Flight Adventures on the way to Jackson Hole

4:45 AM and it’s pitching dark outside. Pulling out of the driveway almost ran the car into the ditch…guess I’m not awake yet. Minutes later, first time ever, I miss the right turn onto 200 SC highway that joins I-77 towards Charlotte airport. Yep I’m on my way to a long awaited ski trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Even got me new skis, bindings and boots for the big event.

At the Delta checking line, a tall young looking lady visible distressed, lets out an “Oh, no!” as she reluctantly pulls away from the ticket counter. The Delta service person instructs her to go to the “helpline” and wait there. The “helpline” it’s by the smart cart area but nobody is there to “help”. By this time our passenger is in full crying mode and talks frantically on the phone. Till this date I don’t have a clue what happened.

Finally I’m through the security line torture and looking at the information screen can’t help to notice the gate mismatch between the ticket and the screen. “Dazed and confused” I’m now convinced that anything is possible.

I’m trying to kill some time browsing the bookstore next to Starbucks. “Things men wont tell you that you need to know”…that should be an interesting read…flipping through pages I learn that “your husband wants to be your hero”, “men are color blind…don’t ever ask him to choose between purple and mauve” and “first thing your husband wants to do when he gets home from work is to take a leak…please ladies no sob stories about the kids, laundry or the neighbor next door”. Mental note to check this out later.

All right, we are boarding! Grandpa, mom with 2 months old Sally and a 4 years old Sammy have taken the whole row including my seat. Actually that’s not too bad. I’m taking grandpa vis-à-vis aisle seat and start reading the Backpacker magazine I bought a little earlier. I’m immediately drawn to the “Shock and Awe” cover story about two severely wounded Iraq veterans trying to make piece with themselves climbing Mt. Rainier. One is an amputee, the other is blind. The next 30 minutes are an emotional roller-coaster: tearing up reading about the amputee soldier Dunking Donuts encounter with a little boy saying “I prayed for you” and laughing at the home made Valentine Cards he received in Iraq from school kids “To soldier’s for fiting are cuntrey…Hope you fell beteter!” He’s all jollied over “fell”. Turns out he didn’t make it all the way to the top but his fellow soldier did.

“Snack or food?” the flight attendant interrupts. As I give no response she asks again…I mumble “Yes”. “Well which one is it?” she responds patiently. You can tell she is well seasoned. In fact her tag reads “Leader”. From the nicely designed brochure handed earlier I knew “food” meant $5 sandwich; same stuff we used to get for free not too long ago. Intimidated I manage a weak “snack please”. Passing the “food” I wonder what the snack will be. Cheese crackers; that works.
As I’m “indulging” with the crackers can’t help scanning the computer screen one seat ahead. The guy is dutifully doing his email chores. Title reads “PDF not approved and not OK!!!” Ouch! A rebuttal with three exclamation points… that’s gotta hurt. He’s obviously responding to this abomination by pouring in well thought arguments on a page long reply most likely no one will read.

“Becoming Jane” movie it’s over, thank God. We are back starring at the Google-like earth map showing our flight trajectory. There is one dot on the map that reads “Last Chance” over what looks like Colorado. Can’t really get off the plane so I try to ignore the irony and return to my magazine when it happens. Eleven little words catapult me into a hysterically uncontrollable laugh. “Daisy can’t help it: She farts, and the planet gets warmer.”…It’s about small businesses’ creative ways to address global warming, in this case capitalizing on the cow’s perpetual flatulence. My seat mates are amused at first then they get visible annoyed. Tears falling and coughing out loud, hands clapping and with my entire body jerking back and forth I just can’t put a stop to the heresy. “Are you OK?” asks the Leader. I can only point to the culprit article. You can tell she doesn’t get it.

I knew the second leg of the trip, from Salt Lake into Jackson Hole, was a very short flight so not much can happen, right? Wrong. Just as I was putting my seat belt on, the guy sitting on the aisle seat leans over: “You know this is the same [type] plane they crashed into World Trade Center…it says so in the paper”. Dumbfounded I just nod my head. Never had flight phobias before (unlike my husband who few years back had his mom come over to Germany to pick him up ‘cause he couldn’t fly back home alone) but that just puts me upside down. I grab my digital camera and get busy capturing the scenery. The rest of the flight is uneventful.

Passing thru the antlers decorated airport entrance surrounded by the magnificent Grand Tetons Mountains I feel right at home. Waiting at the slow moving and airport’s only baggage claim area I wonder if all that happened that day was just a coincidence. As newly self-proclaimed travel writer and photojournalist, maybe am I now more aware and prone to seeing things, rather than just strolling by from dusk to dawn without a clue on how I spent my time. Either way, something is about to happen.

I gather my stuff, take a deep breath and exit the airport heading for the bus stop.

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