Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Leaving on a jet plane

It’s funny what you notice at the airport. I’ve always thought they were a great place for people watching. Sometimes I start making up stories about fellow travelers. Like the guy next to me, reading a Japanese-language newspaper and carrying a big rice cooker. Is he on the way to the U.S. to visit his son?

I look around to kill time as I am waiting on my layover in the Cleveland airport. This is my first, and presumably my last, visit to Cleveland. I can’t imagine there much here to interest me in actually taking a vacation here.

One thing I notice as I’m looking around is how everyone is dressed in heavy sweaters, coats and multiple layers. Of course, I’m the odd one out. I’m in short sleeves and my heavy coat is in the suitcase. After all, it was in the 70s when I left Austin. Plus I am flying in a 57-seat regional jet – space in overhead bins is a commodity fought over as much as crude oil.

People walk around the airport with their Bluetooth earpiece in their ear, eventhough they aren’t actually on the phone. I go into the bar to have a drink. I tend to drink when I’m flying, although I’m not exactly sure why. I don’t hate flying, but I don’t particularly care for it. Maybe it’s because I didn’t fly until I was 23 and my first trips consisted of flying a 25-seater twin prop. Luckily the flights were always fairly short, from Fayetteville to Dallas to catch a real plane, but still, by the time I walked off those planes, I felt like I had shoved into a dryer on the low tumble cycle. Still, it was better than the 6-seater I would occasionally fly with Wal-Mart, if my trips had at least four others going with me. One of those trips the weather was so bad that we literally kissed the ground when we landed.

There is a lady with two colleagues at the next table in the bar. She looks as though she is either a Baptist Sunday School teacher or that she sells Mary Kay. At the very least, she is an aging cheerleader, with a big diamond wedding ring. I am surprised at the amount of make-up she wears. That’s nothing you really see up north. In the south, it’s common to not go to the grocery store without first having your nails done. Austin, however, is a bit different – when a substantial portion of the female population doesn’t bother to shave their legs or armpits, make-up is the last of one’s worries.

I can’t eavesdrop on the woman’s conversation. My sinus and allergy issues went to my ears during the first leg of my flight and I can’t hear out of my right ear – it feels like it is stuffed with cotton. I just have to make up the dialog for this woman’s conversation. It’s not all that interesting.

Unfortunately the flight did nothing to diminish my sense of smell. A lady walks in and sits at the table behind me. I don’t see her, and can’t describe her, but I can definitely SMELL her. She reeks of perfume. She’s five feet away and her perfume overwhelms me. It’s expensive perfume, and maybe I would like it if it didn’t attack my olfactory senses. At this point, I decide it’s time to pay my bar tab and walk to my gate.

When I get to my gate, I have a stark realization – there is not a concourse that you walk through to get to the plane. You actually walk outside, down the tarmac and up those rolling stairs to board. I hate that. It reminds me of those dreaded twin props. Plus, I don’t have my jacket and it’s cold outside. I will have to order another drink from the flight attendant once I get on board.

The flight boards, we take off, and it’s time to get the personal electronics out. I forgot to turn off my portable DVD player, so the battery ran low during the layover – no Law & Order to amuse me. Instead, I take out my iPod and use my noise-canceling headsets to listen to the music I adored as a teen. I look out the window, into the darkness, staring at the lights below. It’s very different from flying out of Texas, especially heading west. There are tons of lights below – every town looks like a big city. It’s a fairly clear night, but we do pass through some clouds. At night they look like shadows dancing against the ground. I notice the blinking lights on the wing of the plane. Suddenly, I remember a Twilight Zone episode where a plane passenger sees a face against his window. Although I can’t remember any of the other episodes of the Twilight Zone, this snippet comes back to me as clearly as if the incident happened to me. It always does whenever I’m flying at night – I’ve had the remembrance before. My heart beats faster and I take drink. I try to think of something other than Rod Serling.

The plane starts its decent into Providence. I realize that now both my ears are clogged, but figure my hearing will be okay by the morning. I am looking forward to this trip, if for no other reason that seeing a new part of the country.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I would like everyone in this blog world to wish my baby sister Dara a very happy birthday.

She is very lucky that she did not run into her nephew Zack in the Cleveland airport, wouldn't that have been fun?!

from your sis Stacey