The flight to Montana wasn’t a nightmare–nowhere near it, in fact; it actually started with an extra hour of sleep–but these travel logs are a habit now. I’m transcribing the following from the notes I jotted down in the Chicago O’Hare airport while waiting for the second flight on my route home. (The previous sentence originally read: “I’ve got 45 minutes until my flight to Bozeman loads, feet up on my blue carry-on, and I’ve got to admit this is better than last year.”)
I’ve broken the trip home into three legs:
Leg 1 (Fort Wayne to Chicago)
- Extra hour of sleep. Flight delayed to 7:30 a.m. (instead of 6), but no worries: I’d been anticipating a nearly 4-hour layover in my favorite city of all time. Now that’s down to 2 and a 1/2 hours in Chicago.
- Turns out: the flight crew came in late last night on a delayed flight, and federal mandate says they have to get a certain amount of sleep (like semi drivers). They weren’t allowed to take a step into the airport until 7:10.
- “Not allowed to take a step into the airport” is actually how our pilot put it over the intercom as we began taxiing down the runway. Still would’ve been nice to know the reason before I panicked at the airport when I couldn’t find flight my on the departure board. I stood in a line at a label-less gate in the Fort Wayne airport, quietly and desperately sweating in my Meowy Christmas sweater, thinking they had somehow played a trick on me.
- (Full disclosure: I’m always a little too ready to suspect that an airline is going to either purposefully or accidentally lie to me, ruining my day.)
- (Chances are they program the departure and arrival TV screens at small airports like Fort Wayne the day before, especially for the morning flights, and no one woke up the IT guy soon enough to get the new time on the board, so the flight disappeared when it was originally told to. Understandable? Yes. Appreciate the kick of paranoid adrenaline to wake me up at 6:30 in the morning? No.)
- (Oh yeah, and before you accuse me of inept cowardice, I actually did try to find out if the plane had left without me before standing fruitlessly in line at the AA gate I thought might be correct. However, the Delta guy I asked–do you happen to know where the American Airlines plane is?–gave me the smilingly polite version of “Not my circus, not my clowns” and pointed me farther into the airport and, more to the point, away from him.)
- Still, finding out why the flight was delayed also solved the mystery of why they thought sending out a text informing its passengers of next morning’s delay at just a few minutes past 2 a.m. was a good idea. It wasn’t. It was just when the flight got in.
- Fortunately, I have do-not-disturb hours programmed into my cell so the text didn’t wake me. Unfortunately, I am a certifiable idiot for a full 10-15 minutes after waking, especially at dark o’clock in winter, which explains why it took me so long to confirm the news before allowing myself to go back to sleep, still slightly suspicious that I was going to wake with the news that they changed their minds and my flight left without me. I slept anyways because I’m a night owl and mornings — even when vaguely suspicious that an airline is about to pull a fast one on me like a sideshow magician at a summer fair — are for sleeping and ignoring the clock tick around to a more decent time.
- Getting through security was its own fun that morning. I decided to wear the sweater I purchased on last year’s Christmas clearance rack at Walmart, which features a cat in reversable sequins. The security scanning machine had a panic attack, showing the entire square of sequins as a suspicious yellow block across my chest, and I only realized as I wrote this why the security guy (recognizing it was going to be a problem), asked me to pull down the sweater as far as it would go. Though the security gal who was then required by law to check my hands for explosive residue still had to cop a feel up underneath the wire of my bra, it spared both of us the full cup experience.
- (That wasn’t my last incidence with the sweater. As we were departing the plane in Chicago a little girl commented on how much she liked my shirt, so I showed her the reversible picture. I then almost offered her a chance to try it herself, but realized in time that offering a 9-year-old I didn’t know her own chance to try out the TSA breast exam might come off as a little wrong to her mother, watching from the double seats behind us with her other three children. I refrained. I then proceeded to follow this family around the Chicago airport, speed walking past them to the bathroom, speed walking past them again after I got out of the bathroom, and finally accidentally stalking them into their corner of the food court. I gave up the power position at my table just so I didn’t have to stare weirdly at them as I ate my bagel.)
- (Then as I was leaving the food court I spotted a crabby-looking woman wearing the exact same sweater. Naturally, rather then make a pleasant comment and move on with my life, I wrapped my trench coat more tightly around myself, like a flasher preparing for his next opportunity.)
