Whew! Made it! Three flights this past week. I gotta tell you, the worst part was the melt down I had in a PrimeTime Shuttle on the way to LAX. When I called in to make my reservation for an 11:30 pm flight, they wanted to get me at 8:30 pm. I fought back. Too much. I can’t be at the airport 2.5 hours early. So they picked me up at 9:30. Thought that would be plenty of time.
I had the most neurotic driver. Like a Russian, big, Woody Allen. He rang our bell 10 minutes early. Great. He was sweating. His hands in the air. “The car. It is up the street. A few yards. Can park it in driveway for you.” And without waiting for my reaction, which was going to be, “No sweat dude. My stuff is light. Let’s just walk.” He spun in a circle. Looked at his watch. “Okay. Okay. I get the car. But it’s going to add another five minutes!”
I stopped him in mid-spin. “I got it. We can walk to the van. No big.” He grabbed my suitcase, which had wheels and ran with it, the suitcase extending off his arm like a wing. He got to the van sweating and out of breath. We had to pick up another passenger. We stopped at the next house. Oh, pardon me. It wasn’t that easy. First, even with one of those computerized maps that talks to you on his dashboard, he missed the turn for Orange Avenue 4 times. The voice said, “Re-calculating. Direction missed.” By now, 15 minutes had gone by. We arrive at the place. He is in a fit because he won’t double park and the passengers have no driveway. He debates parking in someone else’s driveway. He does it. It takes another 10 minutes. Now it’s 10pm and I have to be on a plane at 11:30pm.
Neil is calling American Airlines, to find out the absolute latest we can board, but he’s apparantly getting some voice detection option and each time he says “Operator” something goes wrong because our driver is talking. He’s shaming me saying, “We wanted to get you at 8:30 but you said no. This is at your risk.”
I’m saying, “I pay enough money in therapy every week to get over people, including me, shaming and blaming me. I can’t have you doing it too. I also think it’s because we are waiting outside someone’s house who is clearly not home for 30 minutes, part of the reason we could be late.”
I say over and over, “I’m not normally this rude, but I’m terrified of flying.”
He keeps saying, “I know. I know. I can’t leave house until dispatcher says so. I have to wait 25 minutes.”
I start to weep quietly. Neil consoles me. I’m just more afraid that my klonopin is not kicking in. The driver is giggling nervously. He finally agrees to leave. It’s 10:15pm now. We’re driving to the airport. The Talking Map tells him “Left on Fairfax.” he takes a right. Map says, “Re-calculating. Missed turn.” He’s headed away from the airport. Neil says, “Buddy, where you going?” He says, “I know what I’m doing.”
He does this same move two times before I really lose it. I burst into tears.
The driver says, “Okay. Okay. Don’t pressure me. I can’t go fast.” I say, “I don’t want you to go fast. I just want you to stop driving in a circle.”
He reminds me again how I didn’t make the reservation properly.
Then we are on the road. Going the right way. It is quiet for a while. Then he starts to make small talk. “Where are you going? Massachusetts? It’s too humid there..” And he casually, so gently, slips in, “Yeah, so next time you travel with us, make sure to let them schedule the pick-up time. You don’t know. We are running late because we had to pick up other passengers.” Meanwhile, there are no other passengers in the car but about 16 wrong turns in the memory bank of this Talking Map. He points his finger in the rear view mirror and says in translated English, “It’s not always you.” I think he meant to say, “It’s not all about you.” Trust me. I’m all too aware that not much is about me.
I am still sort of weepy just because and he asks me for the third time, “First time flying?” You don’t have to be early for the plane. It takes off at 11:30pm. It’s now 10:45pm. We are fine.”
Ever hear of check in? Security check? We are not fine. We’re not even at the airport. But he thinks he’s our best friend now. He thinks he has counseled me and even though I’ve said it’s not, he continues to tell me how I’ll love my first time flying.
We’re about to take a right on the road that leads us to the airport. His cell phone rings. He can’t find it. He digs. He doesn’t bother to continue watching the road. I watch for us. Just to see what color truck it will be that slams into us. He finds his phone. “Ma! I can’t talk now. I’m busy!”
He misses the turn. Talking Map scolds, “Re-calculating. Missed turn.”
He slams the steering wheel. I cry again but this time I think I’m also laughing. I’m thinking that maybe this man is saving our life. Our plane is destined to go down in a historical American Airlines mishap. Some drunk pilot or faulty screw or the first case of spontaneous combustion. This bumbling fool will have us at the airport as it takes off. We’ll be pissed that we missed the flight until we see it explode in air. Now part of me wants to miss the flight. And part of me wants so badly to be normal.
We arrive at the airport. The traffic is so bad we beg him to let us out at United and we’ll just run to American Airlines. He won’t have it. He’s still telling me to enjoy my first flight and that he’s never seen a woman cry before just because she’d never flown before.
It’s now 10:55pm. We finally make it. We cut in line. The staff at LAX says we can. Some passengers whisper that we are little shits. We get searched and finally begin to board.
The passengers are tired and cranky. It is, after all, bedtime. We have to get on this flight to JFK in NYC and then transfer to another one to Bosotn. The stewardess greats me at the door. I am about to tell her that I’m afraid of flying and require some comforting words. When she says, “Is JFK your final destination? Or would you like to check your carry-on?” I say, “No. I’m going to Boston.” She perks up. “I love Boston. I have two kitties. They are black and white. They are named after the North End. Would you like to know their names?”
The man in back of me who is still straddling the plane doorway and the innertube hallway says, “No.”
She hushes up and scoots me along. I did want to know about her cats names. I found it odd that I met another grown woman who calls them kitties. Who loves black and white ones (RIP Mitty) and names them after Boston. It didn’t matter that the drugs had not kicked in. I knew I had a friendly stewardess on board.
The woman in front of me had a tiny dog. A real live one. I got excited. I unzipped my carry on and took out my stuffed black and white kitty. I put it on the back of her headrest and said, “They can play.” (I think the klonopin had kicked in.) The woman and her dog, stared at me and turned away. Well, fine. I didn’t really want to play with them either. I’m not sure what happened next but I think it involved passing out.
Poor drugless and sleepless Neil watched Failure To Launch (bad title for a movie shown on a plane?) while I drooled against the window dreaming with my stuffed black and white kitty, gauze covered pillow and postage stamp sized blanket.