Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Shoot 'em, stuff 'em, ship 'em

Two weeks ago, I broke the news to the children that I would be going out of town the next morning. It went down a little something like this:

Me: I'll be flying out of town tomorrow morning and I'll be back late Sunday night.
Eve: Okay.
Nat: Okay.
Dan: Nooooooooooo!
Me: It's okay, Daniel. I'll be back in a few days.
Dan: Nooooooooooooo!
Me: Daddy will be here with you.
Dan: But who will make me homemade bread?
Me: I made you a bunch of homemade bread.
Dan: But what if I eat it all?
Me: I made 32 buns. Please don't eat it all.
Dan: But who will make me homemade crackers?
Nat: Mom already made a bunch of crackers, Dan. Besides, you have to eat some vegetables.
Dan: But what if we run out of homemade butter?
Me: Then Daddy can go buy some Shedd's Spread.
Dan: I don't want you to go. I want Mommy!
Me: Daddy knows how to fix butter on bread.
Dan: Okay.

If you couldn't tell, three of Daniel's four food groups are butter, bread, and crackers. (The fourth is tubular meat.) I'm not Amish; I just started making this stuff at home because we blow through it almost as fast as my kids blow through toilet paper. And if you only knew how often they stop up the toilets with excessive amounts of toilet paper, this would really let you know how much butter on bread Daniel eats a day.

Even though he cried himself to sleep at the thought of Mommy leaving because maybe, just maybe, he might eat 32 buns, 2 cups of butter, and 12 dozen crackers in three days, Daniel woke up cheery the next morning to bid me adieu. Nobody seemed to care all that much that I was going, actually. They just requested that I didn't forget to bring back souvenirs.

I got to the airport bright and early. When I fly, I always fly Southwest. This time I switched things up and chose Delta. Pro: no rushing the plane trying to get a seat because I chose my seat when I booked the ticket. Con: you have to pay to check your bag.

The reason I got to the airport so bright and early is that I know whatever gate I depart from will be the absolute furthest gate away. I know this because it always happens when I fly Southwest and I'm huffing and puffing as I try to hightail it to the last gate in the terminal. I also know that I will be pulled aside for extra security screenings because that's what happens to me. I have never been through security without extra screening since 2001. I have never been at a gate closer than the end of the airport. It's important to arrive early.

The first difference with this trip was that I got to go to the other terminal, which does not accommodate puddle jumpers. It does, however, accommodate hundreds of people trying to squeeze through security. At this point in life, I should know the best way to fly is in sweatpants and flip flops. But, I dressed like someone not flying to Walmart and wore boots and a belt. Off come the boots. Off comes the belt. Here comes security asking me to step to the side. Here I go, through the x-ray machine. Here I go, getting the back of my hands, back of my hands pat down. Here I go, getting my hands swabbed to make sure they don't have any bomb residue but in fact have that lovely sheen via cocoa butter.

They didn't even give me the opportunity to set off the metal detector this time! There must be a poster of me in the TSA breakroom so they know who to look for. Yes, I have set off many metal detectors in my time. Yes, I once set it off because I was wearing my girdle. Yes, I tried to lift up my shirt to show the screener before I got yelled at to keep my shirt down as she came at me with the back of her hands. Yes, I don't think it makes a difference whether you are patting me down with the front or back of your hands. Yes, you are still putting your hand too close to my crotch.

But I didn't wear my girdle this time. I just look suspicious in general.

I'm a pro. I get through these minor indignities easily. I think people just want to touch my awesomeness and hope some of it rubs off on them. This is why I get the extra screening.

What I think is a major indignity is not having to walk in your socks through the scanners- the true horror of it all is having to put your belt back on in front of everyone at the airport. It feels so...dirty. I can't really describe how uncomfortable I feel putting on a belt at the airport. I have even removed undershirts in front of people and not felt this weird. Maybe it wouldn't be as traumatic if my favorite belt wasn't completely sad and falling apart. But you have to make them completely sad in order to break them in, and I've been breaking this one in for 16 years. And now it needs as much duct tape as my van.

And the reason I wear a belt is because these pants fall down if I don't. You know, the whole reason belts were invented, besides to make that whipping sound that has scared children for generations. So when my belt is off and I have to stand through the x-ray scanner with my arms above my head, I say a silent prayer than I don't lose my pants, and if I do, please Lord let me be wearing pretty underwear.

Still, I'm there early enough that it would take a lot to delay me in getting from the front of the airport to the back. Which is where I'm assuming my plane will be boarding. The back. As back as can be. But wait!

Is that my gate? Seriously, the closest gate after the belt-shaming area? Are you kidding me? You mean, I have time to sit in that restaurant and eat breakfast and read my Kindle like I'm some kind of fancy-pants traveler who eats omelets by themselves while using an eReader?

Sweet! Well, cheesy actually. It was a western omelet.

And the best part was that the restaurant was right across from the gate, so I could just sit there and watch people line up and not have to worry about when I got on the plane because...I already had a seat. Can you believe people have been traveling like this for decades? Well I feel silly. Now I just have to find some money to fly first-class and I'll really have something to blog about.

And wouldn't you know, the flight attendants made an announcement asking for volunteers to check their carry-on bags for free since the plane was full and overhead space was limited. Umm, yes please. Worse comes to worse and they lose my bag, I have clean underwear and socks in my purse. Best comes to best, I get my very heavy "carry-on" bag (you know, the bag that in no way should be considered a carry-on bag because we all know damned well that I'm going to dislocate my shoulder hauling it around the airport) checked for free.

