>>> The Rollercoaster of Drama
By staff writer Simonne Cullen

July 9, 2007

A Little Background

When I lived clear across the country in LA, getting home to Chicago for the holidays wasn’t as easy as loading everyone into the car and driving three hours to cross the state line. Instead, I got to fall in line with 90% of this country and literally stand in line for two to three hours to get to the gate, where hopefully a plane to take me home would be waiting with open wings.

I’ve always traveled a lot, but only because my mom works for an airline. And even though the travel benefits are great, we fly standby so we don’t necessarily get on every flight or go on every vacation we planned. We once spent two days trying to get to Denver only for my mom to give up the second day and announce, “To hell with this, let’s go to Walt Disney World.” Which we did, and I thought was really cool until we got there and realized our suitcases contained a plethora of winter outfits and no bathing suits.

Every time my friends and family have traveled somewhere though, we’ve always gotten on a flight, until I came to LAX, where I experienced my first sleepover at the airport trying to get home last Thanksgiving. An Asian family (a mom and four little kids) had run in just in time to claim the remaining seats on the second to last flight out to Chicago, thwarting my attempts to avoid all delays.

“Mal has just put his pubescent arm around me and begins stroking my hair. Sweet Jesus.”

Just as the flight was about to detach itself from the jetway, up stumbled these two random girls five seconds before the plane was scheduled to take off, demanding the airline kick someone out of the seats they paid for. And perhaps the airline employees would have taken them more seriously if they hadn’t smelled like they had been hosed down by Jack Daniels himself. First rule of drinking while traveling: Do it on the plane, that way you’re already up in the air and you’d have to be really belligerent for them to turn the plane around. Also, if your flight is scheduled to leave at 11:30, you don’t get there at 11:25. You get there at 10. You read something while you wait and you board the plane.

The two drunks tried to find sympathy with the other random standby passengers I was doomed to sit around with—Monica, a mid-20’s girl; Mal, a 14-year-old boy; and Gina, Mal’s mom. Three of us offered them a couple of eye rolls. Not Gina. Gina went a little berserk. Gina had clearly been at the airport the whole day and started chasing the two drunk girls (who were by then dropping the F-bomb and other colorful holiday words) out of the terminal. Her son sat there open-mouthed in horror as his 200-pound mom nearly pummeled the two drunks into a nearby wall. Never a dull moment.

The following is a running diary I wrote on my laptop while in the airport.

Hour One of Captivity

Outlook: Bright, Doe-Eyed and Somewhat Hopeful

It’s not a secret that I’m a liberal. I believe that the internet should be free to everyone everywhere. Especially at the airport. Who’s paying $6.95 for a day pass of internet when their flight leaves in an hour? Maybe some hoity-toity businessmen, but they’re too busy sitting in massage chairs in the first class lounge that provides free internet anyway.

I’ve been into the first class lounge once. It was when I was little and my family went on vacation to Hawaii. So I don’t remember much. My dad remembers the big comfy lounge chairs, and my mom remembers the open bar; all I can remember was that there were no kids to play with, so I started eating the free fruit. Later on during the flight, the smell coming from my diaper made everyone on board embrace their gag reflex.

These days I hate the first class lounge. I stare at people who go inside with envy. They are the same people who have chauffeurs waiting for them at baggage claim. Whenever my friends pick me up at the airport I ask them to make me a sign with my name on it. They humor me, but the effort behind it is usually lousy. On the professional ones they have a nice white slate with the name in Sharpie marker. On my friend’s it’s the back of a Starbucks receipt with my name scribbled real tiny in pen.

So back to this internet business. In the end it doesn’t really matter that there’s no internet service since there’s no outlet to plug your computer into anyway. There’s usually one outlet in a four-gate span used primarily for the vacuum cleaner, so if you ever see someone lurking around the gate several times behaving oddly, chances are he’s not packing a WMD, just looking for a place to plug in his laptop.

Anyway, the flight I’m waiting for (the last one out tonight) is delayed due to weather. As much as man would like to believe that we control the universe, we’re really at the mercy of the weather. I finally find an outlet near the main podium and settle in. It takes me two seconds to realize why the seat is vacant. Some woman is screaming at the airline employee incredulously, “Fog?! FOG?!! What do you mean there’s fog? What are you people doing about this fog??” What is the employee supposed to say? “Ma’am, we have a jet full of American-Indians coming in within the hour. They’ll be performing their tribe’s native anti-fog dance right out here on the tarmac. We can only hope the fog spirit might release his mighty grip on the Los Angeles area.” It’s fog—buy a magazine, you’re fucked.

