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5:52 a.m. - 2002-03-29

FLYING THE LESS-THAN-FRIENDLY SKIES

I'm finally home!

Yeeeeeeeee!!

I wish I were back in Boise.

I mean...I wish I were there with my wife and son. Because coming back to this house, as I told my wife is "depressing".

As I put it ..."please tell me I've been gone for six months and that our new house is finished being built and the old one is sold and we're already all moved in. Please??"

She couldn't confirm my wishes. So I came home to a house full of clutter and boxes and swatches of dog fur all over the house.

Wheeeee.

It's good to be home.

(That was sarcasm in a way)


So the flight home made me realize something. I no longer mind the business trips. Except for the flying.

The first trip it was the flying that enticed me. Once I stepped off that last flight and my feet touched Oregon soil, I became depressed.

This time, quite the opposite. Once my feet touched Idaho soil I was joyous until I had to get back on the plane.

The first flight from Boise to Salt Lake City was nice because I didn't have anyone sitting next to me. I had specifically asked the guy at the counter to try and get me all aisle seats the entire way home. He confirmed that it was possible and confirmed that he had indeed done it.

All he had to do next was confirm that he was a pathological liar and we were in business.

Once in Salt Lake City I had to RACE to the next gate. I was running past people on escalators. Jogging down corridors. Hurdling over baby strollers.

I was BOOKIN', baby!

Got to the gate just as they were loading passengers in my section.

Got on the plane and found my seat in the next to the last row on the plane. That's when I discovered that dammit dammit dammit sonofabitch shit dammit dammit asshole dammit shit shit shit ... I was in the middle seat.

I took a deep breath. Maybe this flight wouldn't be full. Maybe I had the three seats to myself. Yeah. Maybe. C'mon God. Talk to me here. I know I've been asking for a ton of stuff lately, but I never really asked for much before. Lemme have my own row for the next four hours. That's all I ask. My own row and I'll never ask for anything again. Ever. Well...at least for this one plane trip.

A cute, petite little brunette walks up and says she has the window seat.

Okay. God was listening. He couldn't guarantee me my own row, but at least He put a babe next to me that didn't need much elbow room. Thanks God. You're alright with me.

So the two of us sat there for an eternity as the rest of the people trickled in.

Then suddenly, I saw him.

The white William "Refrigerator" Perry.

This guy was bigger than a Port-A-Potty. As he struggled to get through the aisle, looking at his ticket and then looking at the numbers of the rows over the seats, I knew...I KNEW he was going to be seated up ahead and that I was going to be able to switch to an aisle seat and me and Petite Babe would have our own aisle with a middle chair to serve as our magazine rack.

The Refrigerator slowly made his way to the back of the plane.

"Maybe he's riding in cargo," I thought to myself hopefully.

Row 40....41....42....

"I think this is my seat," he said to me, gesturing toward the aisle seat.

I wanted to suggest he confirm that with a flight attendant who could possibly have dyslexia and would stick him in row 34.

Nope.

He sat down next to me, simultaneously abandoning all concepts of "personal space".

His left elbow poked my right rib sharply. I wanted to whelp in pain but held it in.

A husky blonde woman came back to our row.

"Would you like to switch seats with me?" she asked petite brunette, who was now positioned underneath me. "I'm sitting up front by your husband and this is my husband and two children in front of you."

Big Blonde's husband and children turned around and smiled from their seats directly in front of us.

Petite brunette...well...I can't blame her. She could either sit in our row and risk getting squished to death or she could go sit with her petite husband.

She took the bait.

So now I had Big Blonde on my left in the window seat and Refrigerator on my right. Both of them needing to use MY arm rests. So my arms were folded across my chest and not able to unfold.

I sat that way for four freakin' hours.

Because it got worse.

Big Blonde kept talking to her kids in front of us. No problem. I expected it.

Her little girl wanted to sit with Mommy.

Big Blonde had an idea...I would switch seats with her little girl. So I would move up a row, take the window seat, have her little boy in the middle seat and her husband who was as big as the Refrigerator in the aisle seat.

Me...little boy....Big Husband.

I leapt at the chance.

"Oh God yes," I said.

"Okay," Big Blonde said. "As soon as we get in the air, we'll switch."

