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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Why I Love to Fly in Airplanes or How a Venti Chai Tea Latte Almost Ruined my Personal Flotation Device

It was a Saturday and my sister called.  She said, "WHY haven't you written the story about the airplane?"  I said, "It's on my list," in my best, protesting, 'please don't hurt me' voice.  She said, "Your blog is great but you need to tell that story.  I insist."  (She might not have used those exact words, but that was the general gist.  I swear it.  And she didn't say anything about breaking my kneecaps with a rusty ball peen hammer or something about sleeping with the fishes.)

Okay then.

So I took a plane to visit my sister in Spokane, Washington.  I stopped in Chicago and changed planes.  Because the plane left at an ungodly hour, I was half asleep.  Then the lights dawned.  The sun came out from behind a cloud.  The angelic music sounded in trumpet-like fashion.  There was...a STARBUCKS.  Caffeine on the hoof.  I would have done a jig in the airport but the security people look at you funny when you do things like that.  (Imagine all the 'bomb' jokes I can't tell anymore because I go into an airport.  Also since I live close to DC, I'm pretty limited there too.  And folks wonder why I'm so taciturn when I take them to the Smithsonian.)

I ordered a Venti Chai Tea Latte.  It was good.  It was really good.  I could feel the caffeine flowing through my veins like crack through a tweaker.  I could focus on the real world once again.  Life was good again.  Plus once I got on the plane I could get more caffeine.  After all, I can't sleep on planes.  I'm afraid I'll wake up and I'll have been drooling on the shoulder of the person sitting next to me.  Then that person will tell me I was muttering things about a pool boy named Carlos whom I once met in the Bahamas.  (Not really.  I've never been to the Bahamas.)  Let's just say there are reasons that I say that I'm slightly neurotic.

So having drunk the Venti Chai Tea Latte I was in an improved mood.  I boarded the plane along with all the other cattle, found my seat, and surreptitiously surveiled my seatmate, who was a twenty-something girl with an iPod permanently attached to her ears.  (I was slightly bummed because she looked at me as if I would mother her or something equally horrible and wretched.)  She proceeded to turn on the iPod and close her eyes.  Lucky her.  She was capable of sleeping on the plane.

Then after all was said and done, the plane doors were closed and locked.  Then the stewardess proceeded to tell us the bad news.  Two quick things here.  One was that these people (airline people) deliberately closed and locked the door BEFORE telling us the bad news.  No one was going to escape.  Not me.  Not the pilot.  Not little Ms. iPod.  The second thing was that the stewardess (should I use the more politically correct flight attendant?) was about six feet tall, had a blond wig on, and wore a scarf tied around her throat.  Her shoulders were wider than the aisle and I ultimately came to the conclusion that she was a man dressed as a woman.  Her name was Helga or Olga or something -Ga.  I didn't care about the man thing but I think they chose her to deliver the bad news because no one was gonna mess with her.  (She blocked out the sun.)  Here's what Helga said: "Well, we've discovered that this plane has no potable water, which is not really a problem.  What that really means is that we're not going to have coffee or tea and we're not going to be able to run the water in the bathrooms."

I know what thought went my mind, but so did Helga and she went on, "But we CAN use the bathrooms so we don't have to worry about that."  Never mind that we wouldn't be able to wash our hands, but we could pee and go poo poo. 

I was okay. I'd had the Venti Chai Tea Latte.  I was caffeinated.  I had a book to read.  I had hand sanitizer in my purse.  It was a two and half hour flight and I thought, Well, okay then.  I can do this.

So the plane took off.  It was on time.  Most people were relatively happy although I did hear grumbling about no bleeping coffee.  I think little Ms. iPod was comatose at that point, which made me a little jealous.  Then the plane was climbing and eventually it seemed like we reached altitude.  But it was a little choppy.

At that point my bladder was reminding me of two things.  One was that it was the size of a walnut and two was that I had drank a VENTI CHAI TEA LATTE!  Right down to the bottom of the cup with great glee and even a small giggle as I threw the empty into the trash.  For those of you who don't speak Italian or Starbucks, the venti is the large size or 20 ounces.  (Venti is twenty in Italian.)  So I was belted into my narrow seat, with limited foot room, reflecting that I should have done an emergency last minute pee before I boarded the airplane.  After all, I had drank a VENTI CHAI TEA LATTE!  I was doing the seated pee pee dance.  One leg moved.  The other leg moved.  My butt wiggled.  I readjusted the seat belt.  I looked up and down the aisles.  I looked up at the red lighted seat belt sign.  I looked at Ms. iPod for moral support but she was drooling and whispering something about Carlos the pool boy.  (It seemed okay coming from her.)

About thirty minutes into the flight I was going to beg Helga the linebacker for the right to use the bathroom, for the love of God.  The VENTI CHAI TEA LATTE! had processed through my system like alcohol through a frat boy at an all night kegger on the beach.  My bladder was screaming at me.  NOW!  NOW!  NOW!  Any moment the pee was going to do a kamikaze moment on my personal flotation device, and no one was going to like that much.

Since there was a little turbulence, the pilot was obviously reluctant to turn off the seat belt sign.  Finally, at long last, I reckon Helga the linebacker must have told him that the passengers were ready to revolt.  Apparently I wasn't the only one who had drank a VENTI CHAI TEA LATTE! shortly before boarding.  I had my legs clenched together and my jaws clamped down and my hands had mangled the arm rests beyond recognition.