- The shirt also wasn’t the only thing that sounded the security flag that morning. My bag was pulled aside and given a thorough look-through, a turn of events I had anticipated. I had meant to pull out the offending item–a nativity from Haiti for my mother–like my ziploc of liquids, but had forgotten. The creche was made from a coconut, with all the people tucked inside in a disorganized jumble, and, no joke, looked exactly like a cartoon bomb filled with unidentifiable parts and pieces on an x-ray machine. No wonder they wiped down my hands.
Here’s the nativity in question:
Mom labels all of her nativities (80+ at the last count) either with who gifted them to her or where they’re from. On Christmas morning Dad took one look at the animals (donkeys and sheep, presumably) asked me – smirkingly, I might add – what they were supposed to be, and later that day typed up and printed off his own label when Mom and I were at the store. Thanks, Dad.
- But best moment of the flight to Chicago has to go to my potential victim in seat 6c. Two gold watches fell out of his bag as he was loading it into the overhead bin, and I immediately reached forward to pick them up and hand them back to him since he had his hands full with his luggage and his 3-year-old. The lights flickered off at the exact moment I realized they were just slighly out of my reach. I pulled back, unfortunately and definitely in a guilty manner knowing how weird the aborted attempt looked, as the light came back on.
- My word, folks, the look he gave me. A bewildered and concerned look of suspicious wonderment. I’m pretty sure he thought I had just tried to steal his watches because, let’s be honest, between the guilty withdrawal and the excellent timing of the lights, that’s exactly what it looked like I was doing. I immediately reached forward again to dive into the bag at my feet like that’s what I’d been doing all along, and we both avoided looking at each other for the rest of the flight.
- And bonus incident: verbalizing the “H” in herb when I asked for a cheddar and herb bagel at the Great American Bagel Company. The lady at the counter laughed at me and there was nothing to do but grin and laugh back, secretly cursing the name Herb — an old congregation member of my dad’s from back in our Missoula days — for confusing me at a crucial juncture.
Leg 2 (Chicago to Bozeman)
I say only this: stealth farter. I’m pretty sure I know who you are.
Leg 3 (Bozeman to Ammon)
I flew into Bozeman, ate lunch with my parents and my brother and his family, then jumped into a borrowed car (thanks, Mom and Dad) to drive to Idaho to my sister’s house. This was the view in my side mirrors:
I love this state. And okay, yes, technically this is in Idaho, but as far as I’m concerned anything that looks like Montana is Montana.
I caught a couple of other gorgeous shots, feeling entirely too poetic as the countryside passed by:
The clouds coming over the mountains poured like water, rolling heavy and thick over the tops. It was the sort of day that looked like a matte painting–like a backdrop in an old Hollywood musical.
I’m telling you, I’ve seen these mountains in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.”
Also, since my hands were busy with the steering wheel and I actually know better than to take notes at 70 mph, I recorded a couple of notes with my phone (one-handed driving is a whole other ball of wax) because I didn’t want to lose my thoughts. The descriptions of matte paintings and clouds rolling like water were pulled from those short voice recordings, but I have a few others; one in which I talk about the drive being fine except that I kept getting stuck behind these jerks doing the speed limit, and then my favorite, and final, note:
“Oh, and talk about the tyranny of two-lane highways.”
It’s been a good Christmas.
Nothing to say about the return journey, save for two observations: 1.) You can always tell the women’s restroom by the line of men casually leaning against the wall outside of it, and 2.) Everyone in an airport seems to have the same resigned look on their face. Our flight attendant on the final run from Chicago to Fort Wayne somehow managed annoyed, dead-eyed resignation, looking strangely like a young, cuter version of Jim Gaffigan.
And finally, I have to admit that Chicago looks pretty cool under a blanket of cumulonimbus clouds, if I’m remembering the right name for the round, fluffy kind (the kind Aladdin and Jasmine flew through while singing “A Whole New World” — Aladdin is absolutely the reason I thought flying through clouds was going to be more exciting than it was). Flying over and away from the city at 8 p.m., the clouds glowed the color of lava, a gray and orange kind of fiery ash laid out across an otherwise black horizon, a few strips of city lights peeking distantly up through the thick cloud cover. Some flights the clouds beneath the plane look thick enough to frolic through (and I really do mean frolic–it’s the only proper way I can think of to move through clouds, leaping and rolling from billow to billow like you might a field of grass when you were a child), and today was one of those days.
Word count report: Whistler, 567 words