A Flight to Rememberbyothbndy©
I'd like to thank jen_litgirl for her editing work and suggestions on this piece. If it's well received I'll write parts II and III.
As the city passed by outside the taxi window I thought to myself, it's going to be one hell of a stressful, yet boring day. I was on the way to SeaTac and a flight home. I'd just spent a great week with friends running around Washington State and Oregon. We'd been to the Olympic mountains, Mount Rainier, down to Crater Lake for an evening, and had gone clamming and oystering in Puget Sound. But, the fun was over and it was time to leave.
Just so you know, I hate flying, but Tacoma is too far to drive from Scranton, PA. Understand, I'm not afraid to fly, I simply hate it. At 6 foot 5 inches and 226 pounds, economy class seating is downright uncomfortable. Even sitting straight up my knees are pressed against the seat in front of me and if the person leans their chair back, it's painful. I'm also a tight wad and hate to spend money on things I don't think are of value. I can afford a first-class ticket to Washington-Dulles but the price they want for the time in the air is simply not worth that kind of money so I suffer in economy.
I made the decision to leave early for the airport and now, sitting in the taxi, I wondered if that was the right alternative. I had the choice of sitting in the hotel with nothing to do, stressing about the things that might happen in traffic, at baggage check-in, or at TSA, or leave early, get through all that, and then wait on the other side for the plane. Either way I'd be waiting so I decided to leave early.
The ride up wasn't bad. There were no dreaded traffic jams and we arrived at the unloading zone a little before 10 a.m. for my 12:56 p.m. flight – almost three hours early. Baggage check-in went smooth and there was only a slight delay going through the TSA security check point.
Once I got on the other side of security I decided to check on the status of my flight and then go look for something to eat. My aggravation and frustration levels went up when I found the DC flight on the board, delayed; we wouldn't be leaving now until 1:45 p.m. I was already at the terminal three hours early, now it was going to be four. What really worried me though was the fact that I only had an hour and ten minute layover in Dulles before my connection flight to Scranton took-off, so this was going to cut the transfer really close.
I also knew that the 10:10 p.m. departure for Scranton was the last flight of the evening out of Dulles and if I missed it I would be stuck till the next day. There wasn't much I could do about the situation so I took a few deep breaths, tried to relax, and then went looking for lunch. After eating I walked down to the lounge and waited for my flight.
Eventually a voice came over the intercom and announced that they expected our plane to arrive at 1:09 p.m. and they wanted us to board as quickly after they got the plane ready because they had a 1:45 p.m. scheduled departure. They asked anyone that had oversized or excess carry-on luggage, which might have to be checked at the door, to come forward now so they could take care of that before boarding. I didn't think anyone would move but was quite surprised to see several people head for the counter. I thought to myself, maybe this can work.
The plane arrived as announced and they actually got everyone off, cleaned the cabin, and began the boarding process in a relatively short period of time. As the attendants made the boarding announcements I started moving toward the gate earlier than my ticketed section. I hovered near the door and when they announced that section six passengers could start boarding I was one of the first in the aircraft. I made my way to seat 22C, an aisle, and was happy to see that no one was in 22D or 22E yet. Maybe I'd get lucky and have the row to myself. After storing my bag in the overhead bin I sat down, fastened my seatbelt, and prayed that no one else would sit in the row.
The crowd of people moving past began to thin and then there were no more people coming on board. I felt myself smile and think, alright, this isn't going to be a bad flight after all. A few minutes later the flight attendant announced over the intercom that she needed everyone to get in their seats as quickly as possible. We were almost done with the boarding and if they got the baggage loaded down below, we would make our 1:45 departure.
Shortly after that announcement she came back on and said they were boarding three more stand-by passengers and then they would close the cabin door and get ready for departure. My heart sank a little, knowing in my mind that one of those three, maybe two, would probably end up in row 22 and all my leg room would be gone.
