Happy Old Age to me. I’m a quarter of a century old.
World’s longest rollercoaster ride
Act 1: The Delay
I take my place at the end of the long TWA line at the airport. 50 minutes till departure. The 100 foot line was moving two footsteps every 10 minutes. The reason for the long line was that weather in the midwest was a little messy so a bunch of people had to reschedule their connecting flights. And kudos to TWA for assigning two whole ticketing agents to handle a fully booked plane.
Act 2: Surprise!
Surprisingly, flight 720 passengers were scuttled onto the plane in pretty good time, although one or two had to leach on to the front wheel and pull themselves up through the undercarriage as the airplane withdrew from the gate. The fasten seat belt sign was turned on, and we were shown the safety video. I still prefer it when the safety demonstration is performed by a real life person at the front of the plane. It would be really cool if airlines passed a law making it mandatory for all passengers to act out the safety demo as it is performed at the front of the plane… kinda like an aerobics class. On a flight of frequent fliers, the safety demo would be executed glitch-free like a Janet Jackson music video.
We were running 15 minutes late but the airplane eventually undocked and we progressed towards the runway for take off. There was excitement, joy, optimism, delight and relief on the faces of almost every passenger on the plane.
“Psshhhhhkkkkkk! This is a yer Captin speakin’. We’ve just received news from St Louis about its weather situation. We will not be taking off for about another hour.”
Crowd starts to mumble.
“I’ve just turned off the seat belt sign so feel free to wander up and down the aisles of our spacious aircraft in a single file line.”
“Psshhhhhkkkkkk! For those of you who choose to remain in your seats please do pick up our inflight magazine that is tucked in the pocket of the seat in front of you.”
“In this magazine, you will find layouts of major US airports that should help you get to your connecting gate as quickly as possible. We apologize for this delay. To make it up to you, as captain of this plane, I have ordered that passsengers of this flight be not required to purchase headphones to tap into our in-flight music. Instead we will be airing piano tunes of old Barry Manilow songs over our PA system for your listening pleasure.”
Ten minutes pass and passengers are growing restless and running around like chickens without their legs. Starting from the back row, people were lining up to slit their wrists in the the restroom.
Act 3: St Louis here we come!
At the end of the hour the PA crackles. “Psshhhkkk! This is your captain speaking.”
A lone voice erupts from someone in the center aisle, middle row. “Fuck you!”
“We’ve received confirmation from St Louis to take off. Please fasten your seat belts, and turn off all electronic equipment… including battery operated pleasure devices Amy.” Amy blushes. “Flight crew, be prepared for take off.”
Act 4: He said, she said
This is the coolest thing the air stewardess said to me on the flight as she was serving me lunch.
“Would you like the ham or the roast beef?”
“The roast beef please.”
“One ham sandwich coming up.”
“Never mind,” I thought to myself. “I’m so hungry I could eat my arm.”
And then this is what she says to me, “These sandwiches have been sitting here so long don’t be surprised if the meat is green.”
I mean, come on. I’m not the biggest flying fan and my stomach gets a little queasy on airplanes. The last thing I need is to have someone tell me that my meat looks like my vegetables.
Act 5: Touch down
Three and a half hours later, St Louis is at our feet. The plane lands, the aircraft door opens, and everyone darts out like a handful of marbles bowled onto the lane of a bowling alley. I check the departure monitor and my connecting flight to Lincoln is set to take off as scheduled, in 2 hours. I stroll over to the food court for an over priced 2 item Panda Express combo.
Act 6: And the crowd was silent
After my meal, which by the way happened to be pretty good, I stepped out of the food court into an airport atmosphere that resembled the NY Stock Exchange floor. I glanced up at the Arrival and Departure monitors and saw on almost all flights coming into and departing from St Louis: CANCELED, CANCELED, CANCELED, CANCELED, CANCELED . I panicked like a gay guy that just got a paper cut. I stared at the screen a while longer, trying my hardest to harness enough supernatural power to change my flight status with my glare. A couple minutes passed and I had to deal with the fact that I had to step into that monster line that was forming two gates away at the service counter.
