Wednesday, December 24, 2008

if only in my dreams

It all started with a broken x-ray machine at the Flagstaff airport.

"We have to hand-check everyone's bag," one of the security ladies with her official security badge called out over the large (for Flagstaff) crowd of holiday travelers.

No biggee, I thought. We're here in plenty of time. Turned out we could watch our bags be unpacked and rifled through, but we could not, under any circumstances, touch. With my carry-on open before her, its guts already spilling out onto the metal table, another security lady produced a razor blade. "I have to open your Christmas presents, too," she told me.


Fortunately, they had scotch tape on hand at the airport, and once it was decided that the kids and I were not, in fact, going to hijack the plane using several pairs of underwear, some glycerin soap, a pair of Isotoner gloves and a curling iron, I was allowed to re-wrap the gifts and re-pack the luggage. Time to sit and wait for our plane to arrive.

Around the same time I noticed another mother traveling with her two small children (younger than mine) I also noticed said woman hurrying to a nearby trashcan with her son. "In there," she said, and the boy flung himself toward the can, just in time to clear his stomach of all its contents. The splat! made other waiting passengers look up from their reading and their re-wrapping at the metal tables, and I knew we were all thinking the same thing: Lord, don't let my seat be next to theirs.

Of course, you know what's coming next. Yup, the other mom and her kids were our last-row-of-the-plane neighbors. I don't know how many of you have ever flown out of Flagstaff, but the perennially soused Ron White once did a great and very accurate bit about the experience.

I had already given the barfing kid's mom my travel pack of Kleenex back at the gate, so once my own children were in their seats I set about trying to find a bunch of airsick bags for her boy. "I already raided all the seats around us," she told me, though, waving the bags in her hand like a Spanish fan. "We're heading to Mexico today. To La Paz via Guadalajara, so I want to be sure I have a good supply on hand."

We were delayed for almost an hour, and though it had been zero - yes, you read that right: ZERO degrees outside when we'd left our house earlier that morning - the cabin of the little puddle jumper was sweltering. The barfing kid held it together, though, and by the time we got off the ground, everything seemed to be going smoothly - despite the fact that the 8-passenger pack of gum in which we were all flying looked to have been constructed around the turn of the century (the one starting with 1900).

Eventually, the barfing boy's sister needed to use the postage stamp-sized lavatory, which was fine, since it was located about two feet from where we were all sitting. When the girl emerged, the mother decided to go next. She was in there not two minutes before the boy, clearly agitated that his mother had dared to leave his side, got up and started pounding on the lavatory door. "She'll just be another minute, Sweetie," another nearby passenger told him. At that moment, the door opened, and the boy's mother was no doubt about to say something like, "Hey, I'm right here," or "Stop pounding on the door, Buddy," but she was cut short by an explosive and voluminous stream of vomit that was so powerful it actually hit her and then arced around both sides of her body, covering the inside of the lavatory from ceiling to floor.

I did mention there was only the one toilet on the plane, right?

Sitting back there in the rear of the cabin, I had a great view of other passengers' heads as they swivelled around to see what had made that splat! sound. "Uh, Miss?" I called to the stewardess.

Turned out there was nothing much that could be done short of keeping the lav off limits until we landed at Sky Harbor where a cleaning crew would take care of the mess. That would have been all well and good if nobody had consumed any beverages (several cups of coffee, anyone?) before our hour-long delay on the Flagstaff runway. And though the flight to Phoenix takes less than an hour, those remaining 20 minutes quickly started to pass at half the speed of dog years.

Almost immediately, as if in some Pavlovian response to Murphy's law, there was a chorus of little kids' voices from different areas of the plane calling out, "I have to PEE!" And then there was an almost liturgical, in-union parental response: "You have to WAIT."

One kid was particularly persistent, though. He was seated a few rows ahead of me, and I could hear him calling out, "Mom! Mom!" to his mother, who was seated a few rows ahead of him. (Did I mention that the stewardess had to move passengers around before we took off in an effort to re-distribute the weight because the plane was a little "front heavy?" You really need to fly out of Flagstaff sometime if you haven't. It should be on everyone's bucket list). Anyway, this boy's father was sitting on the other side of the aisle, also a few rows ahead. Dad had already turned around a few times, clearly embarrassed at the scene his son was making, to say, "You have to WAIT, Buddy." The boy wasn't having any of it, though. He was all but flailing around in his seat in an apparent attempt to redistribute the pressure on his bladder. I half expected the skin of his face to be yellow when he turned to look longingly toward where the toilet was located.

Poor guy, I thought. Apparently, his dad also thought so because the next thing I knew someone was saying, Psst! When I looked up, I saw the boy's father trying to get his son's attention with an empty plastic water bottle. The boy looked up, too, and when he saw what his father was waving in the air - like a carrot on a stick - his shook his head violently. No way, Man.

"You'll feel a lot better, Buddy," Dad said as quietly as possible (but not quietly enough - Mom turned around, saw what was going on and rolled her eyes, like "They are SO not related to me.") Eventually, after making it clear that he would never in a million years answer nature's call trucker-style, the kid caved and got up from his seat. The next thing I saw was a makeshift tent being held up by the dad and horrified expressions on the faces of my fellow passengers. "He's not..." some of them mouthed. "...IS he?"

"He is," I answered, smiling. All I could think was that the scenario gave a whole new meaning to the movie title "Snakes on a Plane."

"This," I said, turning toward the barfing boy's mother (who was clearly relieved to have found a kindred spirit of sorts in the peeing boy's father), "is going to make an awesome blog post."


  1. And it was, thank you very much. I laughed and sniggered and smiled and guffawed and all those other Roget words all the way through. Way to go. A couple of pictures would have been too much. The best sentence: '"He is," I answered, smiling.' Just a little smirk I imagined.

    Merry Christmas to you and your gang. Glad you got out of Flagstaff.

  2. And it's a great title for all of us OSs (Over Sixties).

  3. Ken, I'm always glad to make someone laugh.

    Your soap is en route, by the way - or it will be if your daughter actually mails it (which she assured me she would...)

    Doesn't everyone know the song I'll Be Home for Christmas?