As I watched the first person come around the corner at the front of the cabin, my heart sank. He was huge. The guy was probably a couple inches shorter than me, but he must have weighted at least 270 – 280 pounds. He was pretty muscular, but still really big. In fact, he was so big I couldn't see the other two passengers behind him as he came down the aisle. I knew if he had a seat in my row we would both be cramped and uncomfortable for the entire flight. When he was about three rows in front of me, he stopped, looked at the seats open next to me and then looked at his ticket. I thought to myself "shit, this guy is going to be in the row right next to me." As I started to unbuckle my seatbelt and get up, he looked passed me down the aisle and walked on by. I was ecstatic, and then it got even better.
Right behind him were two young, petite women looking right at the seats in my row. The first girl walked up and said:
"Hi, we've got the two seats next to you, mind if we slide in."
I unbuckled my seatbelt and stood, "Sure, no problem. Here, let me help you store your overhead bag while you get in." I put the first girl's carry-on in the overhead bin and then asked the second if she wanted some help.
"No thanks," I've got some stuff in here I want to use during the flight so I'll just put it under the seat."
We all sat down, and after settling in made brief introductions. The girl sitting next to me was named Anni and her friend in the window seat was Eva. They were college juniors going to University in Seattle and were heading home for a couple of weeks before the fall semester began. As we chatted I learned that Anni was from Hartford, CT and Eva lived in Buffalo. All of us were a little worried about the delayed departure and how it would impact our ability to make our connecting flights. Anni was in a similar situation as me, she only had fifty-six minutes between the scheduled arrival and her connection whereas Eva had nearly an hour-and-a-half.
At 1:48 the flight attendant made another announcement that we were all set to go, and as soon as they finished loading the bags we'd pull away from the gate. Well, a few minutes turned into ten, and then twenty, and we finally backed away from the gate at 2:21. As we waited for final takeoff the pilot made an announcement that it would take about 4 hours and 36 minutes to get to Washington-Dulles once we lifted off.
I did some quick calculations and realized that would put us in at about 9:50 p.m. If we got to the gate quickly, and my connecting flight was in the same terminal, I might still be able to make it home tonight. As I was contemplating this possibility Anni interrupted my thoughts:
"Excuse me Dave, are you going to watch a movie during the flight?"
"Hmm, maybe, why?"
"Well, I've been reading the inflight magazine and it says for flights over four hours movies are $7.99, however, if you use your card to swipe three or more terminals you can get a discount and pay only $5.99 each. Eva and I are going to watch movies, and if you watch, I could use my card to swipe all three terminals and get the discount. Do you have six bucks to give me and I'll use my card to pay for all our movies?
She gave me a great big smile I couldn't resist so I dug out $6 and then she used her card to swipe all three of our terminals and pay for the movies.
After putting her card away, she reached over, put her hand on my knee, looked me straight in the eye, and said:
"Thanks, you don't know how much it means to me that you were nice enough to help us get that discount."
"You're welcome Anni. I was going to watch the movies anyhow and saving a couple of bucks never hurt anyone."
The rest of the flight was pretty uneventful and I can't even remember the movies I watched. The girls only got up once to go to the bathroom and the lady in front of me never leaned her seat back. I was feeling pretty good when the flight attendant announced that we were starting our descent into Washington-Dulles. As we got closer the attendant came back on and made an announcement about our arrival and connections.
"Ladies and gentlemen, we will be arriving at Gate C-14. As you know, many on board have some pretty short connection times because of our late departure out of Seattle, the airlines would ask that if your flight is terminating here in Washington-Dulles, or if you have more than forty-five minutes till your connection, that you remain in your seats and let those passengers that have shorter connection times deplane first."
"For those passengers making connecting flights, there will be two attendants just after you exit the gangway to assist you in getting to your gates." As I listened, she announced that the flight to Scranton was leaving out of gate C-22.
I thought to myself 'great' that is wonderful. It should only take me about two or three minutes to walk from C-14 to C-22 and I've got nearly twenty - if everything goes according to plan I should make my flight home tonight.
Anni then asked "Dave, are you familiar with Washington-Dulles, my flight to Hartford is leaving out of gate A-7, and I've only got ten minutes from when we arrive until the plane is supposed to take off, can I make it?"
