I flew to Chicago for my niece’s wedding (I forgot to note that my Dad picked up a Bailey’s and cream for me at the open bar…I rarely drink, but I finished the small glass of it, hoping it might help me chill a little before the flight). It was a very pretty wedding, but we had responsibilities at home and so didn’t want to have to stay overnight away from home. So like idiots, we decided to fly in the morning of the wedding (1 1/2 to 2 hour flight) and then turn around and fly home that night. The wedding was at 3pm. Our flight home was at 9:30pm, but remember you’re supposed to be at the airport two hours early to make it through security and to your gate in time to board. Ye-ah. Considering our first foray had a one hour wait in line for security screening, I’m totally understanding the 2 hour timing. I was sure, though, that there wouldn’t be much of a line at seven at night. No shock that I was wrong…it took about forty minutes to get through security this time. And guess what? This time they made me get back into the xray thingy a second time. Then the TSA agent made a face and while I was IN the xray thingy, she made me pull my pants all the way up “to your natural waist, hon”. Um, okay. Problem is, the pants I decided to travel in are my slouchy pants, but I did as I was told. She looked at me again and said I had to pull the pants waaaaaaaaay up so that the crotch wasn’t hanging down away from, well, my crotch. So I yanked my pants up as high as they could go, but she wanted me to also spread my legs farther apart. Which I did. When I came out of the xray machine, she made another face and said she was going to have to pat down my waist and my legs, to which I said, “Okie dokie.” Meanwhile, Hub, who was behind me, scooted through the xray and was putting on his shoes while I was being patted down. Might I mention that his pants were also baggy? But they were jeans, so maybe that’s different? Or they figure men need more room in their crotchal area than women, and thus I was some sort of threat with my saggy crotched pants? Dunno, but I did what I was told. They also wiped my hands with a piece of something-or-other and threw it into a machine. Came back clean and we were waved on our way. So, that was an experience. (Did I also forget to mention that during our flight out, we saw a female TSA agent patting down a lady who was wearing spandex? Who would have been unable to hide anything if she had wanted to? Because I could see the brand name of her underwear through her spandex? –also, said lady was very trim, so don’t think that was fat-bashing, it was just a spandex thing…and a thing about how TSA could possibly think she was hiding something from them…)
Once again, the gate we were going to was at the farthest end of the airport, literally. So we were off on our hike to the gate, where we starting hearing announcements almost immediately that our flight was moved to another gate. The actual last gate in the terminal. Which was already crowded with people, as it was technically two gates in the same area. So we had to stand for twenty-five minutes until they were ready to start boarding because the chairs in the area were all occupied, either with people or, rudely, with their STUFF. And here’s where it starting getting really bad for me. First of all, I was tired and in pain from the first flight, all the walking in the airport, and the hard chairs at the wedding. Then, I started thinking about how we were sort of crammed in like cattle, and that the airline we were taking home was Spirit, which is a discount airline. I bought these tickets because they were the latest flight out we could get (technically it’s considered a red-eye because we were flying “overnight” due to the time change), and because it was a full-size airplane (versus American Eagle which uses a very small-ish plane). But at the gate I was thinking maybe Spirit was flying old planes that no one else wanted. Our plane was already at the gate and I could see it through the window. It arrived and was deplaning as we were told our gate was moved to that gate. And we were scheduled to board only half an hour later…how do they clean a whole plane in half an hour? How do the pilots get to rest in between flights? I saw the flight crew leave with their bags, but then I watched the two pilots get off the plane and go retrieve food for their dinners. As they came back with food, I said to Hub “two hands on the wheel Mr. Pilot-man!” out of jest, but it freaked me out a bit. Were we flying old creaking airplanes with crew who couldn’t make it onto one of the big airlines?
Listen, for those who don’t have anxiety, you have to understand that those of us who do, our thoughts aren’t always rational. I don’t know those pilots, I don’t know the airplanes, I don’t know shit about Spirit except that it’s “no-frills”. I have no clue if their training is different or requires less air-time for the pilots, or if the planes are made specifically as no-frills for Spirit or if, indeed, they are just older planes. But these are the things my brain was telling me at the time.
This time I had purchased the “big seats” in the emergency exit row because they were only a few dollars more when we booked. And I thought on the flight home it would be worth it since we’d both be tired and stressed. It was a good thing because Spirit’s seats are even closer together and smaller than United, which also pushed me further into the “rickety old airplane” theory. We boarded in the second zone/group and found our seats pretty quickly. Just a minute or two later, our seatmate (again the window seat) showed up, and I was relieved to note he was pretty slender, though tall. We let him into his seat, then tried to get settled ourselves. We had tons of legroom and just a little larger set of seats than we’d had on United, but we were also responsible for the emergency exit in the case of, well, an emergency. The seats were old looking, and everything around us looked kind of sparce and ghetto. Nothing seemed…finished. Like the plane was from back before they made things…pretty. It sucked, ya’ll. It really revved up my anxiety because it made me feel like we were flying secondhand airplanes. And to make things even more fantastic, as we were finishing up with boarding, two girls stumbled onto the plane, one of them making loud, drunken apologies on how they were running late. Then they proceeded to take the seats–you guessed it–right in front of us, one on each side of the aisle. Oh jeez. They were probably just barely into their twenties, drunk and acting stupid (one more than the other), and being really loud. They were punching each other back and forth across the aisle. Then the flight crew came to do their safety speech, and lucky them, the steward had to do his speech and demo right there next to the drunk girl. I’m pretty sure one or two of the times he bent/knelt down to pick something up off the floor, the drunk girl touched him inappropriately because he sort of started and then glared at her. Then another steward came to talk to her while the safety demo was still going on. After the safety demo, the steward put the stuff away and went back to the front of the plane briefly, until the girls starting acting up again, then he came back to quietly chastise them and warn them about further disturbances. The drunk girl started making a fuss and he shut her down, very quietly and very politely. She asked for her neck pillow from the overhead compartment, which he nicely retrieved, then within minutes she was asleep, flopped about like a doll.