Every employee is stressed out, which I can understand. Even the smartest people turn into complete idiots when they fly—like sticking their medication in the bag that they checked and then demanding that all flight activity come to a halt and the terror alert upgraded to orange until someone can locate the one black canvas bag on the tarmac that contains high blood pressure pills.

Hour Two of Captivity

Outlook: Cautious, Concerned and Referring to Everything in Third Person

Monica has gone home, and it’s just Gina, Mal and I in this for the long haul. I find an outlet and am about to watch Family Guy reruns. Gina has found a four-seater (no armrests). Mal is reading a book, and continually looking over my shoulder to see what I am writing. It’s annoying. He leaves when I finally put on my headphones, but I’m forced to remove them seconds later as I receive a sharp poke on my neck from behind.

I turn expecting to see a fifth Woo Child that was forgotten, but it’s not. It’s an older guy who introduces himself as Juan. Juan was clearly over-served on his last flight. Now Juan wants to tell Simonne all about it. Simonne tells over-served Juan that she doesn’t want to hear it, but Juan doesn’t care. Juan starts telling Simonne his whole life story.

The flight crew of the arriving flight starts making their way through the terminal and Juan begins thanking them profusely. “You guys were great! Really. Yolanda baby, I’ll catch you on the flip side. Free champagne girl! Free champagne on first class, can you believe that I was sipping liquid heaven!” The flight crew gives me sympathetic looks as they pass; I glare back at them with disdain. They’ve done this to me. They created this drunk, slobbery Don Juan monster.

“Juan,” I say, “I have a boyfriend.” Lie.

“Girl I just be trying to have a conversation with you. Your boyfriend let’s you talk to other guys right?” he replies, eyes rolling in the back of his head.

“Of course he does,” I say, prepared to break out the big guns. “As long as that person is prepared to open up his heart to Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Would you like to pray for your soul with me?”

That sobered him up just enough. He’s getting ready to leave when Mal, seeing me in distress, attempts to rescue me by claiming to be my boyfriend. Mal has just put his pubescent arm around me and begins stroking my hair. Sweet Jesus. You’d think in the spirit of Thanksgiving there’d be some hot guy here for me to share the wee small hours of the morning with, but there isn’t. All I can do is hope that I make it home to say grace at dinner and tell everyone in my family exactly what I am not thankful for: over-served Juan, a 14-year-old trying out reverse statutory, the entire Woo family, and all their future descendants.

Hour Three of Captivity

Outlook: Dismal and Annoying

Drowsiness has sunken in, but there’s no point in sleeping. There’s a woman riding around on a smaller looking Zamboni that throws wax on the floor, followed by a man who looks like he is enjoying the vibration of the floor waxing machine too much. I look up and realize that all of the vents are surrounded by a thick layer of black dust. Clearly the cleaning crew is concentrating too much time on the floor. I suggest that they clean the ceiling because it’s considerably less noisy. They just ignore me until I tell them to be on the lookout because one of the Woo children might have taken a dump in a corner somewhere.

Gina has found of stash of unread tabloid magazines and gives them to me to read. She curls up into a big ball and immediately starts snoring. I begin to flip through the magazines half-heartedly. Most of the covers are splashed with Tom and Kate’s wedding which doesn’t interest me. It just reminds me that they have a private jet at their disposal and I can’t even afford a ticket to fly coach.

Despite my attempts at ignoring Mal, he insists on throwing bits of paper he has found on the floor at my head. I mouth, “Stop it or I’ll wake your mother,” and he backs off… for ten seconds before another wad of paper whacks me right in the head. This time it has a note attached, lucky me. I slowly unfold it. It says: “You have sexy legs.” Are you kidding me? I am getting hit on by a high school student on Thanksgiving Eve? Yuck. It’s official: this fucking sucks. I gather up my shit and move over to the other side of the terminal, where unless he has a wicked curve ball, he could never throw my reverse statutory notes ever again.

Hour Four of Captivity

Outlook: Assured Defeat

The woman who allowed Mommy Woo and Baby Woos on the plane instead of me returns. Oddly enough she brings with her more bad news. She has just informed me that I can no longer stay in the terminal. However, “there are plenty of seats downstairs in hospitable baggage claim area.” She makes no attempt to even crack a smile when I ask if room service will be available there. What a dirty cunt bag.

She moves on to deliver the news to Gina. I can hear Gina screaming at her as I’m leaving the terminal. I’d love to stick around and witness the verbal beating the woman had coming, but I caught Mal looking at me and smacking his lips so I booked it out of there as fast as my sexy legs would take me. Luckily, I found empty seats near the closed security area and am debating whether or not I will be arrested if I sleep on the x-ray machine’s conveyor belt.

Better not risk it; I might get cancer before I leave this place.