… On Flying

It was the best of times, It was the worst of times.

It was the baggage claim, It was security check.

It was airborn children, It was cocaine stuffed animals.

It was random penises, It was alcohol mismanagement.

But it was all the time. At every airport…

From the time I was younger until recently, every attempt to fly has had some sort of bump in the road. And by bump I occasionally mean boulder. Large. Boulder. I used to have dreams where I would be able to fly myself around the neighborhood, taking off from the ground of our backyard by waving my arms. But I never thought these meant anything. Mainly because whatever dream book of the time had some “Flying means your gender is not reflective of your true identity” or whatever as its meaning. And seeing as I believe I am at least 74% female, I never found these particularly helpful. But upon further scrutiny, after finally sitting down with myself and realizing the ridiculousness of the situations that happen with people are stuck in a tube 30,000 feet above the ground, it’s possible that someone was trying to tell me something. And that something is I should use ground transportation whenever possible.

Now the airport is an interesting place. In fact they made a show about it- Airport (catchy!). But while the show tends to highlight those who are enraged that their flight isn’t on time, or they’re not on the flight that IS on time, I’d like to take you behind the scenes as an everyday citizen just trying to get from A to B. And so while there are lots of stories to be told regarding any number of “What in the hell is happening?”, I have broken them down to three favorites. Without further ado, I give you:

The Rogue Dick

I’m Sorry, Did You Say ‘Miscarriage’?

and

Suburban Cocaine

The Rogue Dick

When I was younger, my estimate is about 6th grade, I traveled with my family to Florida to visit with my mother’s friend and her family. It was an interesting state full of large, spherical fruits named after the testicles of apes and other topics not generally discussed in coffee shops up north. It was also really, really warm. This was furthered by the fact that we drove everywhere in a cadillac (I have no idea). Why would driving around in a cadillac make everyone hot, Ingrid? I’ll tell you. Perhaps the most interesting part of this entire car rental was the fact that my mother, god bless her and may she forgive me for this, would only fart in the cadillac. It was actually amazing and after a while, was as reliable as the sun. And so it wouldn’t matter if the air conditioning was on, the windows were constantly open to prevent death, southern style.

But I digress. The airport, Ingrid, the airport! I gotcha, don’t worry. On our way back to the good old state of Pennsylvania, we boarded our flight uneventfully and landed (fortunately) in the same manner. But as soon as we touched down, a chain of events happened that I haven’t seen rivaled in real life before or since.

You know how when you’re young, you remember things from the height you are at the time? I was about 5’0″ tall, and that’s being generous. The important thing to remember is that I was only slightly above the height of an adult male’s groinage. File that image for just a moment, if you will.

My family got to baggage claim and between the five of us there were probably about three suitcases. That’s not very much in hindsight, so I don’t really understand where everyone went. But for some reason I ended up standing in one end of the foyer that contained all of us passengers and that massive belt that the suitcases shoot down. If you’ve never been to a baggage claim in your life, I’m not sure what’s going on with your life but they look something like this:

Image
Suddenly, and without warning, calamity ensued. I just saw a flash, a smallish yellow flash go by me and then I heard yelling. All of a sudden I realized that a small probably 4-year-old boy had gotten onto the moving belt and was flying around in a humongous circle. A man I can only assume was his horrified father ran laps trying to get his son to come off of the belt without hurting himself. Unfortunately, it wasn’t working and somehow the son began to ascend the steep ramp that the suitcases were shooting down.

Showing agility I haven’t seen since Raiders of the Lost Ark, the boy dodged suitcases left and right and slowly gripped his way up to the hole that everything was coming from. In my head, it looks a little like this:

Image
That’s when suddenly something caught my eye. A stranger from the east started to work his way into my periphery. Now, listen: I will tell you right now, I have ripped my pants. Hell, I’ve ripped massive holes in my pants. I’ve even ripped a bra. But even when the holes are tiny, I can tell they’re there because there is a draft. And so while I cannot now or possibly ever say this with 100% certainty, I’m feeling about 84% sure that if I had a penis and it was hanging out of my pants, I would know. I just don’t understand how you cannot tell that something that was in your undies is out of them. And so I am left only to assume that this display was designed to garner attention.

