Sunday, October 10, 2010

The perfect storm

Mix two crying babies, one hacking man, a shrill singer and a dash of turbulence, all in the midnight hour, and what do you have? The perfect storm. I know because I am a survivor. The following is my story:

"We're taking the red eye. Is that OK?" I said to my husband after I told him that I had scheduled a surprise birthday trip out west.

"Sure," he said, undoubtedly afraid to offend me by offering any criticism of my travel arrangements. And, to be perfectly truthful, it would have. Oh, yeah, and did I mention we had to leave at 5 a.m. for our flight out there? Yeah, I know (now).

Anyway, fast forward to the flight home. After spending a really long day wandering the streets of Las Vegas (which was experiencing record high temperatures of 105-plus) virtually penniless and feeling kind of homeless after checking out of our hotel room, we made it to the airport.

We thought it would be best to pass the time eating dinner at the airport. I recalled seeing a California Pizza Kitchen down the terminal, so I nonchalantly made my way there, not even bothering to ride the people mover. After all, God gave me legs.

As soon as I rounded the corner, the lights in the California Pizza Kitchen went off, so I started across the hall to the hot dog stand when that light went out. Suddenly, I realized it was 2 o'clock in the morning Georgia time, and I could very well starve to death at any given moment, not to mention I was facing a 3 a.m. flight with my only hope being a microscopic bag of peanuts. This was not good.

Feeling a slight panic, I quickly turned back the way I came, this time taking the people mover. Lights continued to flicker out as I approached like they were on some sort of reverse motion sensor, causing full-fledge panic to set in, which is how I ended up eating tuna at 2 a.m. I must say that was a first.

As soon as we finished our make-shift meal, our boarding zone was called. Have you ever noticed how people push to get on planes? What is up with that? I mean, they have assigned seats. In my tiredness, I wondered this out loud and not quietly, either.

"I agree," said the man in front of me who had just been jostled. "I've never heard the pilot say, 'First class will be landing 15 minutes earlier.'"

"I know, and another thing ..." I said.

My husband shushed me at this point -- he was tired and knew that sleep was no where in sight. I, on the other hand, had total confidence in my ability to doze anywhere.

"You really don't think you can sleep on the plane?" I scoffed.

About 15 minutes later, with my husband snoring by my side, I knew I was in trouble. The baby in front of me started crying, the man behind me began hacking, and, worst of all, the girl next to began singing --loudly. Her first song was Black Eyed Peas "I gotta feeling ..." I'm not sure if you've heard it before, but basically the lyrics go, "Tonight's gonna be a good night" over and over again. It's like a modern-day version of "The song that never ends." That went on for quite some time, until she finally switched to Taylor Swift's "You belong to me." Sadly, she only knew the first line of the chorus: "She wears short skirts, I wear sneakers," which she sang over and over and over again.

I, not wanting to cause trouble, kept mute about it until the flight attendant came by with headphones for sale. I pounced on the opportunity.

"I need them to drown out the singing," I said. I must say the flight attendant then turned and admonished the woman to such a degree that I almost felt guilty, kind of like when I used to tell on my sister.

The night wore on, and though I was terrified that the hacking man's germs were going to come through the seat, I finally managed to curl up and doze off. Of course, as soon as I did, one of two babies onboard would cry (God love them and their mammas). Eventually, the pilot announced that we were about to land in Atlanta; we just had to get through a little turbulence first.

A little? I sure would hate to see his definition of a lot.

The more turbulence we hit, the louder my husband snored (God bless him, too), the louder the baby cried, and the more the man behind me coughed. The noise had reached fervor pitch, when after my silent prayer, calm struck, and we landed safely on the ground.

As we left the airport, vowing to never again take another red-eye flight, it suddenly hit me that I would soon be sleeping in my own bed. Surprisingly, I found myself humming a little tune: "Tonight's gonna be a good night ..."

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