Now I have even less reason to try and not be the last person on the airplane. Nothing to stow. No reason to wait on the stuffy airplane before the air conditioning comes on. Less time to try and be politely chatty with the sleep-deprived business man sitting next to me.

I'm all set. I'm golden. My belt is back on, my belly is full, and now I'm the last person on the airplane with nothing heavier than my purse filled with clean underwear and socks. Life is good. The only thing that could make it better would be a nice cup of decaf coffee. Which is why I said the words "decaf coffee" when the flight attendant asked what I would like to drink.

"No. I'd have to go brew some. You want something else?"

Seriously? I believe in being honest, but he should have lied and said they were out, not that he was too lazy to make coffee. I've been lazy in my own house and told my kids that we were out of something when in truth I just didn't feel like fixing it. And that's what any good person would have done.

Ten minutes later, as I was sipping on my water, he walked by with a tray of coffee and paused briefly to say, "I didn't make any for you; no decaf!" And it wasn't like I stopped him and asked. He just walked by, made a gesture to get my attention, and rubbed it in my face that he wasn't serving me any decaf coffee. It's not like I needed it to wake up- I just wanted to have bad breath like everyone sitting next to me.

While sipping on my water and not my decaf coffee, I noticed that 11 airplane peanuts are equivalent to 9% of my daily fat values. Make no mistake: I value fat a lot.

We landed in Atlanta and I was free to hop on a tram that would take us ten miles away to the concourse I needed to be on. Which, hopefully, would have a plane waiting for me that had decaf coffee. Dammit, I wanted coffee. Because you always want what you can't have, like toned abs and fat-free nacho cheese.

What was waiting for me when I got off of the tram was something like no other:

"Welcome to Atlanta."

I'll let that picture speak for itself. Although, it's not too hard not to speak when you are scared the evil puppets are going to steal your soul.

And so I tiptoed past the "art" and headed for my gate. Which had more "art."

I didn't think the kids would understand the word 'taxidermy.' On the phone, I may have described it to Natalie as dead stuffed animals. "Yes, the airport is full of dead stuffed animals, honey. It's lovely!"

I took more pictures of this than I did anything else on my trip. I was fascinated. It was like a safari, but much safer and without the sweat. Boy, do I hate to sweat. And look through binoculars. And smell wild animals. Better to just shoot them, stuff them, and ship them to the Atlanta airport.

And do you know what? I made sure I was the last person to board that plane, mostly because I so busy photographing the wildlife. And do you know what else? The flight attendant made me some decaf coffee! And wanna know one other thing?

There's no need to chill the Dairy Fresh non-dairy creamer. Mmm...corn syrup solids.

I was very excited to be sitting next to the lavatory because not only do I love the word lavatory but I also love being so close to a throne. And after all that coffee, I would be queen!

But then I realized that being RIGHT NEXT TO THE TOILET wasn't all it was cracked up to be. Like, you can never really get in line because people rush the bathroom and block you in your seat. You know, the seat that gets uncomfortable because your bladder is so full you're going to pee on the sleep-deprived business man sitting next to you? Oh, and then there's the constant opening and closing of said-toilet, oozing out that "eau de blue port-a-john goo" smell.

At least I got my coffee.

There was a toddler traveling with his grandmother sitting in front of me. The first thing she did was apologize for his existence. I'm not the type of person who gets upset when a kid is near me on an aircraft. I'm the type of person who is thinking, better you than me! when they start screaming. I can tune out screaming up to 180 decibels. I practice at home. I make perfect at home.

The child wanted nothing else than to crawl up and down the aisle the entire flight, which was fine by me. I had my Kindle. I had my coffee. I had the bathroom an arm's length away. What I didn't have was access to the bathroom because baby's grandma's bottom was trapping me in my seat. Because, in case it wasn't clear, HER BUTT WAS STATIONED THREE INCHES INTO MY PERSONAL SPACE. But she was really nice and her daughter should be really thankful she has a mom who would take her screaming grandchild across the country by herself. Daughter, wherever you are, give your mom a hug. She is an angel who stood up for nearly 5 hours as your child was on a mission to smash animal crackers up and down the aisle before trying to feed me smashed animal cracker crumbs and then I had to act like it was awesome and I was going to pretend to eat them before the child ran away and your mom had to go after him before she got stuck before two beverage carts. Really, give her a big hug from both you and me!

I landed in Los Angeles. I guess everyone else on the plane landed, too. Except for that kid. I think he climbed into an overhead compartment.

At baggage claim, I was excited to find my checked carry-on bag was waiting for me. No need to bust out the emergency underwear and purse socks just yet!

The longest part of the shuttle from LAX to the hotel was actually leaving the airport. We spent twenty-five minutes picking up more passengers before leaving the airport and incredibly returning to the airport before leaving once more. I don't know how or why they do this, but I thanked the good man up above for my cell phone. Because I didn't feel like talking to anyone on the shuttle and wanted the comfort of my family in my ear as I headed for a hotel room with a king-sized bed, a mini-fridge, and no one to wake me up in the middle of the night because they had a dream that I said Santa wasn't going to leave them presents but he was really going to until the Tooth Fairy said NO, THOSE ARE MY PRESENTS! and left the children nothing but bloody teeth and old Kleenex.

But the dude sitting next to me didn't pick up on any of that. I need to be more obvious next time. Like I am in the airport going through security.

"How does it come through your phone?"
"How do you get a fax to come out? Does it just print out at the top?"
What say you?
"The fax! The fax you are going to get!"
The text. I said "text me."

Old people and technology. They're so cute! Except when I'm tired from being in the air all day and all I want is my king-sized bed and my mini-fridge.