I gathered up my magazines I had stuffed in the chair pocket in front of me and became giddy with anticipation.

We get up in the air, Big Blonde has to go to the bathroom. So Refrigerator and I get up and let her pass.

She comes back and asks the little girl if she's ready to move.

Meghan doesn't WANT to move now. Meghan wants to stay here...and have Mommy sit in her row.

Soooo...Meghan wants Mommy and Daddy to switch seats.

Ummmmm...sorry Meg...that wasn't the deal, sweetie. The deal is....you and Uncle Bob switch seats so that everyone's comfortable.

Nope.

What Meghan wants...Meghan gets.

So Big Blonde tells me that she's switching seats with her Big Husband.

"This doesn't help your situation any," she chortles as Big Husband gathers his stuff and gestures for us to get up so he can get the window seat.

"Tell her I'll give her gum," I said in a desperate whisper, realizing it was all I really had to offer the kid to switch with me.

No go. The kid didn't chew Dentyne.

So now...don't get me wrong...I'm a big guy. 6'2"....260.

I'm being FLANKED by the two 300+ pounders on either side of me.

I tried to read a magazine which was fruitless. I couldn't even get the damned thing open.

So I put on the headphones and listened to the "Glam Channel" which played the same music over and over and over again.

(Mental note...download Daniel Ash's "Walking on the Moon"....the only decent new song that was played.)

This highly uncomfortable situation continued for four hours. An entire afternoon spent buried beneath the arms of two burly men.

The plane landed and since we were in the next to the last row, Refrigerator saw no need to stand up once the plane landed, letting me breathe.

Nope...he waited for everyone to exit the plane before he got up.

"Uhhhhh...I've got 20 minutes until my next flight leaves," I said to him. "And this is the largest airport in the world. I really REALLY need to get moving."

"Oh yeah, right," he said, rocking himself out of his chair.

I got into the airport and ran, ran, ran to the next gate.

I got there just in time to get on the plane.

...Next to Captain Sweaty.

Captain Sweaty's hair was matted to his head in a greasy sheen. His thick glasses and thin mustache gave him a look that screamed "Pervert That Still Lives With His Mom".

We didn't speak. And at least it was an aisle seat so I could hang half my body out into the aisle.

We got our pretzels and complimentary beverage. "Complimentary Beverage" to me sounds like the airline's doing you a favor. Like we're supposed to rejoice when we get a dixie cup full of Diet Coke.

Which I practically did since I hadn't eaten anything since a sticky bun at the hotel 12 hours prior. I hadn't had time to eat anything else racing from gate to gate in two of the nation's busiest airports.

So we eat our pretzels and drink our drinks and the waitresses come back by to pick up our trash.

Captain Sweaty throws his cup in the bag. As he gets ready to ball up his pretzel bag and toss that in there as well, the waitress has already walked past our aisle with her trash bag, leaving him hanging.

"Miss?" he said awkwardly, but she kept walking.

"Ya snooze, ya lose," I said in the only words I uttered to the man.

"I didn't lose," he said gruffly. "THEY lost. THEY'RE the ones who have to clean the plane and THEY'RE the ones who're going to find my pretzel bag stuffed in the magazine pocket!!!"

Okay. It's another thrilling episode of "Captain Sweaty Goes Ballistic". Whee.

I inched even farther toward the aisle, trying to distance myself from this ticking time bomb. Maybe the guy thought I was calling him a loser for not getting rid of his trash fast enough. I dunno. All I know is, he said what he said with venom in his throat and it scared me.

I remained quiet the rest of the flight, counting the minutes until they opened up those doors and we got out of there.

Get off the plane, walk into the airport searching for my wife and child's smiling face.

No such luck.

My wife is the world's worst person to get anywhere on time.

So I go to the baggage claim, get my luggage, cart it all outside and wait.

Ten minutes later, the wife pulls up.

"I'm sorry," she begins. "I just couldn't get here on time."

After 15 years with the woman, I have accepted that as par for the course. I've tried to change her and explain that she has to LEAVE EARLIER to get to places on time. I've drawn out makeshift timetables....6:30 feed the baby....7:00 leave the house...7:30 pick me up from the airport....

...It doesn't work.

No complaints though.

At least she didn't crowd me all the way home.

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