Travel day. OMG. Already. Weekend? What weekend?
My alarm went off at 12:30 AM. Hello? 12:30 AM. I got up, got ready and was out the door. It’s not like I even blow dried my hair and curled it, I wrapped my dripping wet hair in a ponytail and wore my clothes from yesterday. Seriously.
Regarding my clothes from yesterday. I felt absolutely rockin’ hot yesterday. As the Chelly song goes, “my hair done right, my dress real life, all eyes on me, I took the night.” Google it. Ever have one of those days where you just feel totally put together and you can see people see you? That was yesterday. So, after about no sleep and in the midst of the usual morning “what shall I wear today”, though technically still the middle of the night, I decided on yesterday’s outfit, because it was all that! And it was right there, folded neatly in a little pile, next to my bed, where I left it a few short hours ago. The only revision, the bra. Yesterday I wore my miracle Frederick’s of Hollywood bra that is just so amazing. But, truthfully, the price we women pay for that kind of amazing, it is a little less comfortable than my pretty little floral and glitter number from Victoria’s Secret, and considering my cross country flight and all, I opted for Vickie over Freddy, and, well, the results left me feeling a little less than all that. It’s kind of frightening what a minor wardrobe change can do to one’s self esteem. I was all that yesterday and ho-hum today. In my mind.
Oh, but I’m not a bus driver at Sacramento International Airport! I am all that, and even in a lumpy and less than supportive bra. I have a following. I don’t know what it is about bus drivers at the airport, but they LOVE me. Every bus driver from the economy lot, where I park Meep (my Civic), to the terminals, absolutely loves me. Except the Caucasian guy. Most of them love me. It may have something to do with the fact that I always sit right by the driver’s seat, but, only because I am quite soft spoken and it’s just so much easier on everyone if I can, conversationally, tell the bus driver where I need to stop, rather than shouting it from the back of the bus only to not be heard and then having to walk a half a mile to my car. Right? So, I sit right up front. Ok, so I also tip. Not a lot, just a couple of bucks. But I always tip. Always. As a result, or the reason I tip, sort of an egg and chicken first kind of scenario; the bus driver jumps out of his seat and lifts my bags onto the bus, which, by the way, I am perfectly capable of doing. Heck, I’ve already hoisted them down two flights of stairs and loaded them into a Civic, not a Lincoln or a Cadillac, a frickin’ Civic. After parking the Civic, I’ve hoisted the tightly wedged suitcases, yes, multiple suitcases, each very carefully packed so as to fall just below the fifty pound limit, but barely, out of the car and onto the pavement. At this point, I very cleverly and handily wheel them to the bus stop. Wheeling multiple suitcases should be an Olympic sport. I’d win. No doubt. So, yes, if I had to lift them onto and then, again, off of the bus, myself, I could. And, in fact, since I am kind of a fitness freak, I could probably, actually do so more handily than the bus drivers, but, sssshhhhhhh. Before I have a chance to even grab the handles on my suitcases, they have been snatched from my grasp and placed carefully on the bus. I take my seat by the front of the bus, immediately adjacent to the driver and take up small talk with him, and, yes, occasionally, her. This is not something I initiate, but I do speak candidly with the bus driver if and when the bus driver initiates conversation. No one else on the bus, by my observations, has ever spoken to the bus driver. Whatever; sports, the weather, traffic, kids, travel. It matters not the topic, I will happily talk to the bus driver while I jot my parking space down on my ticket so I’ll be able to refer to it upon my return, and while I check in on Foursquare, Yelp, Facebook and Twitter. So, the bus driver has 98.3% of my attention because I am multi-tasking. I am also, surreptitiously, pulling a couple of bills out of my wallet to have handy as a tip when the bus driver helps unload my suitcases. And, I am certain, they have surreptitiously spotted me doing so. No matter. It’s only a couple of bucks, and I can expense it on my company expense report. And when I do travel for pleasure and can’t expense it, I still tip. I appreciate their assistance and they appreciate the recognition. It’s a win/win.
