Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I Know Everything about Pope Francis

Weeks ago I visited PepperoniNip and La Mole in Florida for a brief vacation that included Baltimore Orioles spring training, fried gator tail and elderly people. My ageism diminished significantly after making friends with an 80-something at the ballpark. 89 is the new 75.

My return flight to Washington departed on-time at 4 p.m. A hailstorm in Atlanta, where my short layover would be, shut down Atlanta Airport and my plane diverted to tiny Savannah Airport. The captain kept us on the tarmac in hopes that we could be one of the first planes back out to Atlanta when the storm cleared.

Now infused with anti-ageism, I chatted with the two nice, extremely old sisters next to me. They were long retired from Norfolk Southern railroad, lived in Roanoke and traveled across North America cat-sitting for friends. “I’m house-sitting my aunt’s house, and they don’t even have pets leaving me with limited responsibilities!” I exclaimed, excited by our shared free riding behavior.

“We just looooooove cats,” one sister said in her southern drawl.

Our plane was not the first off the tarmac because the few fuel trucks servicing dozens of planes didn’t get to ours. After three stationary hours, the plane parked at a gate and I went into the terminal. I had eaten too much crap over the weekend and planned to have strictly almonds the rest of the day. With no end in sight, this would require lots of nuts.

Fortunately I didn’t have to fight temptation since Savannah Airport basically ran out of food with so many stranded passengers. I moseyed between charging my phone, looking for fun passengers to hang with, and watching the Celtics blow a huge lead to the then-streaking Heat at the bar. A hungry group at the bar was scheming to order pizza with TSA acting as the middleman so they didn’t breach security.

My new temptation was to sit down and drink beers. But I had already popped a Benadryl to aid in sleeping and considered that a subpar idea.

Knitted hats are stylish and warmI returned to the plane to retrieve the beautiful hat La Mole sewed for me. The stewardesses were serving free drinks to those who remained on-board. On second thought regarding those beers. The old sisters lacked my hesitation. Drunk and excited to see me, one of them said, “Come sit with us, we don’ mond if this plane stays here alllll night! Connie’ll pour you whatever you waaaant! We’ been gettin’ cranberry vodkas. Connie!” she shouted to the stewardess, “Get Benjamin a cranberry vodka.” I retract my second thought.

“That sounds enticing, but I actually just came for my hat. It’s cold in the terminal.”

“This hat?” One of the sisters put my hat on her head. “It looks cuter on you, though! Come sit with us, it’s waaaarm here!”

I looked around for guidance on dealing with frisky old women and only found a middle-aged woman giggling at me. I sat down right as everyone was boarding the plane to finally depart for Atlanta. Pretending not to hear the old sisters or feel them groping the hat now back on my head, I drifted into a Benadryl slumber.

Once we touched down in Atlanta at midnight, I wished the ladies luck on their next cat-sitting adventure. Inside, I stood in the two-hour line for a new ticket back to Washington since my plane had departed hours ago. People in front of me couldn’t get a return flight back to Cincinnati for a day and a half, and Delta would not provide hotel vouchers. I was prepared to return to any of Washington’s three airports, maybe even Richmond, but thankfully got on standby for a 7:30 a.m. flight back to Reagan, my most convenient one.

The Delta attendant liked my hat. “I saw that cute thing creeping up the line the last hour!” She gave me a $10 food voucher. I’m going to wear La Mole’s hat everywhere. Except at assisted living homes.

I checked gate after gate for a group of deserted seats to sleep on, but stranded passengers covered everything. I finally found three vacant seats without armrests, so I laid down clutching my suitcase and crutches bag next to me.

I jumped up upon noticing the speaker blasting CNN directly above my head. Pope Francis’ inauguration mass was later that day. Or is today tomorrow? I need sleep.

I rested my head and closed my eyes. The airport was very cold so I pulled my hat tight and crossed my arms. Over the next two hours a group of airline employees sat across from me to chat and eat. The alarm blared repeatedly something about everyone needing to evacuate due to an emergency. And I absorbed Pope Francis’ life story. I now dream of Francis cloaked in a velvet, Argentinian flagged-Snuggie summoning me to a poker game with him, Jesus, and a fuschia rabbit named Tedward Wong.

I stirred at 5 a.m. to stretch my hip. I took the tram to my gate to eat and ensure I was available for standby. I’d later learn that standby is not on a first-come, first-served basis.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport's greasy breakfast
I was determined to utilize my full $10 voucher. I hadn’t considered that my normally iron stomach may not enjoy airport grease after minimal sleep on an airport bench.

I boarded the plane and fired up my work computer, ordered Gogo internet and cranked out some edits, functioning only off of coffee, my rumbling stomach and probably my hat.

Back in Washington, I booked it home, showered, booked it to work, didn’t fall asleep at work, got 2,500 SkyMiles from Delta, and daydreamed that Pope Francis and Tedward Wong stole my hat.


Catherine (Facing Cancer Together) said...

Woah, that sounds like a travel nightmare. Except for the ladies who love cats, and that snugly hat.

Funny thing, I was also travelling on the day St Frances was voted in . . . I watched the Vatican on the airport television in Ottawa, then flew to Quebec where it wasn't on any televisions, then heard more about it a full day later when I arrived in Hungary.

There's not much point in my sharing that with you, except it's a coincidence, and I like coincidences. Good work on finally getting home.

Benjamin Rubenstein said...

Hey Catherine,

Was your airport television set to CNN? If so, then I pity you. And I also envy your travel adventures.

If you see the cat sisters during your travels, tell them that Benjamin-the-hat-guy said hello.