This past week a spent a couple nasty days at the airport. I flew back to my Alma mater this weekend to visit some friends and help out with the annual speech tournament. This, of course meant flying out of Charleston International. As far as I am concerned, despite the title, it is regional airport. I flew into another regional airport in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. For my flight out I opted for the lowest rates possible and that meant during the course of my journey I set foot on the ground in 5 different states; South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Minnesota, and finally Iowa.
Airports are just a bastion of turmoil. I don't always remember it being this way. I'd like to blame it on 9/11 but in reality prior to 9/11 I traveled as a dependant of my family, never having to concern myself with arrival times, luggage, the expense of airport food, and so on. The cloud that hangs over airports for me now is merely a matter of perspective. I believe if there is anything on earth that creates a painfully accurate vision of purgatory it is an airport. Waiting, looking out windows, watching people arrive and leave again, little to do but pull out your cell phone, dick around on facebook, and reflect on what you have left undone at home. Perhaps you grab dinner but it is an expensive and insulting, tasteless replica of what you could be enjoying elsewhere. All the while waiting for the airplane gods to determine your fate. Change of gate? Flight delay? Cancellation? Overbooked? And really, no matter what your layover, you can't leave. You've checked bags or, at the very least, passed security. Now your only option is to wait.
As always I ran into a colorful cast of characters as one always does in the airport, starting promptly with my arrival at the Charleston airport at about 9 on Thursday morning. I decided to grab a muffin to munch on before my flight and right before I approached the cashier to give my order a little woman in her mid 70s dressed in slacks, a blazer and a scarf slipped in and tried to order a Bloody Mary. She was promptly told that the bar was not open yet. She went away grumbling. Part of me loved her for it.
Then, on my flight from Charlotte, NC to Louisville, KY, I sat next to a domesticated cougar. Not a large cat but a well-kept woman a little past her prime with a face of chemical injections and hundred dollar creams. While she was dressed well, she was dressed appropriately and clearly not for prowling, at least not that day. And, you know, good for her. She looked good and not offensive, she was having fun with the ladies she was traveling with, and I would judge by the trade journal she was absorbed in, that she was successful. Plus she didn't try to talk to me. Most good. But then she started to doze a little while reading architectural digest, leading to her Venti-sized hot drink to slip and splatter all over me. Really annoying. If you are going to bring on a big, hot drink like that AND try read just pull down your damn tray and set things up properly. She apologized but then, a few minutes later proceeds to ask the flight attendant for more hot water. Then I realize that she actually has two Venti Starbucks cups, one stacked inside the other. She gets her hot water and proceeds to pour the water from one cup to the other, re stack, then reaches into her purse to sprinkle loose tea into the water. Now lets just ignore the fact that she has no tea bag or diffuser for her beverage, who does this on a plane? Seriously!? And after she already baptized me with about 3/4 cup of her dreggy tea? Thanks, lady.
While I remained dry for my flight home it was even more touch and go. I spent a little extra cash for only one layover on my way back to South Carolina. However, that layover was only about 40 minutes long AND in Chicago O'Hare. (When I asked the gate agent what my options would be if I missed my connection she sympathetically and with a certain amount of surprise stated that, after searching all airlines, the next flight I could take was 6 hours later. Thanks, Charleston!) So I decide to head out to Cedar Rapids early to try get on a standby flight. The flight on which I intended to fly standby had a mechanical issue and ended up leaving later than my scheduled flight. During the 3 hours I waited in the airport to get on the plane I texted my husband and kept eyeballing the bar in my corner of the airport. The fact that it served breakfast was just insulting. Bars shouldn't serve breakfast unless they also serve breakfast drinks, which is what I wanted. Yes, since it has orange juice in it, I consider a screwdriver a breakfast drink. I played it safe and guessed that no one would serve me a stiff drink at 9:30 in the morning. Really, I didn't want to ask for a drink and get shot down. Unlike the older lady in Charleston trying to order a Bloody Mary who looked like a badass old chic who wouldn't think twice about yelling at kids for playing on her lawn, I would just like a pathetic lush in my late twenties. I would be embarrassed and then feel obligated to buy a $10 breakfast sandwich that tasted like cardboard and cat food. Then I would really be pissed.
Things didn't get better when I got to Chicago. Another mechanical issue delayed my flight for 3 1/2 hours. The only redeeming thing was that it gave me time to actually get lunch; an over priced imported beer and mediocre polish hot dog. After 12 hours of airports and airplanes I got home, munched on leftover airport snacks and promptly passed out in my own filth; travel clothes, greasy hair and all. Nick got home from work to find me on the couch startled, disoriented, and wiping drool from my mouth. He recalled the moment, laughing, telling me how much I looked like crap, a lot like a raccoon rummaging through garbage and then getting caught in the headlights of a car. Good thing I had already tricked him into marrying me.