Just a thought… The secret of the creative life is to feel at ease with your own embarrassment. [Paul Schrader]
Welcome to Wednesday – and here we are on the eve of our trip tomorrow to Ontario. I still can’t really believe that this is all happening, but the flight itinerary in my iPhone tells me it is. Let’s just hope things are a little less bumpy than they were last Thursday when I flew home. Or, let’s say, than I inadvertently made them.
I got to PSP in plenty of time and sat in a gate area that felt overcrowded. The reason had to do with weather: while many travellers take advantage of the lovely open air areas of the terminal to wait out their departures, teeming rain of Biblical proportions prevented anyone from enjoying the outdoors. The second reason for a full terminal was a flight that was supposed to come in and whisk Canadians back home to Calgary was diverted from PSP because of thick, low cloud. So it was sent on to Phoenix and returned to take Calgarians home some six hours later!
About 45 minutes prior to departure, I heard a reminder that if passengers hadn’t checked in upon arrival downstairs (an open-air escalator away) they were asked to please do so with the gate agent. I made my way to Gate 6 and a man ahead of me inquired as to whether there were Plus seats available. There were, at a cost of $122.50 US. Then the man was told no one was in the middle seat in the row he was already assigned, so he said, “pass” on Plus.
When I showed the gate agent my information – seat 5F – I was told that I was the only person in my row. So I said “no thanks” to the Plus seat, too. Besides, we’d already paid an extra $35 or so upon check in the previous day to get moved up in the plane from 25th row or something. I anticipated wanting to get off the plane quickly, since I had to catch a puddle-jumper to Victoria 90 minutes later. (Delayed departure cut that time to 60 minutes and Vancouver’s a big airport, especially when you’re transitioning from international to domestic. But I could make it if I motored. My Fitbit loves airports!)
Well, that plan went sideways in TWO ways. First of all, I get to row 5 and I see these seat covers.
I laughed to the folks behind the row “this never happens – I feel like I won the lottery!” so I sit in my window seat (which is what I’d booked) and settled in: my Michelle Obama book next to me, lumbar pillow perfectly placed, computer and phone plugged in and charging – everything was everything!
(NARRATOR – preferably Keith Morrison: But everything was not “everything.” Oh no, it was not.)
The chuckling people behind had settled in, we’d gotten our “safety dance” announcements in both languages, and the plane was slowly moving out towards the runway. That’s when an elegant flight attendant named Autumn came over and asked, “What was your original seat number?”
Uh-oh. Right away you know there’s been a mistake and you’ve made it.
I looked up at the aisle numbers opposite me and sure enough, there it was: seats 5D 5E and 5F. I sheepishly told her as much, and that I’d made a wrong assumption.
She said, “You can’t sit here.” Pointing to the napkin covering an orange stain that I’d already explored cursorily and judged to be regurgitated Cheetos (or something like that; I didn’t examine) she explained the obvious: someone had thrown up there.
I’ll be honest: that news came as no surprise. In fact, when I finished using a napkin soaked in hand sanitizer to wipe down my personal area (um, around the seat, not on me), I made a point of putting it on the floor and stamping it over the napkin that was already there. I was trying to be a force for good! Instead, it seems that they only had two “Do Not Occupy” headrest covers, when there should have been three. As if to hammer the truth down even further, Autumn added “that area’s contaminated.” Great.
I could see the headlines now. But what area, exactly? Palm Springs? Victoria? Toronto? Damn, this story gets complicated. Please ask Jann Arden to sing at my funeral.
Well, Airborne Airhead Erin was gonna have to move. Fortunately, the young man who was alone in 5C in the aisle seat didn’t mind me climbing over him – charger cords and headphone wires snaking behind, a coat in one arm, laptop, Obama book and hand-written journal in the other – as I red-facedly and hurriedly took my seat on a moving flight.
I was mortified at having gotten something as simple as a seat number wrong, but it was so easy to do: I’d been told I had a solo seat, saw two blocked off, put two and two together and came up with 5F! I felt like someone who’d taken the best seats at a play, thrilled to be front and centre in the fifth row, only to find out my ticket said 25th row. Talk about the walk of shame! (Excuse me, pardon me, sorry, pardon me, was that your foot? Excuse me….)
At least with tomorrow’s YYZ-bound flight (which takes off in the 6am hour – we hope!) I know that Rob is with me to make sure I’m where I’m supposed to be. It really is what he admits is his “job description”: he’s always said it’s to make sure I can “show up and shine.” Or at least not make an ass of myself; I’d add that in, too, if his job evaluation ever comes up.
So thank you, Robbie. For 31 years (as of today) of doing exactly that. Mostly. Sometimes I get out on my own just to prove how much I really, truly, madly and deeply love and need you. We’ll recite our memorized wedding vows to each other and then get back to packing.
See you tomorrow, Toronto. And if confession is good for the soul, I have more to the travel stories about something ELSE that went hugely, horribly sideways in the style that only I can pull off. It was incredibly stupid and frustrating – and it turns out, because of it, I inadvertently lied here in Friday’s journal. More to come….