Now I was in 6th grade at the time. I hear that kids now have sex in 6th grade and as such may not appear stunned at the approaching of a rogue dick. I myself was not one of the pioneers of that trend, particularly in an airport baggage claim, and as such stood there for a moment wondering several things in my 6th grade mind:

a) How does no one have any idea that there is a penis accosting people in baggage claim right now?

b) Where is anyone I remotely have any familiarity with?

c) What happened to that child???

d) Am I 100% on what’s happening right now? Yes. Yes, I am.

And so I did what any self-respecting lady of breeding would have done: I ran in the opposite direction. I had to get some air. I would not be a witness for an eventual prosecution and no one could make me. But where could I go? I found an exit and ran out into the middle of a massive traffic area, stopping for a moment to get my bearings. Still no Stobbe to be seen for miles. Where the hell had they gone? Maybe I was not in the right baggage claim after all, but how had that even happened? Well maybe if I just went across the busyway to the next baggage claim, someone would be there that could help.

Unfortunately, as I was about to walk across I only got about two feet when a large Collie was dragged right in front of me by a  frazzled woman.

“Sophia, push Felix from behind!”

Poor little Sophia looked to be about 5 and in no condition to control a large canine from the posterior. I’m sure in his prime, Felix was a hell of a dog. Something like this perhaps:

Image
However no amount of pulling or pushing was going to move this terrified animal. I was about to offer my inevitably not helpful assistance (really, what was I going to do?) when all of a sudden it happened. Felix couldn’t handle it anymore. And Felix shit his brains out right then and there all over the airport floor. I honestly can’t tell you what happened to Sophia in that moment. I think on some level my brain blocked it out. I really can’t tell. What I can tell you, is that the frazzled woman, horrified, took one look at me, one look around the airport and one look at the diahrrea all over the floor, and she then picked that entire Collie up in her arms and ran out the door with a soiled Sophia chasing after her, sobbing.

So there I stood, gazing on a pile of dog diahrrea, when FINALLY I heard a familiar voice:

“Ingrid! Ingrid, where have you been? What are you doing?”

It was my sister, let’s call her Betchen.

“Betchen! Betchen! Where were you!”

And just as I managed to step around the pile, another woman- dressed head to toe in expensive business attire- was not so fortunate. On her way up the stairs to Departures she waltzed right through that pile of shit. And there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop her. I never saw her, Mr. Dick, or Little Indy again. But I did find my sister, who’s response to my “Did you see that guy’s thing?” was a simple “Yeah, of course, Ingrid.”

I’m Sorry, Did You Say ‘Miscarriage’?

I fly much  more now than I had in my youth. I used to be proud of the fact that I had only flown twice in my life, once to California and once to Florida (see above). But then I moved to Boston for Graduate school and subsequently had to force myself to enjoy flying. When I was smaller, the fear of crashing and dying never really sunk in, but when I was older and had had time to think about the infrastructure of a Boeing 747, I started to have very small panic attacks during takeoff and turbulence.  Every time I would fly to Pittsburgh, and thank goodness it’s only a little over an hour, I’d find myself gripping the seat and calmly reminding myself to breathe.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending how you look at it) no one ever seemed to share my pain. They were always cool as cucumbers which made me feel that much worse for behaving essentially like an idiot. So imagine my delight one day when I turned from staring out at the tarmac to see a very nervous individual seated next to me.

“Oh my God, I do not want to be here,” Azalia said.
“Me neither! I hate flying, it’s horrible” I chimed in.

This was great, someone that was as horrified of airborn death as I was. We started making small talk on the flight and I realized that the more I spoke with Azalia, the less worried I was. I wasn’t even gripping the sides of the seat that much! I offered her my Us Weekly as an additional sign of solidarity. If we were gonna go down, we were in this together.