In fact, on one trip home, as I was met, with jubilation, by my favorite bus driver and he hoisted my two ultra-heavy suitcases on board, and then, when I arrived at my stop, jumped up to help me unload them, an angry and belligerent looking, middle-aged (my age) woman, overweight, unmade up, wearing ugly, unflattering sweats and a bitter expression and a pretty much pissed off at the world attitude, made some snide remark about how the bus driver helped me with my bags, but not hers, because I was “pretty”. I was pretty human, that’s all. Well, I’m 99.9% certain the bus driver would’ve helped her with her bags had she had the patience, but, yes, my bags were first, not because I was “pretty”, as she complained, but because I was fucking NICE to the bus driver. Hello? Hostile woman person, try being nice! Golden rule, love! Golden rule. Pretty has nothing to do with it. Be nice and get nice in return.
Pretty has nothing to do with it. Really, because I was not feeling it today, and, still, for my two dollar tip and a little small talk, I got my bags loaded onto the bus and off. And, I was told I don’t look a day over thirty, and, am “hotter than most twenty-somethings”. Two dollars. My customary tip is two dollars. Buy yourself a compliment for two dollars and you feel like a million the rest of the day even if your bra makes you feel deflated and lumpy.
I had a short and miserable flight from Sacramento to L.A. on AmericaWest, a contractor with United. My dear friend, who I’ve known, literally, since kindergarten, is married to a man who has worked for United maintaining their aircraft for, well, since we’ve been out of high school. A hell of a long time. Whenever I see him, which is not nearly often enough, I tease him, “Peter, are you taking good care of my airplanes?” He reassures me. “Yes, just don’t fly AmericaWest”, or this airline, or that, or any other airline other than United. I try, really I do. But I fly out of Sacramento, not a major hub by any stretch of the imagination. I am, more often than not, going to have to fly AmericaWest to San Fran or L.A. to make my connection to the real world. Peter says nothing, just widens his eyes a little, which, I’m sure, makes me widen my eyes. A lot.
So I boarded my AmericaWest flight to L.A., crossing myself, and I figured, whatever. Whatever happens, happens. Of course, we make it without any drama, except, where everyone, except me, tries, in vain, to stuff their too large of a carry on into the overhead compartment of the small regional jet with microscopic overhead compartments. I couldn’t even fit my tiny cross-body purse in, if I tried. I don’t even try. Everyone is frantically trying to stuff their crap into the overheads before the flight attendant confiscates their luggage and has it gate checked. Don’t look at me, I check my bags. And so, we are delayed.
Getting up at 12:30 AM, obviously, I did not make it to the gym before departing. Now, I used to belong to 24-Hour Fitness, when I lived in Sacramento, and I could have, technically, made it to the gym before heading to the airport. You know, and I know, that never happened. But it could have and that was worth paying extra for; a 24/7 gym. In Napa, there is no 24-Hour Fitness, much to my despair, and the gym I did join has, by comparison, extremely limited hours. So, my point, no, I didn’t go to the gym today. So, the sprint I made between Terminal 8 and Terminal 6 at LAX with my forty-pound computer backpack and my electronic laden purse in order to even make my flight to Newark was my workout for the day. I arrived at the gate for my Newark flight in need of oxygen and defibrillation.
I made it, though. I didn’t get a free first class upgrade, which, truthfully, kind of pissed me off. But, I am on the commuter flight; L.A. to NYC. There are people sitting in first class that make this flight multiple times a week, who am I to think I rank in their numbers. I only do the west coast to east coast thing a couple of times a month! So, I take my seat in coach. Well, and God love United for this, not exactly coach, I get “Economy Plus” seating for no extra charge. I have status. Economy Plus is five extra inches of leg space, which also equates to tray table/laptop space even when the jerk in front of you reclines all the way. And, as a karma thing, I NEVER recline, it’s just not nice. Ever. There is nothing worse than having your red wine and your cheese, fruit and crackers perched on the flimsy tray, almost on top of your laptop, which cost almost as much as a semester of your children’s’ college education, and the asshole in front of you reclines their seat six inches. It doesn’t just thrust your laptop, wine, fruit and cheese towards your white, dry-clean only blouse at an alarming rate, it, 9 times out of 10, pins your laptop in a manner that it takes all of the gay, male flight attendants’ brute strength, combined, to try to dislodge it. Then the hetero female flight attendant comes along and deftly snaps it free, single handedly, while demonstrating the finer points of using the emergency oxygen mask. I really just want to know how to score oxygen even when there isn’t a sudden loss of cabin pressure. Do you think a two-dollar tip and a chatty conversation would suffice? How well does red wine and a healthy dose of oxygen mix?
