What's the big hub, bub?
When I was in kindergarten, or maybe the first grade, my parents won a trip to New York City. This was an enormously big deal because it was the first, and maybe only, time they went on a trip without we three kids. I remember the fabrics my mom sewed to make outfits for her trip. If I dug my Rubbermaid tub of fabric scraps out of the closet I would still find a tiny piece of the shimmery weave of purple, gold, and rust she chose for her cocktail dress, and a piece of the coordinating purple velveteen for her stole. My Barbie had outfits made from scraps of Mom's other trip outfits.
Mrs. Schiedler was our babysitter while my parents were gone. I remember her as a slightly older version of Alice, the Brady Bunch housekeeper, played by Ann B. Davis. Of course, back then, Ann B. Davis was known as Schultzy from "The Bob Cummings Show". Mrs. Schiedler was a pancake artist. She could pour the batter to make a pancake of anything we might name. I never got anywhere close to her skill, though I made thousands of pancakes for my sons.
When my parents returned from NY, NY, Mr. Schiedler took us to meet the plane. We stood on the outdoor observation deck, and watched the DC-something taxi right up to Lincoln's municipal airport terminal. We watched someone roll the stairs out to the plane. I don't think it was one of the airplanes where the door opened out and down to form the stairs for disembarking. Mom and Dad came down the stairs, Mom slightly weak from being airsick, and Dad carrying the navy flight bag each passenger received in those days. The flight bag was a tiny duffel that contained a barf bag and a deck of playing cards, and maybe a book of matches. We played with the flight bags for many years, and kept them in the "dress up" box.
I didn't receive a tiny flight duffel with playing cards on my Frontier Airlines flights last weekend. Air travel offers very few amenities these days. It's a luxury that we can still choose whether to have ice cubes in the tiny glass of tomato juice while we read the in-flight magazine. I never drink tomato juice when I'm not airborne. It's a lucky thing, like baseball players not changing their socks. The first time I ever flew without being a nervous wreck, just a few years ago, I chose tomato juice. So now I always do. Frontier Airlines has the worst in-flight magazine I've ever seen, but the flight attendants are generous with the already opened cans of juice.
Air travel offers many opportunities to observe fellow earthlings at close range. On a night of dramatic lightning over Frontier's Denver hub, delays and gate changes afforded tons of material for someone's Great American Novel. We watched the departure times get later by fifteen minute intervals, while we rearranged ground transportation plans by cell phone. "We" began to regret eating that McDonald's meal in the A concourse food court. Flights stacked up, and seating in the terminal became nonexistent when departure gates were reassigned. I found a forgotten cell phone in a chair, and wondered if the airport would explode if I picked it up to take to the gate crew. Bring on that calming tomato juice!
Talk about your suspicious passengers! A man waiting for my flight was carrying three large boxes of Winchell's Donuts. Did Security scan those glazed twists?
I had a middle B seat assignment when we finally boarded. The woman with the window A seat was making herself at home despite the current limitations on carry-on items. She was settling in. Nesting. Interior decorating. She pulled a lovely hand-knit afghan out of her bag to wrap her knees. She dug under the seat to find the styrofoam box aka "doggy bag" from a health food salad lunch. She moved her billfold into the seatback pocket, then submerged under the seat ahead again to retrieve her paperback novel and her plastic clamshell box containing a piece of apple pie. After three bites of salad and one bite of pie, she closed the squeaking plastic boxes and returned them to the bag under the seat ahead of her, retrieving a bag of nacho-flavored Doritos. Three Doritos, and that sack was crinkled shut and placed in the seatback pocket. Time to dive for the pie again! She alternated between pie and Doritos for the forty-five minutes we taxied slowly and eventually sat "to allow the plane's brakes to cool".
Once we took off, a new sequence began. She hooked up the headphones for the free in-flight tv. Thank heaven she didn't have to swipe a credit card to pay for the tv, as that would have required another diving mission in seatback pocket and underseat bag. Instead, she retrieved the styrofoam salad box and paperback book. The flight attendant brought our drinks.
I began to worry that I would be showered with lettuce and juice if the pilot's warning about turbulence came true. A tray-table is not a big surface. This time the routine went:
- Turn page of paperback
- Move bookmark
- Glance at tv
- Adjust glasses
- Open box of salad, the lid now blocks the tv
- Take bite of salad
- Take sip of juice
- Close salad box
- Glance at tv
- Read page of paperback
- Return to Step 1
She was going to make it come out even, just like Frances the badger and her buddy Albert in Bread and Jam for Frances.
It was time for me to pretend to sleep, although it is difficult with such a spectacle being performed at such close range. Also, there was the sound leaking out of all the headphones. On the other side, in the C seat, was a man we will call "full-bodied", and maybe even "aromatically challenged". The three-year-old ahead of me was in a power struggle with her mother about which channel was appropriate viewing. Behind me a baby whale was spouting ineffectively and continuously between a couple conversing in Chinese. No one will ever compare spoken Chinese to a lullaby!
The baby whale was obviously in considerable distress. Poooph, poooph, poooph, poooph...open salad box...poooph...close salad box...poooph. What in the sky was making that dreadful noise? I wanted to stand up, turn around, and give the Whale my best Teacher Look. If I did, I would knock myself out on the overhead storage bin, though, if I could even get past Wide Body and Ms. Salad Box.
We began our final descent into Dallas, which always sounds somewhat Dante. The plane vibrated and rattled as it rocketed down the runway. "Ooh! That tickles," the three-year-old giggled.
It was very good to be home!