Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Bubble Bath, Part 1

  Editor’s Note: Terry and I are headed to Philly for a short vacation. We’re off to see our friend Bubbles, who is quite a character, so this should be an eventful trip. Unless we end up in jail (which could easily happen within 15 minutes of landing), there’s bound to be some exciting things to report. And here we go…

  Airports suck.

  Well, I suppose that’s not entirely true. I’m sure that somewhere on this planet there’s a very nice airport where people are really sweet and nothing dispiriting ever happens. I’ve just never been there. I’ve been to the DFW Airport hundreds of times, and never once have I walked away from the experience thinking “I am SO glad I did that.” Instead, I usually stagger away needing medication, alcohol, and a lawyer.

  Let’s start with the parking. You see, if you’d like to park anywhere near the terminal where your airplane is hopefully departing from, you’ve got to shell out a fortune. It’s like $150 bucks a day. Okay, maybe a little less than that, but I did try it one time. I was only gone about five days, but when I came back from wherever it was, the total parking bill was astounding. I actually had to move that month because I could no longer afford my rent.

  So we usually leave our vehicle in these quaint little things they have at DFW known as “remote parking”, since it’s far more reasonably-priced, albeit a bit cumbersome. There are two such things, cleverly named “Remote North” and “Remote South”. (I’m sure it took a large committee several years to come up with these titles.) Both the North and the South crap-fest are located hundreds of miles from anything useful at the sprawling airport. So you have to ride a big yellow bus to get closer to your final destination.

  You also have to wait for this bus to decide it’s finally interested in picking you up.

  Picture it. You’ve already had to buy an extra tank of gas just to get to this parking lot, apparently located in Arkansas. (No one will confirm this, but I did spot a discarded banjo in one of the ditches. That’s about all the proof I need.) Then you have to find an actual empty parking slot in this place, because only the Dallas Cowboys can afford the fancy covered parking near the terminals so everybody else parks out here. You drive around for hours to no avail, until finally somebody decides to leave and vacate a spot. As soon as that person starts to back up, you can hear the sounds of tire rubber being left on asphalt as 15 cars race to stake a claim.

  Unless you’re just amazingly good, you’re going to come up short on the first three or four rounds of this competition. So pace yourself.

  Once parked, you have to trudge for miles to get to the little bus terminal. As mentioned, this is the discount parking area, so don’t expect anything like covered parking or sliding sidewalks. It’s you, in the baking sun, lugging that now stupidly-overpacked suitcase across acres of melting tar, the shimmering vapors oozing upwards and making you dizzy. Oh, and don’t forget to keep an eye on the shark-cars that are circling all around and waiting for a parking spot to open up. If one does, and you’re somehow in the way, you better run like hell.

  As is the natural law of things, by the time you finally crawl to the bus depot, you will be just in time to see the particular bus that you need pulling away from the curb. To make it even more of an insult, you will realize that if you were in any type of decent physical shape at all, you could probably catch up to the bus, banging on the door like a frantic scene in an action movie just before a building blows up. But you’re not in shape. You can barely breathe just from walking. So you just stand there and hope that another bus will come along.

  One eventually will, of course, but it might be next Tuesday, which won’t do you much good since your flight leaves in two hours. You glance around the little station for something that might give you an indication of the time tables for the yellow buses. At the other end of the station, there’s clearly an announcement posted, with rows of numbers that are probably times of the day. But you can’t tell for sure, and the sign is WAY down there. After all the walking you’ve already done, you don’t know if you have the psychological strength to walk some more and possibly be disappointed in your findings.

  So you just stand there, waiting, hoping that the bus will at least come back today, but preferably this hour. If it doesn’t, well, you’ll just have to deal with that later.

  And it’s at this point that the creepy people come out.

  Granted, everyone gets bored while standing and waiting in places that are hot and not really anywhere they’d be if given a choice. But the creepy people get bored faster than others, which explains part of their creepiness factor. You can usually tell right away if you’re dealing with a creepy by the way they stare at you. This is Dallas. You don’t stare at anybody for longer than two seconds unless you want to date them or you want to kill them. I am usually blessed with people pursuing Option B.

  You don’t want to encourage the creepies, because doing so will only lead to heartache and grief. So you look everywhere you can except directly at THEM. You study the sky, you repeatedly check the watch that you aren’t really wearing, you pretend to get a phone call from someone named “Xavier” and proceed to discuss macaroons. Anything. Because if you make eye contact with a creepy, they will instantly accept this as permission to race over and violate your personal space. And race they will, drool flying off their chin while they hum the theme song from “Star Wars”.

  Then we have the yackers.

  These are the folks who really are on the phone, but they’re talking about stupid crap, and doing so as loudly as the possibly can. (You’d think the creepies would go after THESE guys, since there seems to be so much going on. But no, they come after me, the quiet one who didn’t have the foresight to fully plan an evasive maneuver as I struggled across the immense parking lot and had plenty of time to think about it.)

