Thursday, June 09, 2005

YOU'RE ON VACATION

If you fly from Washington to Chicago on Thursday nights, you have a decent chance of flying with politicians. I flew with pre-conviction Rostenkowski (he was in first class, I was in cattle class). I flew with Luis Gutierrez, who hung out in the back of the plane glad handing the poor folk. There were others, but I am too tired to think of them now.

Why do I bring this up. Because it's my blog. That's why.

Anyway, tonight I had to fly home from Washington. For the first time in my life, I flew ATA. I flew ATA because it was cheap and the time was good. I kept humming "with ATA, you're on vacation." I could use a vacation. Maybe flying would be a mini vacation. Maybe? Could be? Small chink in the armor when I could not get my boarding pass on-line before the flight. Bigger chink when I showed up and was assigned a WINDOW seat?!? Um, ma'am, I prefer the aisle. That's great sir. Every seat on that flight is booked. That's fine, but they're aren't here yet and I am, so why don't you give me an aisle? I can't do that sir. Uh-oh.

The armor was splitting when I arrived at Terminal A at Washington National Airport. I guess I had never been in Terminal A. Terminal A is, I believe, the original building from 1812. Terminal A is not as nice as Willard Airport in Champaign, Illinois. Terminal A is a teeming mass of humanity, with too few seats, too little space, and too many flights bording too close to each other. Uh-oh.

I had genuine concern when I saw a good 30 junior high thugs sitting around in my general gate area. On the other hand, Terminal A does not make it very clear who belongs where, so I hoped they were not on my flight. Fortunately, I was distracted from this worry by an announcement from the gate four feet to the west of us that "no flights west of Washington are being allowed to depart." Well, with limited exceptions, EVERYTHING is west of Washington. Uh-oh.

Nothwithstanding my concern about delay/cancellation, at 6:15 promptly we began bording for our 7:00 flight. Weather must have broken. Cool. Except those 30 kids are, of course, on my flight. They are randomly interspersed among the rest of us. They are like roaches. They are from Colorado. The kid behind me is in 7th grade. His hair is dyed that blond that turns green. He had two earrings in his ear. His haircut is essentially a mullet without the party side in back. He's bragging that his mom cleans airplanes for United. I realize that he is basically Kenny with his hood off. Uh-oh.

I am in seat 18A. Immediately before we close the doors to push back, Barack Obama rolls on to the plane. The man is a rock star. People stare at him. People get up to shake his hand. People ask for autographs. He is another level from Rosty and Gutierrez. He is SOMEBODY. He strolls down the aisle beaming. He stops, smiles, and sits down in 18C. The guy in 18B says "isn't that guy a Senator." Yes he is. And he's flying ATA. And he's in my aisle. And he's surrounded on three sides by half-witted 7th graders. Uh-oh.

The fasten-seat-belt light is on. We are cross checked (whatever that means). We have gotten the safety lecture. Electronic devices are off and have been stowed. We are just not pushing back from the gate. We just sit. For an hour. Finally, pilot comes on and informs us that for reasons not apparent to him, "they" are calculating a new flight plan for us. Just to be careful, they are going to do two. When they are done, we can go out to where airplanes actually LEAVE the airport. Uh-oh.

Meanwhile, the Senator is plowing through the New York Times, Washington Post, Roll Call, and the Atlantic Monthly. He is obviously trying to ignore the constant beating on the back of his chair. He is obviously trying to ignore pseudo-Kenny tell racist jokes to the black kid next to him. The man is good. I thought he had the patience of a saint when he debated Alan Keyes. Now I KNOW he does.

We got to Chicago late. The Senator wanted to get home as badly as any of us. He stopped and spoke to nuns, moms, guys who yelled out "Yo! Obama!" He was gracious the whole time. He was on the same flight I was. I was ready to kill EVERYONE. He is a politician. I never will be.

...you're on vacation...

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