The view out Shag’s window.
(click to enlarge)
How many times has your luggage soaked in pouring rain for 90 minutes? Whose fault was it? Yours, or trained professional baggage handlers’?
Okay, so “trained professional” might be a stretch.
The point is, I was on a plane at DFW about to take off for northern California. While handlers loaded the passengers’ various suitcases, duffles, and oblong cases into the belly of our plane, the venerable MD-80 that American Airlines loves so much, lightning struck within 10 miles of the airport. According to our flight attendant, when that happens the crews are instructed to go inside and wait until the dangerous weather conditions have passed.
Ten miles? WTF? How chickensh*t are these people? Even if it were reasonable to evacuate all outdoor personnel in this instance, let’s take a quick look at this policy. There we were, the customers, sitting inside a huge metal tube, but they didn’t move us. I’m sure someone reading knows 20 reasons why we were safer than anybody else on the airport’s property, but it seemed ludicrous to me.
Regardless of the meteorology and just general physics involved, we never heard any thunder, yet our plane didn’t move for the next 100 minutes. For most of that time, its protective tarp blown off within 30 seconds, the luggage sat there like a cart full of overpriced sponges. My checked bag already weighed 49.5 pounds. A good soaking would push it way over the 50-pound limit.
Once the luggage was finally loaded, the plane undoubtedly suffered from water weight gain. I wondered whether it would freeze as we got up to 35,000 feet. Whoa, that sounds really high. I reassured myself that plummetting from such a height wouldn’t kill passengers dead any quicker than a drop from 5,000 feet. Then again, if one remained conscious long enough in the altitude, there would be lots more time for sheer terror.
The time I sat there, I got to know the people on either side of me. One, Shag, was a high school junior returning from visiting family in the New England area. He played speed metal guitar, but has taken a college course in advanced jazz.
I tried not to visibly shrink away from him when he listed the names of bands he follows. I told him I had heard of Gwar, but not Cradle of Filth. Finally, perhaps trying to find common ground, he mentioned more mainstream metal acts like Metallica and Pantera. I knew of them, I said. He never mentioned my personal favorite speed metal band, Your Mother’s Mangled Toenail.
The young lady Red, on my left, was a college student in the midst of transferring from a state college in the midwest to a small school in northern California. She had left her boyfriend behind, but he promised to visit. Ummm… I didn’t comment. I wish only the best for her in that endeavor.
“My Dad bought me a Jeep, but it’s a standard. I can’t drive a standard. He said I have until Wednesday to learn how to drive it, because I have to take it to have a lift kit installed.” At least she’ll have a fun vehicle to take her mind off her boyfriend.
Once she figures out the clutch.
They were very friendly young folks, and we enjoyed lots of laughs while sitting there at Mother Nature’s mercy. I allowed myself to feel all cool and hip, or whatever words they use for such qualities these days. For a while Shag pointed out funny things in the Sharper Image catalog, including the hot dog cooker. It looked oddly like a toaster, with slots for the bun and holes presumably just the right size for a frank to go in vertically.
I learned lots more about my row mates that I won’t share here. It’s amazing how much people their age will reveal about themselves to complete strangers. I told them a little bit about myself — wife, kid, the cups in the storm drain. You know, the usual.
In the air, the engines’ roar limited our verbal communications to yelling or leaning in close. Consequently, we went about our own activities. Red rifled through various magazines from the seat back in front of her (I’ve always loved that wording). Shag read about speed metal while listening to it. I finished up a Dan Brown novel called Digital Fortress. I’ve come to the conclusion that Brown uses nearly the same formula in every book and, particularly in this one, throws in too many impossibly narrow escapes via a secret passage or Vespa motorcycle that suddenly becomes available.
I leaned over to Red. “So, I never got your name.”
“Hi, I’m Mark.”
“Nice to meet you.”
I leaned over to Shag. “What’s your name?”
I let that sink in a moment.
I raised my voice enough for both of them to hear. “You’re Michael, and you’re Jordan. What are the odds of that?”
As we descended, I contemplated sharing my blog address with them. I like people, and here I was with two who had their entire lives before them, but I would never see nor hear from them again. I want to know how Michael’s next concert went, and how well Jordan’s doing with that Jeep. Is that weird?
At the baggage claim in Sacramento (did I mention that was my destination?), I anxiously awaited my potentially waterlogged suitcase. I love the word “waterlogged,” but I don’t get to use it often. Only the top outer pocket was damp, and the book inside had a few wet pages. We didn’t stick around to see reactions of those whose bags weren’t so lucky.
I didn’t miss my family yet, but it was only the first day of my trip.