Anyway. I’m in Economy Plus, thank God, for the next six hours, from L.A. to Newark, NJ. I really prefer booking my cross-country flight from Sacramento to Chicago, or Denver, both United hubs, then to my east coast destination. I like being able to get off the plane after three or four hours and eating real food, peeing in a real toilet, and walking on real ground. But, because of the nature of how my company has been scheduling my work lately, I have been booking flights within a week of departure. I have no options. When you require your employees to travel 70% of the time, best to take into consideration their likely travel experiences, because the more their travel experiences suck, the more likely they’ll quit, via email, while stranded in an airport in the middle of the night, without their luggage. Just saying.
So, I’m on this flight for the next six hours. I boarded late even after sprinting through the airport. The two seats next to me are vacant and I don’t dare hope they’ll remain that way. But I do. I scrutinize every person that boards the plane, I watch them as they negotiate their way down the aisle, reading the row and seat number, and hoping, against all hope, that they aren’t seated next to me. Rare, but lovely, are the flights where I have the whole row to myself. I don’t mind small talk, as evidenced by my bus driver entourage. Six hours of small talk, though, on only a few hours of sleep, is a bit more than I can consent to. I am hoping for an empty row, something alcoholic and uninterrupted sleep until I feel the jolt of the wheels hit the ground in Newark. Hey, a girl can dream!
They’ve made the “doors closing” and “electronics off” announcement, a couple of times. They’ve briefed the exit rows, even. And, still, the two seats next to me are vacant. I am hopeful, but still vigilant in watching for more passengers to board. I am in the aisle seat, of course, that is my preference. On a six-hour flight, I’d die if I didn’t have the aisle seat. Die. I’d die a horrible and very theatrical death, I assure you. I might make headlines, “passenger goes crazy, (insert newsworthy behavior here)” if I didn’t have the aisle seat.
A foreign couple boards the plane within seconds of the door actually being closed. In the slowest motion possible, they walk down the aisle. I’m only in the third row from the door, so it is extremely slow motion. They are looking left, then right, at the row and seat numbers. I marvel at that, once you’ve got the ABC’s and the DEF’s down, it’s all numbers, and in sequence, but, still, their heads swivel, in unison, right, left, right, left. They arrive at my row and, in unison, look at their tickets, look at the placard over my row, look at their tickets, look at the placard. They finally figure out it’s a “bingo”, they smile and, rather than letting me stand to allow them access to their seats, which I am happy to do, and, in fact, prefer, they insist on climbing over me. I hate that, it just feels so, lap dance. I’m all for lap dances, but I’d prefer to choose my participants, thank you. And, there is only one person I’d really like to give a lap dance to, and he isn’t on this flight. Sadly. Newark isn’t his kind of town. Nor mine.
They take their seats and my dreams of a row to myself are quashed. Worse. They begin snuggling and canoodling and displaying all kinds of PDA, which, again, I’m a fan of, if it’s me and my guy, but for anyone else, and especially people I am within inches of for the next six hours, um, ew.
We finally take off and as soon as is allowed, I have my defense shield up. My defense shield; devices that require my attention so as not to have to pay attention to anyone in my immediate proximity. iPod, iPad, Kindle, iPhone, heck, iPhones (2), and ear buds. I know, ear buds are weak. If you really want immunity you need noise cancellation. I’m just torn between Bose and Beats by Dr. Dre. Truth, I’m torn between Bose, Beats by Dr. Dre and paying my bills next month. And let’s not even talk about where in my forty pound electronics backpack, also known as my personal Best-Buy-in-a-Bag, I am going to be able to wedge these much larger than ear buds noise cancellation headphones! But how many flights have I endured where I could have blissfully sat, in silence, or listening to something wonderful, more wonderful than fucking screaming children!? Worth the price, for certain. But, I still haven’t invested. Why? Because every flight, I swear, is my last. Although, as I think about it, those noise cancellation headphones would, indeed, cancel out noise at home, too, right? Like television? And ringing telephones? And …
With my defense shield up and the couple next to me likely conceiving their first child, in flight, I manage to get a whole bunch of shit done! I am just on fire! Ideas are coming to me, I am jotting them down in Evernote. I am drafting emails that will magically fly off into cyberspace as soon as I turn off “plane mode” when we land. I am reading, writing and quasi-communicating, all the while, not paying attention to what is happening in the two seats adjacent to mine. I am grateful that they are speaking a language I do not understand, nor a language I can almost decipher. They are not speaking a romance language. I’m glad. I don’t want to know.