Eventually I noticed that Azalia seemed to need some rest. I was beginning to worry that my enjoyment in our mutual fear was beginning to wear her down. She shut her eyes for a bit and I turned once again to gaze at the ever potential doom out the window. I took out Bossy Pants by Tina Fey and that helped pass the time substantially. If you can’t tell yet, I need reading material on flights. Music is not enough to block out the fear.

Now in terms of borrowage, if I’ve already read a magazine you can have the thing. You can even cut it up to make those newspaper-looking serial killer-type letterfaces seen on the mail people get in scary movies. So I wasn’t really that concerned that Azalia hadn’t given me my Us Weekly back yet. But what had me perturbed was that she wasn’t even trying to read it. She’d just been sitting there all this time holding the thing over her lap. And if that was the case, then surely someone at home (Betchen, most likely) would like to read it.

I sat thinking about this as the plane pulled in for a landing. I almost felt bad at this point, actually. Azalia still seemed terrified of the plane and we were already back on the ground. “She’ll calm down in a second,” I thought. I almost wanted to tell her everything would be ok, and with my round face and friendly demeanor I can be one heck of an emotional salesman when I like to be. But when I turned to look at her, the magazine was now on the floor in the middle of the plane aisle.

“That’s no good,” I thought. “How will I get it now? This is awkward. I look like some cheap turd asking for a magazine back that clearly had so little value to Azalia that she could toss it on the floor. But it’s an Us Weekly, for crying out loud!”

I thought for a few seconds about how to approach this without looking stupid, and then I noticed everyone started getting up. I figured I’d just be a schmo and bend over and grab it, hoping no one would rearend me on the way out. But then I noticed that Azalia wasn’t moving to get her things.

No worries, there are other people in front of us still to go.

But as more and more people started to pass us, I realized I might not be getting off of this plane. The passengers 3 rows behind us at this point were going past, and Azalia seemed to have no plans to get up and unblock me from the row.

“Azalia… do you… wanna….maybe we could like… get up?”

And then Azalia turned to me with a face I’ve basically only seen once on myself when I was in preschool and pooped my pants twice in one day, which meant I had run out of extra pants. That’s another story though.

“I think I miscarried!”
“…………I’m sorry. Did you say you… miscarried?”

Poor Azalia just sat there and nodded as tears filled her eyes. Dumb Ingrid just sat there and tried to maintain eye contact as she is not a medic and wasn’t sure what her reaction would be to what might be on the seat.

“Ok. Well, let’s see.”

Seriously how stupid do I sound sometimes? This isn’t Sherlock Holmes. But still I sat there for a moment trying to deduce what the best course of action would be as the plane continued to empty.

“Do you want me to get the stewardess?” was the only thing I could think to say. Azalia nodded and then I realized I had to somehow get over her, out into the aisle, up to the stewardess, explain the situation, and come back like a salmon upstream to where Azalia was sitting and point her out. This was how my brain planned it out anyways.

Slowly and as gracefully as I could after sitting for an hour and a half, I climbed over Azalia and fell into the aisle. Dust it off. Then, I got up and thought for a second about how selfish it would look if I were to grab my luggage. Hmmm. Ok, no. So I empty-handed it up to the stewardess and uttered in the most adult, mature way I could think of:

“I think the lady next to me miscarried during the flight.”
“Ah. And why is it that you think that?”
“Well, she told me she miscarried during the flight.”
“I see. And who is this?”

And then I took the stewardess back upstream to Azalia who sat there next to my trampled Us Weekly. I’m not sure what happened to her, and I almost wanted to give her my email so she could let me know she was alright, but I was getting elbowed by a larger woman intent on getting out of the tube. So I grabbed my suitcase, but at least I did have the decency to not bend one over and grab my magazine. That just would have been tacky.

Suburban Cocaine

In truth, this is not my story to tell. But also in truth, I garnered the rights to tell it from the relative that it happened to, because it is absolutely ridiculous.

Now. A relative of mine, let’s call her Stretchen, decided very nicely to take her family, consisting of her husband and their two daughters, along with my parents to Turks and Caicos. If you’ve never been, it looks like this:

ImageIt’s a very pretty place and by all accounts, the vacay was a nice relaxing excursion into a tropical land. It wasn’t until the trip back to the states that things got a little bit interesting.

