Saturday, March 11, 2006

Getting To Florida

I woke last Friday morning first at 4:44AM to my whining dog. Harry sleeps in his crate every night, but has gotten into the habit of rising before the sun and whimpering until we wake up and let him out so that he can relieve his little doggy bladder. Fortunately, this is a task Salena typically attends to. This crucial and pressing moment behind us, I restlessly tossed and turned in bed. Harry, now relieved, rested comfortably.

In theory I am to fly to Tampa Florida where I will connect with my brother, who's arriving from Detroit, for a visit with our uncle and grandfather. This all sounds great, as I had been looking forward to a little break for weeks.

6:00AM the alarm went off and the day began (again) officially. Three hours until my 9:00AM departure - plenty of time especially considering that I packed the night before. All I’ve got to do is shower, get dressed, call a car service and get to the nearby airport.

6:53AM – OH NO! My stomach flops, my heart sinks and my blood boils all at the same instant. The flight departs at 8 o’clock not 9 o’clock. What was I thinking! How did I miss that small, yet, hugely significant detail? Am I an idiot? Clearly, I am. Quickly I shower, call the car service and throw the last few items into my bags and head out to the street to await the arrival of the car service.

7:23AM John, a pleasant driver from New Enrico’s - (718) 728-5599 if you’re in Queens New York and need a good pet friendly car service - arrived a few moments later. I explained my situation and my new friend stomped on the pedal of his minivan. The good news is that traffic wasn’t too bad on the Grand Central Parkway. The bad news is that John’s effort was in vain.

7:48AM I arrive at the Delta Song terminal at JFK, but it is all for naught. The plane had already begun boarding and my seat – along with those of several other slightly tardy travelers - was reassigned to a standby passenger. Damn you, cruel world!

Well, what’s one to do but find a cozy spot at the airport and read a good book for six hours…? Yup, the next available flight doesn’t depart until 1:40PM and I may, or may not, be able to get a ticket. Delta can’t confirm me until 3 hours before departure.

Fortunately for me, I had recently begun “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseini, which incidentally is an amazing book. I highly recommend it.

Now ticketed and confirmed for the 1:40 flight I am able to relax and stroll through the shops at the airport. I must confess my impression of airports has always been that of a very busy place - lots of hustle and bustle with people rushing hither and thither. Then again I don’t typically spend 6 hours at airports with nothing to do but quietly observe all morning. I can now say with the utmost confidence that JFK International airport is an exceedingly dull place on Friday mornings.

My flight is on time and this time so am I. Eureka! I board and find my seat. Ironically, I find that my assigned seat (and entire row) is occupied. Sitting in my assigned isle seat is an annoying little man who, like me, missed the earlier flight. WHAT!!!??? This cannot be! Once more I am filled with rage, but rather than make a scene, I take the isle seat directly in font of him, which has three consecutive unoccupied seats and cross my fingers.

More and more passengers board and make their way to their seats. As people stumble and squeeze down the isle I dread that awkward moment of “excuse me, I think you’re in my seat.” I make eye contact with a fat Greek lady with hair growing from a mole on her face and am absolutely positive she’s heading for me. Then she pauses and waddles into a seat a few rows in front of me. Phew, dodged a bullet!

“The cabin door is now closed and all passengers are aboard the plane. Please find your seat as quickly as possible so the captain taxi to the runway.” Could it be? Will fate pay me back with a flight to Tampa with an entire row of seats to myself?

Then it happens. One of the last people to board the plane, and I am in his seat. “Pardon, but I think you’re in my seat.”

“Of course I am you moron! I’m in your seat because the jackass sitting directly behind is in my seat canoodling with his wife.”

Now I didn’t actually say this. Instead, I pretended to look at my ticket, acted like it was an honest mistake and slid over to the window seat hoping not to have to go through this charade again in 5 minutes.

Only a few passengers remain and I am in the clear. I’ve a window seat; the seat adjacent is empty (thank the Good Lord!), and the polite man with good hygiene has settled into his rightful isle seat. This will be a good flight after all.

For the next few hours I’m engrossed in Mr. Hosseini’s tale of modern Afghanistan. Did I mention that this is a great book? Well, it is. Buy and read it.

Upon arrival in Tampa the thought dawns on me that perhaps my luggage didn’t make it. Happily that was not to be the case as my bag was one of the first to make it’s way around the serpentine baggage claim.

Fetching my bag I head to the exit and phoned Uncle Gary. “Well, I’ve made it. I’m heading to the baggage claim exit” I exclaim. “OK Bub, but you’re gonna have a wait a few minutes more. I’m stuck in traffic” he replies. Well that just fits perfectly.

I find a nice bench in the warm Florida sun, strip off the layers of winter clothes, stuff my jacket and sweater into my suitcase and dive back into my book which I am now just pages from finishing.

As I turn to the last page my phone rings again. Gary’s arrived at the airport and my mini-weekend trip can begin. Yes, it will be a nice break, damn it.


Yvonne said...

YAY - welcome to the blog world Josh. And I'm honored to post your first comment. Is is ok if I link you on my blog? You should get some new traffic that way.

I LOVED the Kite Runner too. But SO depressing! (how could anything written about the Afganistan of the past 30 years NOT be depressing though, huh?)

Just12Finish said...

Welcome aboard! I too spent some unexpected extra hours at JFK last Friday. I also dread the anticipation of meeting your seat-mate for the next few hours - why does it seem like the losers outnumber the winners by a 10-1 margin? Don't civilized decent-sized well-mannered clean-smelling non-annoying don't-have-a-Gilbert-Gottfried-megaphone-voice sleeps-with-their-mouth-closed people (like me!) have to travel too?!