Finally! Time to board my flight to San Francisco! My wonderful husband had managed to schedule my place in line as A 01 - first in line (behind the pre-boards) As the boarding agent verified my ticket, he handed it back and asked, "Do you know what to do with this?” I’d already heard him joking with several, so I shrugged and replied, “Throw it away?”
“No-o-o-o!!!” he howled, as the lady behind me exploded in delighted laughter. “Give it to the flight attendant as you enter the plane so she'll know we've started boarding the regular passengers!!” At 1:30 p.m. the Southwest plane lifted off the runway. I felt the familiar awe that anything that huge could get itself up into the air, but thank goodness, I no longer experience the craven fear of flying that ruined every trip. Now the only stirrings in my tummy were growls of hunger. That bowl of cereal was long gone.
As the attendant began handing out snacks the guy in the aisle seat pulled the top off a round container that looked suspiciously un-airline-ish. The heavenly smell of grilled chicken wafted under my nose. I looked at the miserable peanuts I was munching on, then leaned across and said to the guy drooling on his salad, “You could get attacked for that, you know.” He looked at me and mouthed, “What?” I repeated my warning, but he didn’t seem to take me seriously and shoved a huge bite of that cluck-cluck in his mouth right in front of me.
A white-haired man next to me was going home to Sacramento, repacking, then continuing on to his daughter’s wedding in Oregon. “It’s just a formality, really; they’ve been together for quite a while.” Then with a sigh of resignation, “Things sure are different nowadays. Times have changed.”
Three hours later we set down at the Las Vegas airport – very large because of all those slot machines in every nook and cranny, as well as many of the aisles. I traipsed at least a mile through a maze of corridors and blinking lights to B 9 (sounds like bingo) gateway. Ah! Just right. Few minutes to quit huffing and puffing, then settle down to pretend to read as I watch all the, well, interesting people before boarding for San Francisco. Wasn’t to be. A guy in the adjacent gateway brought us up to date on our flight – delayed two hours. But … if we’d like to hop on one leaving in 20 minutes, just come see him. Some people who can make up their minds quickly jumped up and hurried over. I tried to organize my gray matter. What should I do? A woman next to me moved in that direction, then a couple joined her. My competitive nature kicked in – I wasn’t going to be left behind!!
The airline guy told me my checked luggage might not get transferred to this flight in time to go with me. Or maybe it would. He added that when he glanced at my face. He issued me the necessary paperwork, plus a blue flimsy rectangle. “You can pre-board with this – IF you get there in time.” I thought, get there in time? From this desk to the boarding line six feet away? Then he enlightened me: “You’ll be leaving from C 12.” C 12?!! At least two miles back the way I’d come! And the plane leaving right away!
I speed-walked around corners, in and out around people enjoying their stroll through the airport, and hoped my heart would hold out. Finally I saw that beautiful sign: C 12. The pre-boarders were long gone and regulars were on their way in. I gently pushed my way up to the boarding agent and said “Am I too late to use this?” With a sweet smile she assured me I could go right on down that ramp. White hair and wrinkles come in handy sometime. It was a short flight on to Frisco. I’d hardly eaten all my peanuts when the captain ordered us to lock everything up and tighten those seat belts.
A litte later as I watched for my stuff, I noticed that a lovely family, also luggage-less, were speaking to each other in a beautiful language I couldn’t identify. Finally I just asked where they hailed from – “Norway,” was the answer. They were tall, handsome people, the daughter a striking blond almost the height of her father. I urged them to read Lauraine Snelling’s books about Norwegian immigrants who pioneered in North Dakota. Lauraine ought to give me a commission.
My luggage elected not to travel with me from Vegas, but would, I was assured, show up in an hour. So my "with-child" daughter-in-law picked me up curbside (more gorgeous brown eyes also welcoming me from the back seat), and we headed for the nearest Old MacDonald’s to while away the time.
Inside, several Hispanic teen boys were snacking on piles of burgers and fries trying to make it to supper, and an Asian gentleman with a very long goatee was chilling at a table. Just then a tall, thin older fellow stalked in, commanding the spotlight. His long flowing mane was topped by a black cowboy hat, and chains of all lengths dangled here and there. His ankle-length black leather coat smacked of the OK Corral and bunkhouses. But his tiny sidekick, who pushed past him, ruined his entrance. She made some uncomplimentary remarks about his person, which motivated him to tell her to watch her tongue (fairly quietly). She then told the teen boys clustered together not to be so loud. They apologized to her. She told them some more things and they apologized some more. The cowboy strode back and forth, alert to any problems he could deal with – other than his whip-cracking wife. She got the food and ushered him way to the back. “Well,” I said to Airiel, “this isn’t the crowd you see in the Searcy MacDonald’s.”
I still don’t know if I ate my chicken nuggets.
We returned to the airport through the heavy traffic and misting rain. When I exited the car, Naomi and Conrad protested, thinking I was leaving – mighty short visit, they thought. I claimed my suitcases, heaved them into the vehicle, and finally, we could go home. Yes!!
Naomi wanted to sleep with me; after all, her brother’s little bed was next to mine, while she was all the way across the hall. After careful consideration, I weaseled out of having a bed partner, hoping my name wouldn’t be mud forever. I’d bunked with Naomi before (although she was much younger) and was afraid I wouldn’t be able to handle her bountiful energy since I was absolutely wiped out by that time. Thankfully, she graciously and sweetly conceded, armed with the promise she could wake me up come morning. Nite, all.