It was an hour and a half later before I got to speak with William Beacham, one of the cooler TWA agents. All the flights to Lincoln were fully booked until 3 pm the next day. Willy booked me on a 10 am flight to Omaha instead and told me I need not get in line again if I changed my mind. I gave Hui Chin a ring to find out the exact time of her graduation. It started at 9 am and Omaha was an hour away.
Act 7: Disappointment
Upon finding out that I would be missing Hui Chin’s graduation regardless, I decided to change my flight and fly direct to Lincoln. In the 10 minutes I took to call Hui Chin, the 3 pm Lincoln flight got fully booked and the next available was at 6 pm. Willy booked me on that flight. I took a walk and reflected on the fucked-upness of having to stay overnight in St Louis.
Cab to nearby hotel: $15
1 night stay at hotel with stained sheets: $66
Cab from hotel to airport by cab driver that detects my Malaysian accent and decides to take the long route: $25
Ointment to treat strap burn after carrying my luggage all of the next day until I catch my next flight to Lincoln at 6 pm… and that’s if the flight doesn’t get canceled: $3.50
Spending the night in your own warm bed without running the risk of catching someone else’s skin disease: Priceless.
There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else there is Mastercard.
Act 8: Enlightenment
“Yo Willy!,” I yelled out to my favorite TWA agent.
“Oh, you again.”
“When’s the next flight to LA?”
“Let me check.” Tap, tap, tap on the keyboard. “Ummm, there’s one leaving right now.”
With two hands, I yanked him towards my face by his shirt collar. “Get me on that plane… Nowwww!”
“This plane boarded 5 minutes ago. You’ll have to run to the gate as though you had the Village People behind you.” He handed me my boarding pass.
“Thanks Willy. You the man.”
Act 9: The scramble to the gate
They were withdrawing the bridge from the aircraft as I ran towards gate 35. With everything in my wake exploding in Indiana Jones style, I doubled my momentum and lunged some 40 feet to barely land within the confines of the aircraft.
Okay, okay. Here’s the real story. I ran to the gate as fast as I could, having to stop several times along the way to rejuvenate my old muscles. They let me into the plane without a hitch. There was a delay in take off time because they were waiting to unload passengers from another plane onto this one.
Act 10: “Hey, it’s you again!”
32B. That was my seat number. I walked down the aisle until I found my seat. It was by the exit door. Exit door seats are the coolest because you’ve got a ton of leg room to stretch out and air your crotch. To add to that, the seat on my right and left were vacant.
The lights were dim. Hula music was playing over the PA system as I drifted off to a light sleep, seated in my roomy 32B seat like a turtle on its back or a willing virgin with the words “Take Me” written all over her face. And then I got an elbow shoved into my rib as one of the passengers from a connecting flight boarded the plane and took his seat beside me. I opened my eyes and saw that the entire aisle was filled with people clicking open and scrounging the overheads for room to rest their bags. Beside me in 32C was a burly white guy from Seattle. An Asian girl later took the other vacant seat on my left, so in the span of 5 minutes I was demoted from the King of Siam to a piece of meat on a kebab.
The flight took off 30 minutes late. 30 minutes feels like 1 nanosecond once you’ve been subjected to a whole day of TWA time.
Act 11: Three and a half hours later
LA looked magnificent from the air, and as the plane descended, you got the illusion that you’ve just been abducted by aliens and that they were taking you back to their home planet. And as you get a little closer you see thrash on the sidewalk and know you’re still on planet Earth.
The landing was smooth, and compared to the LA to St L flight, the passengers were a wee bit more civil to each other when retrieving their luggage. I shuffled to the front door in disbelief that I was back in LA.
The flight attendant cheerily greeted me as I was disembarking the plane, “We hope you enjoyed your flight. Do fly with us again.”
“Hell yeah! I enjoyed the flight so much, I flew to St Louis, got in a 2 hour line and flew back. Just like they do at Disneyland.”