Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Clueless in Dayton

Normally on this blog I am "outing" rude, obnoxious or just generally clueless behavior in airports and airplanes.  Today, I am "coming out" as the "ONE", the clueless one, the one not paying attention to her surroundings, the one who drives everyone else crazy.  This isn't easy.  But it must be done.

As an employee, I travel free.  That is THE perk, the Holy Grail, the benefit that our jobs offer that gets the most attention, and the most envy.  And it is wonderful.  Mostly.  But we have to fly standby.  We can't book seats ahead of time.  We can look at flight loads, and try to determine the best flights to take.  But it is a gamble, and one has to be extremely patient, flexible and focused.  Enter me.  After a 3 day conference in Dayton, Ohio, the Erma Bombeck Humor Writers Conference, I find myself burned out:  too much fun, too much laughter, too many early mornings and late nights, too much wine, too many desserts, etc..... too much of everything.  (Not to mention the convention of drum majors in our hotel that combined hundreds of young, male party animals with an all night party so crazy in the lobby that the staff of the hotel took the furniture out of the lobby to give them more room to party.  Really.)

So, after seeing that there's not a chance in Hell of getting out of Dayton that day (too many Ermaites and drum majors, I fear)  I hitch a ride with a new friend to her hometown of Indianapolis where possibilities look better for a seat on a flight.  We have a rough start, spending an hour getting out of Dayton, while her GPS sends us into the depths of the city, where we are sure that we 1) We won't make it out of there alive and 2) We will never make it to Indianapolis.  (It turns out that we both have direction dyslexia, and 2 of us in one car with a misbehaving GPS, well, that's just not smart.)
But with her husband's help, we get the heck out of Dayton.  We dissect the conference, day by day, class by class, person by person, until before we know it we are there.  We hug and say goodbye as only people who have been in the trenches can, new BFF's who have shared something impossible to explain to anyone who wasn't there. 

The flight I want to take is at Gate A7.  I make it there, settle in, and call my sister to tell her all about the weekend.  I watch the plane pull in, passengers disembark, crew get on, and boarding commence.  I finally hear my name called, and I go to the podium.  I repeat my name, that I got paged.  The confused gate agent says "I didn't page your name."  And then I see it.  The destination on the podium.  Atlanta.  "Are you going to Atlanta?" she said.  I admit it .  I said "Shit!" in front of her and many other passengers and I probably can get fired for that.  "NO!  Denver!"  I said.  "That's across the hall at A8" she says,  and while she calls Gate A8 to tell them I'm on my way, I run through people and wheelchairs and around a electric sidewalk and pant my way to A8, and I say "I'm the one Gate A7 just called you about" and she says "I already gave your seat away because you weren't here" and I know I have just become them:  the ones I write about, the ones that drive me crazy, the clueless ones.   But this angel of a gate agent sees that I'm at my wit's end, and she gets me a seat.  Not a real one, but a jump seat, which only other Flight Attendants can ride, and with lots of other rules, but she gives me one and I think I hugged her and ran down the jetway.

One of our brilliant speakers this weekend, Judy Carter, did a bit about flying.  How by the time we get to the plane, we have given pieces of our mind away.  To the TSA guy, who drones on about liquids and computers.  To the gate agent, who has changed our aisle window exit seat to a middle seat next to a screaming baby.  To the flight attendant, who snarls when we ask for 2 bags of peanuts.  We give all these people (at least in our heads) pieces of our mind and by the time we get to baggage claim and see our bags going around in a circle, we are completely out of our minds and don't even know which of 100's of black bags are ours, and I know at this moment I am this person.  And I have made fun of this person so many times.  So, as I often do, I give this person (me) a name. Clueless in Dayton.  Welcome on board.  Enjoy your flight.  Do you have any idea where you are?