I hated her. I hated the guy sleeping next to me. I hated the others asleep on the late-night flight. It sucked because I was really upset and unable to even sit back and relax, and there they were sleeping! So we head off to taxi along the runway and I plaster myself to Hub’s side again, while he’s watching an episode of Firefly he’d downloaded (to distract himself…poor Hub, being upset himself and having to deal with me…*sigh*). I had my headphones on again, but this time the plane was even louder and I had trouble drowning any of the noise out. As we took off, I felt like the plane was rattling around me, again like it wasn’t made very well or was old and on it’s way to tearing to pieces. I pressed my face against Hub’s shoulder and I cried. It was so hard to maintain myself at that point. I wasn’t having a panic attack, at least not in the way I know them, as my heart was very steady and I didn’t feel that overriding sense of doom and despair…I just felt tired and overstressed and I just wanted to be home. I didn’t want to have to fight my way through the discomfort of the turbulence or the feeling of the airplane dipping and turning, or ascending or descending. I just wanted to be done. I wanted the day to be over. I wanted to not be so tense or feel so vigilant. Hub had spent the entire day watching the clock, checking his phone nearly every twenty minutes (he told me) to make sure we were on schedule wherever we were. He told me as we were heading home from the airport that it made him feel in control. We both knew that was a crock.
The flight continued, as did the extraordinary noise (how did those people sleep through all that?). Twenty minutes prior to descent, the pilot came on with the announcement that we were approaching our home location. I spent the next twenty minutes clutched up against Hub, vacillating between crying quietly and telling myself that we HAD to go through the turbulence and descent in order to be done with all of this. Descent seemed to take forever, and although I thought I was more prepared for landing, this one was soooooooooooo loud and bumpy, it felt like the brakes were screaming the whole time. We finally taxied around to the gate and lined up to get off the plane. I was exhausted, beyond what I’ve felt in a long time, because it was all wrapped up in the physical and the mental and the relief of it all being over.
Only later did I realize that when I’d done some searching on the best place to sit on a plane before the trip, all the articles said to sit toward the back where there is less noise and less feeling of movement. I doubt highly about the movement, but from these two flights back-to-back, I do realize that it was quieter in the back of the plane. I didn’t hear them testing the flaps on the plane, I didn’t hear and feel the landing gear going up and down, and in general the engine noise was lessened in the back of the plane. Also, in the dark on the way home as we were approaching descent, I glanced out an open-shaded window and saw what looked like lightning, which freaked me out. I suspect it was the lights on the wings blinking, but that’s not something you see from the back of the plane, either. The drawback is, there are no seats in the back of the plane with extra legroom (that I’m aware of), so you get screwed on that. Do you deal with the extra noise and such and get larger seats with better legroom, or do you squish into the back seats for the reduction in noises? I dunno, but I will note that my flight out (back seats, smaller, less legroom) was an easier flight for me than the one coming home with the bigger seats. Then again, I was exhausted on the way home, and probably a little over-tired from the alcohol I’d consumed (which I literally never drink, ever, mostly because I don’t enjoy booze and the stuff that I do like–Kahlua and/or Bailey’s–make me so sleepy that I’m ready for a nap immediately upon finishing what is in the first glass I’ve had).
When we got off the plane, it was like the airport was deserted. We had to make the long walk to the baggage area to try to find the shuttle back to the car. Then it was a ride from the airport to the parking garage once the shuttle picked us up. And then from there, we were off for home, where our pups were waiting for us with much glee. We were very fortunate that a good friend of mine hung out with the dogs all day, while my parents’ hired a pet sitter to come watch their dog for the day we were gone. At one a.m., we picked up my parents’ dog and brought her to our house to spend the final night with us until my parents arrived back home. We were all sacked out by 1:30am, none of us really wanting to get up just a few short hours later to start the week.
By the time this posts, we’ll have already taken Le Moo in for surgery to have a thing removed from her eyelid, and my mother will have had her second infusion of the new medication to shrink her cancer. Later in the week, if needed after Butthead’s xrays (same time as Le Moo’s surgery), we’ll be back for another session of water ballet!
I am so glad this trip is over. I’m thrilled for my niece, and I hope she has a happy and love-filled life. But after this, she can come visit me.