  The yackers just love to yack. They like to hear themselves; it satisfies some unnatural need deep inside them. Perhaps there were neglect issues in their childhood, maybe they didn’t make the swim team at a critical validation point in their lives. Whatever the case, a crucial quality-control valve broke off their brain stem, rolled away, and has never been seen since. They simply cannot talk on the phone in a reasonable manner.

  And these people usually stand right beside me. I don’t like this. I don’t like it at all. I want them to go very far away. Like way down yonder, near that sign that I think has bus arrival times on it. Maybe you could yell out the schedule? I know I’ll be able to hear you.

  To be fair, there’s the slim possibility that a very small percentage of these phone screamers are actually dealing with someone  on the other end who can’t hear them very well. (Perhaps the caller is currently hunting wildebeest in Africa or is at the bottom of a previously-covered mineshaft, seeking survival tips.) But really, if the connection is THAT bad, just send an email. Okay?

  Well, hallelujah, I spy a very large loaf of neon banana bread headed our way on the service road. My heart skips a slight beat, but not too much so, because after years of perpetual disappointment, I know better than to get very excited about anything. (I shall now read to you a selection from my depressing book of tragic poems, “Tomorrow Always Dies”.) Luckily, it turns out that this loaf is baked just right, because the driver pulls his rig right up to where I’m standing, on a little platform for people who want to go to Terminal D.

  The driver puts it in park, there’s a startlingly loud hissing of air (how can THAT kind of a sound be good?), and then, amazingly, the bus leans a little toward us. Seriously, leans. What? Wait, did I just imagine that? I look at Terry. Am I having a stroke?

  Then the doors fly open, and like an idiot, I go racing up to the first set, dragging my roller-bag with a vengeance. Only to find that I am now blocking the door, and people want to get out. Because, you know,  they’re done with their journey and need to go the opposite way that I’m going. “Excuse me,” says a well-dressed man, in a clearly polite and non-offended manner. This only ups my idiocy factor and shame.

  I try to get out of his way, but I’m just not coordinated or very fast, struggling with my stupid bag, so people have to squeeze past me and dash to freedom, vowing to never fly the same day as me ever again, whatever my name is.

  Fine. I peer into the coolness of the bus to see if there’s anyone left that I can cut off or offend in some way. We seem to be clear, so we climb the step, and I wait for Terry to decide where he wants to sit, because I really don’t care. Well, he shoves his carry-on into this little storage area, between two seats, which surprises me, because I was just going to keep mine parked in front of me. Okay, I‘ll play along. I try to shove mine in there too, right next to his.

  I am not immediately successful. I can see that there’s clearly enough room for both of these bags in the spot I’m trying to use, so I really don’t get it. I become determined to make them fit. So now I’m shoving and huffing and puffing, my butt waving in the air as I bend over and struggle. Finally, dripping with sweat, there’s movement, and the two bags are now nicely cozy with one another.

  I turn around and flop into the seat just to the right of the storage area. And discover that three strange men are staring at me. Their expressions are a little odd, so I don’t know if they are completely mesmerized by the stunning beauty of my derriere, or if they were so mortified by what they saw that they have become catatonic. I’ll go with Option A this time. Let me dream a little, so it can be shattered later.

  The bus pulls out of the little station, and we’re on our way. Things go very smoothly for about seven seconds. Then we whip around a corner, and suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see Terry leap out of his seat. Well, that’s an action that doesn’t bode well.

  I turn in his direction, and see him squatting on the floor of the rocking bus, trying to wrangle our two suitcases that have somehow become demon children intent on the destruction of life as we know it. The cases are bouncing and careening while Terry contorts himself in desperation. It appears that we might have casualty figures to report when this mess is over with.

  Well, I can’t just sit there, right? I must show support for my partner. I start to get up and join in the fracas, death be damned, when my right elbow comes into contact with a partition wall that I didn’t even realize was there. My ignorance stems from the fact that it’s a wall made of that plexi-glass stuff. Clear plastic. HARD plastic. And I ding my elbow on that exact spot where the pain is so surprising and sharp that you can’t breathe or move for a few seconds.

  I’m only out of commission very briefly, but it’s long enough for Terry to get things under control, firmly wedging the two suitcases nearer to him. I look at him weakly. His expression is unreadable right now. Is he just fine and didn’t think twice about my apparent slacker attitude toward his misfortune? Or is he furious inside, seething at my failure to be of any use whatsoever?

  I have no idea. And if I say the wrong thing at this point, it could make things infinitely worse. Sigh. Relationships are so tricky. So I don’t say anything at all. But something tells me we’ve just had a non-verbal fight. And we aren’t even on the plane yet, never mind made it to Philly.

  This is going to be a very challenging adventure…

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.


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  2. This is SO damn hallarious!!!
    I'm a retired Flight Attendant & spent many a day waiting on those frickin' busses, among OTHER things at the stupid DFW airport. Can't wait for the next installment!

  3. Hi kmaetoday,

    Glad you like it! I'm up to part 7 with this series, so I hope you're still following and enjoying!