My heart sank for her because I knew she was fucked. They close the doors ten minutes before departure, and she had to go half-way across the 'C' concourse, catch the train over to 'A' concourse, and then run down to her gate.
"I'm a little familiar with Washington-Dulles and you are going to really have to hurry but if you're quick I think you can make it."
"Eva, where is your flight leaving from?"
"Oh, I'm leaving out of gate C-8, but I have almost an hour before departure."
"Gate C-8, that's just down on the left, you can get there in about two or three minutes so you shouldn't have any problems."
I looked at Anni and said, "When we stop, I'll jump up and grab your bag, you take it and race like hell to try and catch your flight."
Once we got to the gate I hopped up, grabbed Anni's bag and let her in front of me but she really couldn't go anywhere for a few minutes as everyone in front of us was also hurrying to get down a too narrow aisle without enough time. As I stood there looking I noticed the boarding pass of the guy in front of Anni and saw he was also leaving out of gate C-22.
I tapped him on the shoulder and said, "hey, I see you're going to Scranton also. Do you live there or are you on business?"
He looked at me kind of quizzically and said "Why do you think I'm going to Scranton?"
"Well, I see your boarding pass says Gate C-22 and that's the gate the stewardess announced was the gate for Scranton."
He shook his head from side to side and said, "I'm not going to Scranton, I'm going to Portland, Maine."
I began to get a sinking feeling in my gut. The stewardess probably didn't have accurate information and my flight is not at Gate C-22 but somewhere else. I'll have to ask the attendant at the top of the stairs and hope it's not far.
Well, to make a long story short, my flight was over at gate A-2, not C-22. I raced like hell across the C concourse, made it to the train just as they were announcing "Please step away from the doors, the train is about to depart and the doors are closing." Once in 'A' concourse I ran as fast as I could down to gate A-2, and as I came around the corner I saw that the door was closed, there were no passengers in the lobby, and only two attendants were standing near the door. I looked at my watch and it was 10:02. I walked up to the lady and said
"I'm trying to catch the flight to Scranton and our flight from Seattle just arrived, have I missed it?"
"Yes, we closed the doors a couple of minutes ago and it's too late to re-open the plane and let you board."
I pleaded with her and the other attendant, talked about how I would be stranded here overnight if they didn't let me on, but in the end it was to no avail. After what turned into a heated pissing contest, I didn't make the flight and was told to head back over to the Customer Service Desk next to Gate C-4 and they would help me get another flight to Scranton. I was , but there was nothing I could do so I slowly headed over to the Customer Service Desk.
As I was stewing at the end of the line I heard a familiar voice,
"Dave? What happened, I thought your flight was just down the way and was sure you made it out."
As I turned around I saw Anni, and some of the frustration started to melt away. Misery loves company and at least I'd have someone to talk with while standing in line. We chatted about what happened to each of us and slowly moved forward to the customer representative desk. In the end, the customer representative wasn't a bad person, and really wanted to help but the best she could do was get me on a flight at 10:02 a.m. the next day, the 6 a.m. flight was booked.
When I asked about a hotel room voucher she said the airline couldn't issue one because the delay in Seattle was caused by air traffic control and not the airline. I was too tired to argue with her about the baggage delay in Seattle and took my boarding pass and walked over to the wall to contemplate what I was going to do next.
I was too old and frustrated to spend the night in the terminal; all the rental car companies had already closed, so I was left with one choice, find a nearby hotel with airport shuttle service.
I waited for Anni, and as she walked out of Customer Service I asked, "Well, what did you get?"
Looking down at the boarding pass, she half-heartedly mumbled, "they can't get me out on a flight to Hartford until 1:30 p.m. tomorrow afternoon and wouldn't give me a hotel voucher because they said the delay in Seattle wasn't their fault. I'm so exhausted; I don't want to spend the night in the terminal guarding my bags."
"Well," I said, "I'm going down and see about getting a hotel room, why don't you do the same?" "Come-on lets go."
"Dave, I can't afford a hotel room, I could barely afford the movie on the flight."