The 2-part fam packed up all belongings and hopped into the T&C equivalent of a cab, which apparently is a Suburban. A Suburban for those who are not car aficionados is humongo. It looks like this:

Image

Being so huge it holds a lot of people. It also holds a lot of things. Things like cocaine. Now just file that.

As the crowd piled in, my mother offered to sit in the way back of the car with Stretchen’s daughter Zeda. Everyone else sat in the normal seating areas of the car and the group went off to the airport. At security there was a massive line, and all of a sudden, a minor commotion was ensuing as a man was being pulled through security covered head to toe in bandages. My father, curious man that he is, walked up to security and asked

“Why is that man covered in bandages?”
“Oh. Sir, he was attacked by the dogs.”
“What dogs?”
“The wild dogs, sir.”

If you don’t know this already, and really why would you, Turks and Caicos has a dog problem. And not the kind of dog problem where you encounter a really sad, vaccinated Daschund on the beach.

Image“Oh, this stray Daschund, he needs my help!” NO. Not like that. Like THIS:

Image

Like “Oh, that poor man, that awful dog chewed on him.” THAT is what we’re talking about here. Apparently if you pick the wrong island, this shit’s real. So get your islands straight before you make some serious plans to traverse the tropics, my friends. Anyways, back to the ranch, there is a man wrapped entirely in bandages being wheeled through security, making the line even longer.

Eventually, the fam gets up to the check point when little Zeda takes her turn to go through with her stuffed puppy she had brought. Zeda is about 3, and had been holding onto the dog for the duration of the trip. All of a sudden, security went into alarm-mode.

“M’am, you’re going to have to give me that dog.”
“Ok?”

If you need a visual for the stuffed dog, here is your third dog for this story:

Image

Stretchen at this point took the dog from Zeda and handed it to the officer. The officer then took out a small strip of paper and slowly wiped the dog down over its head, body and underside. He then took the paper and inserted it in what could best be described as a 1980’s fax machine. The machine grumbled and beeped and in a moment returned a result.

Grave-faced, the officer turned back to Stretchen.

“M’am. This dog has C.O.C. on it.”
“Ok?”
“How did the C.O.C. get there?”
“I don’t know, what’s C.O.C.?”
“M’am, C.O.C. is Cocaine. There is cocaine on this dog.”

Now. At this point, I don’t care who you are, there are two things that go through your head: The first being “This is absolutely hilarious, how do I keep a straight face, there is cocaine on my daughter’s stuffed animal.” The second being “Oh my god, there is cocaine on my daughter’s stuffed animal, we are all going to be arrested!”

Stretchen at that point walked over to her husband Dean.

“Dean. They said that there’s cocaine on Zeda’s Dog.”
“What? How is that possible?”
“I have no idea, but they ran this little fax machine thing and it detected cocaine.”

Dean walked over to the fax machine and officer and took a look at the old thing.

“Just how accurate is your machine?”
“Sir, this machine is 99.9% accurate in the detection of cocaine.”
“I see. Well, we don’t really know how it got there, you’re welcome to go through the rest of our stuff, we didn’t pack any cocaine.”

The officers deliberated for a bit, all the while examining the stuffed animal, perhaps wondering whether or not to cut it open and check for a stash. Zeda for her part was being very good about the fact that her stuffed animal had been basically strip-searched and debased. Finally, after much deliberation, the officers made their decision.

“We do not believe the little girl is a C.O.C. smuggler.”
“Good, that makes two of us,” said Stretchen.
“And since we cannot find any more in your luggage, you are free to go.”
“Is the dog allowed to come with us?”

There was a prolonged pause.

“Ok.” Said the officers. “But you must bathe him when you get home! It’s not good for little girls to carry around the Cocaine!”

Words to live by.

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One thought on “… On Flying

  1. This cracks me up!! Especially while overnighting in Toronto Pearson airport in the middle of a 36 hour, three leg journey from Budapest to Denver. Although now I’m laughing quietly loudly and attracting stares…

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