Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Adventures In Air Travel

So, Darlin Man and I have created a bit of tradition by managing to spend New Year's Eve together, usually at the home of friends. This year, it didn't look like he was going to be able to get the time off, so I was kind of bummed. Then Farmmom stepped in and decided that my Christmas present this year would be a ticket to go see him instead, so that's what I've been doing for the last week.

This isn't a post about that trip, though. Or, not all of it. Just the return leg, and the interesting people I got to encounter on it.

My flight was out of Birmingham, to Amarillo, with a brief layover in Houston. So I show up at the Birmingham airport needing to check my bag. I was already checked in thanks to the wonders of living in the future, I'd done it on my phone earlier that day, and gotten my seat assignment on the tiny plane changed to one of the onesies seats on the left side of the plane, too. That will become important later.

So, I walk on up to the counter and there's no line, which is a nice change from the outbound trip, and the gentleman behind the counter asks me "You're not from around here are you?"

What gave it away? The lack of an Alabama Drawl, the fact that I'm not wearing any red whatsoever or the fact that my bag already had a sticker on it from the outbound flight?

Anyway, he's being chatty and we're waiting for the machines to do their thing, and he's making small talk. You know, the obvious questions: Where ya headed, What brings you to Alabama, etc etc.

During the course of this conversation he pops out with "So, you want a boyfriend in Alabama? I'm single, he he he."

Nawwww, really? No way.

I steer the conversation away from that field since he's got control of my bag already and I'd like for it to end up in the same spot as me. When he asks me what I do, I tell him I'm a dispatcher for the Sheriff's Office.

"Oh, really? What's the worst call you've gotten?" Ugh. So I tell him the most annoying calls are actually the non emergency ones, trying to move on from the "I'm a complete stranger TELL ME YOUR TRAUMA" question, and toss out a brief funny story about a lady who called 911 four times trying to get me to fix her phone because it would only dial 911 (failing to pay your bill will do that) or call her family to fix it.

"Oh, yeah, I bet that's annoying, but what's the worst call you've gotten?"

Grrrr. I said something to make him leave it the hell alone and started tapping my fingers on his counter.

"Well, for me, (I was in the military, you know) the worst stuff was always kids. I still wake up in the night sometimes." Yes, you could hear the parentheses in his speech, though at the end of the conversation I was pretty sure he couldn't have spelled parenthesis.

"Oh, yeah, it's a shame there's such a stigma in our armed forces, and EMS and Law, too, about seeking help for mental issues."

"Well, I was Special Forces, so I can't just walk up to you and ask for help, you know. Top Secret, and all that."

"Well, I'm not a mental health professional, so that's probably a good thing. Oh hey I think it's finally spitting out my boarding passes, so you can help this nice lady over here."

"Your flight isn't for another hour and a half, so you don't need to be in a hurry!"

"But I want to be. Better safe than sorry, and all that. Have a nice day."

I was texting Darlin Man about it once I got through security and secured myself a coffee and a cinnamon twist. He replied "Tell me you got a picture." Of course I didn't get a picture, I was too busy trying to get away from the guy before he asked to take me away from it all to his palatial swamp shack.

I'm pretty sure this dude's military career, if any, could have been filmed and marketed as Earnest Goes to Bootcamp... He didn't even tell me a branch, just "I was in the military."

I know several people who were actually in the military, and some who are. For the most part, probably thanks to the rivalries between the branches, they will tell you what branch they were in when it comes up. In certain cases, MOS trumps branch, they might tell you they were EOD instead of telling you a branch. And I know people who's job in the military actually was "go kill that guy/destroy this shit and then get out." Those people don't bring that up in casual conversation with strangers, generally.

Anyway. I got away from Earnest Joins The Special Forces, and got on the plane, only to discover that my flight attendant was an older lady who had a profusion of bone white hair, with a sort of Halloween wig that you've taken off and put on too many times kind of frizziness to it. Which, fine, you do you, but she was not prepared to take any shit off of anyone. Some guy in the first couple rows was messing with his phone during the safety lecture and she waved her little brochure in front of his face, and then she physically sat another guy up in his seat so that his seat back would be in the upright and locked position for take off.

I kept my knees and elbows tucked when she came by with the drink cart, and made sure to be very polite.

In Houston I was left to myself during my hour and small change layover, but once my flight was called and I lined up to board I found myself with a young man (early twenties maybe?) velcroed to my backpack. I mean he was "Can I smell your hair?" close. I shifted around a bit, but he was always right there, so I resigned myself to being uncomfortable because we're all in line and want to be on our way, and got on the damn plane.

This is the flight that I'd changed my seat assignment to one of the onesies seats on the left side of the plane, and if you'll remember I said it would come up later. I just casually noticed while I was stowing my crap for take off that the young man was roughly in the area where I remembered my previous seating assignment being. It wasn't important yet, but an hour and twenty minutes later after we landed, it sort of became that way.

See, I got off the plane and hit the bathroom, dug out my keys so that I could get my car, put my sweatshirt back on under my coat because it was fifty in Houston and twenty in Amarillo (grumble) and went to get my bags. Halfway to baggage claim, I realize that too-close-kid is behind me again.

At the carousel he positions himself behind me and to my left, so I move. And he follows. We did this dance three times before I said fuck it and turned sideways to the carousel and stared at him until bags started coming.

I was *really* tempted to yank my bag off the conveyer and onto his foot.

Did I have "Be creepy and weird" tattooed on my forehead when I wasn't looking?

Side note: on the last leg, they advised us that our Captain was named Morgan, and I'm pretty sure he had a bet on with the crew as to how many passengers he could make puke... he did quite a bit of the gain altitude, then level off quick for that fast elevator floaty feeling, and waggled the wings (at what I don't know, passing owls maybe) and managed to come in beautifully for landing, and drop the last foot or so like a rock... Like I said, I'm pretty sure he had a bet riding on how many folks he could make puke.