That was a mistake.  You see, at that moment the pilot relented and flicked off the seat belt sign.  He started to say something about turbulence and giving everyone a quick break to stand up and stretch their legs, which was an euphemism for letting us all run quickly to the bathrooms to stand in line and do the pee pee dance standing up for a change.  But because I was wound up like a yoga contortionist wishing for a miracle I couldn't stand up in time.  Before the first word was out of the pilot's mouth, there was a herd of people who went tromp-tromp-TROMP back to the economy bathroom.  If someone had tripped they would have trampled the poor bastard to death without remorse.  And simply put, I wasn't quick enough.

So I made a decision.  I would wait a few minutes and then go stand in line.  I clenched my legs and my jaws tighter together and settled down for more agony.  However, not more than thirty seconds passed and the crowd turned around with Helga yelling at the back like a cowboy expertly rounding up the herd.  "Passengers HO!" she bellowed.  (Not really, but it reads well.)  But the crowd did tromp-tromp-TROMP back up the aisle to the front.  Helga came on the speaker a moment later and said that the single bathroom in the back of the plane was BROKEN (and mysteriously it didn't have anything to do with a lack of potable water) and we would all have to use the one in the front in first class.

My bladder whimpered.

There was a line coming out of the first class section and extending past where I was sitting.  I think I was in row 7.  I recrossed my legs and waited for the real torture to begin.  Little Ms. iPod slept through all of this.  The lucky, little, perky-titted twinkie.

Eventually.  Eventually.  Eventually, the line got shorter. I managed to take my seat belt off and waddle to the front of the plane.  I would have grabbed my crotch but I was afraid someone would think I was Michael Jackson (this happened before his death) or maybe Madonna.  It was all I could do to make it into the queue with the rest of the pee pee dancing individuals who had made similar mistakes.  ("So what did you drink?"  "A VENTI CHAI TEA LATTE!, what about you?"  "It was a Mega Big Gulp from Seven/Eleven.  God help me."  "You poor sorry son of a bitch."  "I think my bladder just exploded."  "Me, too."  "Well, hey I guess that means we don't need the mini bathroom anymore."  "Hallelujah!")

So you would think that standing in line was the end of my agony.

Ha.  It wasn't.

The other flight attendant was named Kyle.  I'm trying to think of the best way to describe it.  Kyle was very happy.  He was happy to be there.  He was happy to be flying.  He was happy to be talking to the passengers.  He was HAPPY.  As a matter of fact, his name wasn't Kyle.  It was KYLE.  No, it was **KYLE**.  And I'm pretty sure he threw his hands up in the air when he said it.  "I'm **KYLE**.  Isn't everything just peachy?  Doesn't the sun glow with gloriousness?  Isn't the canned cabin air fabulous?  Aren't my tight pants tight across my toned little tushie?"  (Okay, my imagination and tendency to exaggerate just happened again.)

Upon reflection and contemplation, I now understand that Kyle had the more difficult job.  He was chatting with the passengers waiting for the single bathroom to open up and defusing bad tempers about not having potable water, not being able to clean their hands, to have only one bathroom, to not have access to any drink with caffeine in it, and having to stand in line with the first class passengers who were glancing up at us as if we would abruptly jump on them and eat them.  ("First class scum!  You die now!  We want your extra three inches of leg room and your hot towels!  We also want **KYLE** to be our steward, oops, flight attendant!  We're afraid of Helga!")

So about that time my feet were tap-tap-tapping.  My butt was swinging.  My legs are crossing and re-crossing.  I was muttering under my breath.  "Please.  Please.  Please.  Pee faster.  Pee like freaking Superman."  The first class people are staring at me and I wanted to yell at them.  ("I had a fucking VENTI CHAI TEA LATTE! right before I got on the fucking plane.  Don't you understand?")  And when I finally got to be next in line to use the bathroom **KYLE** looked at me and perkily said, "SO what DO you DO for a LIVING?"

And I think that was the moment when I had the meltdown.  Normally I would have been polite.  ("Why, Kyle, I'm a writer and live at home mommy.  Here let me show you a photo of my daughter.")  But it was too late.  I stared at **KYLE** with his bouncy, cheerful, pert attitude, and his little head tilted to one side, as he waited for me to say something like, "Why **KYLE**, I'm so HAPPY to meet YOU.  Aren't YOU perky?  I just want to PINCH your little cheeks to DEATH."  So what really happened was that I choked out, "I don't care.  I had a VENTI CHAI TEA LATTE! and I **NEED** to use the bathroom."

That's when I discovered that even in the tightest confines of a limited area that people can still back away.  Poor **KYLE**.  He was just trying to keep everyone happy.

Thankfully for all involved the bathroom door opened and I dived inside before the Air Marshall was called in.  My pants and panties were down quicker than a pair of high school kids' in the back seat of a 1964 Mustang.  And even over the roar of the plane's engines, I think that everyone heard my sigh of relief.  ("OH THANK YOU, JESUS!  OH, the LIBERATION!"  My BLADDER THANKS YOU, too!")

I slunk back to my seat and used my hand sanitizer and Ms. iPod woke up and said, "Are we there yet?"  She went to use the bathroom a few minutes later and had to jump into the lap of a man a few seats up because Helga the linebacker came plowing down the aisle, so she figured it out for herself.

Anyway, sorry **KYLE**,  I was grumpy.

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