Oklahoma, you're OK
I had kind of an adventure getting from California to New York!
Despite the fact that I couldn't wait to actually BE in New York and writing with Alice, I'd been somewhat dreading the skyward application of movement that would result in the transferrence of my corporeal being from one coast to the next. I mean, AIRPORTS = SO MUCH WAITING and sitting and looking at people eat and also being afraid of their sneezes. And the spending of money on a ticket and an airport-priced bottle of water, MY GOD. But I rummaged around in my purse until found a bullet and then I bit down on it, and Thursday morning I boarded a commuter flight (you know, the little crashy ones!) to LAX, from which point I would launch myself Eastward.
In telling this tale I will spare you all but the most fascinating details, many of which involve a peculiar romance that's blossoming between me and my Kindle.
ALSO, I APOLOGIZE FOR THE GROSS MISUSE OF CAPITAL LETTERS. BUT I WARN YOU THAT IT MAY CONTINUE.
I got to LAX, bought a $27 bottle of water, checked the departures screen to see what gate my next flight was leaving from (not posted yet), and sat down. I read. For two hours I read and sat and sat and read and periodically got up to check the departures board, which always said my flight was ON TIME but never assigned it a gate. About 30 minutes before flight time I finally looked at my boarding pass. THAT had a gate number on it! Hey! And that gate was a 20 minute walk from where I was.
Run, O.J., Run!
I have a trustworthy little voice in my head that I need to pay more attention to, but frankly that little voice naps an awful lot, and then it WAKES UP IN A PANIC and YELLS AT ME.
So I boarded and all was well. The flight wasn't full so I had a whole row to myself! I was thinking about stretching out and taking a nap but then the flight attendant handed me a CHEESEBURGER. This had NEVER HAPPENED TO ME BEFORE and it was AWESOME. What a wonderful trip this is! I said to myself. I did not get all smug and go on to say, and I bet we'll land in Newark early! Because I'm not, despite the opinion of some, a complete idiot. I may be a partial idiot, AS WE ALL ARE, but there are some areas in which I excel and one of them is not pretending that just because I feel lucky and comfortable at the moment is this state guaranteed to continue indefinitely.
And what happened next was that about an hour out of Los Angeles, a young woman several rows behind me fainted. Upright in her seat, which is second only to fainting in bed, for safety purposes.
We learned about the event after a flight attendant got on the P.A. and asked "Is there a health professional on board?" That was a thrill, believe me. Beverage service halted! Passengers stood! Necks were craned! Oxygen tanks passed briskly overhead!
I couldn't see what was happening and frankly I felt like it was really none of my business. I went back to reading Autobiography of a Yogi. And eventually everything got quiet, they moved the beverage carts away, and I all but forgot about the Fainter until about an hour later when the captain announced that we were, as a group, going to drop her off in Tulsa, Oklahoma. We began our descent to a flyover state! I actually got kind of excited about that for a couple of reasons, one of which was that I'm from a flyover state, so I have Flyover State Pride, and another of which was Tulsa is where Sarah Brown's parents live.
Tulsa from above looks like a suburb of suburban L.A., a manageable sprawl, big enough to get on the map but not so big that you can't get your arms around it and give it a friendly squeeze.
Tweeting about Tulsa was extra fun because it got the few people from Oklahoma who follow me on Twitter all up in arms.
There wasn't a lot of complaining in the cabin about our unexpected stop in the Central Time Zone, fortunately. Certainly I felt that if the Fainter were me, I'd want to get off the damn plane, already, and I'd feel terrible about inconveniencing a bunch of understanding, to a point, strangers. I think we all felt bad for the girl -- who, now that I think of it, was being abandoned by the airlines in Tulsa, Oklahoma? -- and mentally rearranged our schedules for arriving in Newark an hour later than planned.
Meanwhile, Sarah B. went so far as to Tweet that if I needed it she could find a place for me to stay in Tulsa. I offered to fake a heart attack if it meant I could stay in her old room, and she replied that the pink decor would probably give me a heart attack. I treasure the life-sustaining properties of almost all of my internal organs, so I put her well-meaning but deadly suggestion on hold because:
Pro tip for all future flight-disrupters: if you become ill in one of the back rows, you will be wheeled all the way up the aisle in a special airplane-aisle-sized wheelchair for your ROLL OF SHAME and everyone will want to get a good look at you, so a contrite/sick to your stomach facial expression helps the rest of us feel like our time isn't being completely wasted.
After the Fainter and her family deplaned, the rest of us sat there wondering when we were going to take off again. Nearly thirty minutes elapsed until the captain came on the line and announced:
Some guy a dozen rows up from me bellowed "UNACCEPTABLE!" and I hope it made him feel better, it certainly didn't shrink the distance between Houston, where the oxygen tanks were, and Tulsa, where we needed them to be. I thought about standing up and yelling, "MERCURY IS RETROGRADE! TRAVEL DELAYS ARE FORESEEABLE FOR THE NEXT THREE WEEKS!" But I didn't because if you say stuff like that around certain people it doesn't have the calming, reassuring effect you think it will.
So we all filed off the plane to spend the next four hours in the airport bar, which had been shut up tight until someone called the manager and told him to come back in to reopen it or 100+ completely sober New Yorkers and Angelenos would open it up for themselves.
I kind of wanted a beer, but I also wanted to find an outlet and recharge my phone, and so I happened to be in the waiting area when one of the ground crew made a quiet announcement over the politely-not-too-loud, it's-Tulsa-and-we-have-good-manners P.A. system offering a voucher for a hotel and a flight out in the morning for those who didn't want to stew in their own juices for the rest of the night, fly through the air with a frustrated, exhausted crew, and then try to get a taxi out of Newark at 3:00 a.m.
So me, some French guy, and a young couple who were on their way back from New Zealand and were so sleep-deprived and slap-happy that they'd grab their knees in mirth at the slightest provocation, we got our vouchers and slunk off to the dingiest little Radisson I've ever been so grateful to see.
A sudden and unexpected trip to a hotel bar in America's Heartland had me reevaluating my wardrobe choices. When packing for this trip, and indeed for life itself, looking like a girly-girl isn't always at the top of the list. So I showed up in the Radisson bar looking as I often do, like an extra in The Seventh Seal: cropped hair, monk's cowl, carrying the devil's own electronic book-reading machine:
Oklahoma, I'm used to inattentive strangers calling me "sir," but I'm not used to waiters 15 years younger than me calling me "dear."
Come here, Tulsa. Give me kiss.
Unfortunately, I had to stop making out with Tulsa and force myself to sleep so I could make it back to the airport at 4:45 a.m. for the next direct flight to Newark.
Taxi into the city: WAITING
Writing partner: PUNCTUAL AND INSPIRED
And now we work.