I really felt bad for her. I'd spent nights in airports before and knew it was no fun.
"Listen, come down with me and I'll pay for your hotel room. Don't worry, I can afford it and I'd feel much worse if I knew I left you stranded in the airport overnight with no place to sleep."
"Dave, I can't accept that from you, hotels cost a lot of money, especially around airports."
"Don't worry about that. I'd rather spend a few bucks and make sure you were safe and comfortable in a hotel room rather than sleeping out here in an airport lounge. What kind of man would I be if I let that happen to a lady. I wouldn't be able to live with myself."
"Really? Are you sure it's not too much? Thank you Dave, I'll find a way to get the money back to you somehow, I promise."
When we got down to the hotel phones, none of them were working, or at least we couldn't get them to work. Getting more and more frustrated, I finally pulled out my hotel rewards card and dialed the 1-800 number on the back.
I explained my predicament to the woman that answered the phone, told her we needed two rooms, and we needed a hotel that provided shuttle service to and from the airport. After a few minutes of searching the 1-800 number assistant came back on line and said,
"Sir, I have good news and bad. The good news is there is one hotel in the area that still has rooms available with a shuttle bus service to the airport, the bad news is that they only have one room left...but it does have double twin beds."
I thought, Oh damn, how am I going to get a room for myself and get one for Anni?
I asked the assistant to hang on for a second while I talked to my friend.
"Anni, I have bad news. They only have one room available with twin double beds at a hotel with a shuttle service. They don't have two rooms. Tell you what, please take the room. You are here till tomorrow afternoon and I have a morning flight. I've slept in airports before and really don't have anything in this backpack that I'll miss if someone steals it while I'm sleeping."
"Dave, I couldn't do that. You are paying for the room. I couldn't take it knowing you were here in the airport lounge."
"Anni, really I don't mind, and I don't see any other way, they only have one room available, I'm going to reserve it, and I want you to take it, agreed?"
"Dave, no, I don't want you sleeping in the airport overnight, there has to be another way."
As I was thinking about this, Anni said, "Did you say the room had two double beds?"
"Well..., if you promise to be good, we could share the room."
The idea of me sharing a room with a woman less than half my age didn't sound too good, but it was better than sleeping at the airport overnight.
I looked at her and said, "Okay, if you promise to keep your hands to yourself and stay in your own bed, we can share the room."
Anni gave me a quirky little smile, slapped my arm, and said "Why Dave, whatever do you mean? Of course I'll be good."
I gave her a weird little look, thought to myself, what the hell does that mean, and then got back on line with the attendant. A little over an hour later we were walking into the hotel lobby.
The desk clerk looked at us a little funny when we were checking in, but after I explained what had happened he lightened up and even gave us a couple of toothbrushes and a small tube of toothpaste.
When we got in the room I asked Anni what bed she wanted and she said the one closest to the bathroom. She explained that she had quite a bit of soda to drink on the plane and would probably have to get up a couple of times during the night to pee.
With that decision made, I walked over, put my backpack down and sat on the end of the other bed.
"Anni, why don't you get cleaned up first. Girls usually take longer in the bathroom and you don't want to go in there right after me, I tend to be messy."
She smile and proceeded to go around the corner and into the bath. I sat there for a minute or two and then laid back on the bed, turned on the T.V. and started flipping through the channels.
There was nothing good on at that hour and my gaze started to wander around the room. It looked very much like most hotel rooms. Television, mirror behind the dresser, and a large mirror just inside the door, across from the bathroom. As I looked into the large mirror across from the bathroom I quickly realized that Anni had not shut the door when she went in.
I could see the side of her as she stood at the sink brushing her teeth. She really was a pretty girl. Medium length auburn hair, nice curves, but probably carrying a couple more pounds then she really needed. All in all though, absolutely beautiful.
As I watched, she stepped from the sink and turned her back to the mirror. She pulled off her shirt and I could see she had a very firm back and what looked like supple and smooth skin. She reached up and undid her bra, letting it fall to the floor, and then I could tell she was undoing the zipper and snap on the front of her pants.