up and bump my head on the overhead bin, spilling coffee all over me. Fresh, steaming, black coffee, but at least I'm going to Portland where coffee is major and attire is minor.
AARP man is back in his seat waving his seatbelt puppet. He is reaching down beside his seat against the window wall for the other end. He comes up with a very scraped wrist bleeding profusely onto his shirt cuff, and still no seat belt. His wife freaks and pushes her aisle neighbor out of the way to go running down the aisle for assistance. I push the Call button. The flight attendants come. One goes to get the first aid kit. She returns with iodine wipes, and warns AARP man that the iodine stains. We get the wipe package torn open and the wound cleaned with AARP's wife supervising from the next row. The wipe goes into my coffee cup along with two bandaid wrappers. I buckle AARP man into his seat and tell him to run cold water on his cuff before it goes into the washing machine.
Swaddling and bouncing a fussy Grandbaby O is going to be a piece of cake by comparison to the flight. And, true, "Chinese fire drill" wasn't the most P.C. thing for a flight attendant to say. Maybe Keystone Kops would have been better.
© 2012 Nancy L. Ruder