Wherever they are from, they have incredibly small bladders. They are up and down, climbing over me before I can move, in order to use the restrooms. I did notice, they went individually, otherwise, had they gone to the bathroom together, I might have forced my way up to the first class bathroom to pee, again, likely making national network news for my abhorrent and deviant behavior.
After a period of time that seemed way too long, by my estimation, the flight attendants rolled their little carts down the aisle. I’d had my customary oatmeal, banana and coffee from Starbucks at SMF (Sacramento International Airport) at 4:15 AM, in spite of the fact that they open, officially, at 4:30 AM. This is my secret, this is why I am always first in line; I know they will open early, so I start the line at 4:10 AM. But it is now after 9:00 AM PDT. So, I’m hungry! I read the menu carefully. The menus on airlines are intended solely for highly literate people! Only certain selections are available on certain flights based on any of several factors, including, but not limited to, flight duration, flight direction, flight destination and time of day, although it does not specify time zone. I like the cheese, cracker and fruit tray, even with the nasty glob of wilted greens, I don’t eat them, of course, I scrape them off the cheese and pretend they aren’t actually moving on the plastic wrapper where I’ve discarded them. The fruit and cheese platter, for whatever reason, is not available on this fight, some algorithmic function of time, duration, destination, direction and an unpublished and unquantifiable variable applied arbitrarily by someone at Skychef.
I find, instead, the “high-energy breakfast” consisting of a whole-wheat roll, Justin’s Nut Butter, and you know I’m a fan of Justin and his Nut Butter! There is also a chunk of cheese and some grapes. I wait, somewhat impatiently, for the flight attendant and the food cart. Everyone seated in the rows ahead of me are 1) non-English speaking and/or 2) are obtuse. They don’t know to look at the menu in the damn magazine even after the flight attendant announced it three separate times. It takes forever, but, finally, I am asked the ever-important question “food?” Yes! And I place my order. I also ordered a red wine to go with my “breakfast”. This raised many an unmanicured eyebrow in the surrounding seats in coach. Oh, sure, if you’re in first class there are more bloody marys, screwdrivers and mimosas than passengers, but in coach, this is brow raising? Firstly, this is not my breakfast, I had breakfast, with coffee at Starbucks five hours ago. Second, is this flight not landing in the Eastern Time zone? So, maybe I set my watch ahead three hours at boarding rather than landing and this, is, in fact, after noon (EDT). Wine with lunch is acceptable, right? Whatever. I enjoy my wine and my boxed airplane food.
My productivity continues for a bit, I am enjoying my Kindle book, I read the WSJ on my iPad, jot down a few more ideas in Evernote. I am blissfully productive. The couple next to me have fallen asleep, intertwined. I order another wine and stick my tongue out at the people across the aisle staring at me. Okay, I didn’t actually stick my tongue out, but I thought about it. Airline wine is not so fine, but it is nearly palatable, though, for red, a little too chilled. It is better than nothing.
We arrive in Newark on schedule and deplane. Now my week in New Jersey officially begins. Considering I was originally supposed to be in New York City this week, I am pouting at the relocation of our training session. I always say I hate Jersey, and I actually don’t. I hate Newark. I’m working twenty miles outside of Newark in Saddle Brook, an area I’ve been to before. But, still, it is a far cry from NYC. I’m still going to pout. I make my way through the airport, claim my luggage and take the train to the rental cars. I choose my car, nothing spectacular, a Chrysler 200, and I mentally prepare myself for my drive through Newark at 5:00 PM. New Jersey driving is, if you’ve never experienced it, a whole new ball game. I know the rules, now, and I adopt my best Jersey Turnpike sneer and my take no bullshit attitude as I turn the key in the ignition, put the car in drive and head for the highway and Jersey traffic. I can do this, it’s all in the attitude.
And, so, that’s my take away for today. We really can do anything we set our minds to. We can get up at 12:30 AM and function. We can live by the golden rule and make our way through life being charming and as a result, lead a somewhat charmed life. We can get a lot accomplished in confined quarters without Internet, if we just put our mind to it. We can have wine at nine because it is noon, somewhere, after all. And, most importantly, we can overcome fear and intimidation and drive with the best of them in New Jersey. Anything at all we want or need to accomplish is within our grasp if we just have some resolve. This applies to long-term goals, short-term goals, wishes, wants, hopes, desires and dreams. “Whatever the mind can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” ― Napoleon Hill.