A short holiday weekend jaunt back out to Arizona was way too short, even if it was longer than I'd planned. American gave me the gift of an extra unplanned day in AZ that I wish I'd known was going to happen so that it could have been used to advantage, rather than dedicated to six hours in the Tucson airport and an evening of wondering what happened to Baghdad ER at the airport hotel (it seemed to have been replaced by Monster-in-law, a movie that never should have been made).
The other gift from American was the injection of the surreal, both on the way out and on the way back. As the plane pulled up to the gate in Tucson we were all told by the pilot to remain buckled in our seats for "just a moment." After sitting parked at the gate for a while wondering what was going on two policemen boarded the plane and stood next to a young woman in first class who began to making yelping noises like an upset puppy. This would have been the same woman who boarded behind me and was memorable for having dropped her skateboard, bag, and full sized pizza (face down) on the jetway, and then explaining loudly that she was bringing the pizza to someone in Arizona. She seemed unphased by the suicide dive that the pie had made, and when someone ahead of me said, "Well I hope he appreciates it," she yelled out, "HE'D BETTER APPRECIATE IT." Well, maybe he can appreciate it after he bails her out, because the cops cuffed her in the aisle while the guy she was traveling with grimly removed their carry-on items from the overhead compartment. Apparently she'd been smoking in the bathroom. Smoking what, I'm not quite sure. But fer chrissakes, girlie, it was only a two hour flight from DFW to Tucson-- you couldn't hang on?
Arriving at the airport on Monday for my flight we're told that it's leaving an hour late due to "weather" in Dallas. (Doesn't this seem like a stupid way to explain this? Isn't weather always happening?) We head off to shoot a bit at a cemetary in Tucson and zip back in a rush to make sure I make my flight. When I sit down in the waiting area the sign says the departure time is an hour later than originally scheduled. That hour came and went without the plane even arriving from Dallas. Another hour rolls by. Somewhere in hour number three I listen to an odd exchange between a young man and the counter representative, in which the young man, with just a little too much politeness to be earnest (does anyone really say sir that many times?) asked a series of inane and seemingly pointless questions. He then came and sat down not far from me. He leaned forward, vaguely in the direction of the man who sat across from me, and I thought, oooooh noooooo. The guy across from me was somewhere in his 50s, short, wiry, and had been mumbling angrily to himself for half an hour. He had a white-gray beard that came down to his collar bone and a white-gray pony-tail coming from under his black Greek fisherman's hat. His eyes shifted back and forth, surveying the room warily. He had my vote for Passenger Most Likely To Lose His Nut And Bite Off Someone's Ear. So Mr. Earnest asks him, of all people, "Excuse me, sir, is that a Greek fisherman's hat you are wearing?"
Mr. Grumbles's face got very tight, and he shifted his eyes to the side, but refused to turn his head to face his interrogator. He began to shake a little. I began to wonder if Mr. Earnest was about to lose an ear. "No." This, for anyone whose survival instinct was in tact, was the moment to back off. But Mr. Earnest continued, "Really, sir? Because it looks just like the hats I saw fishermen wearing when I was in Greece." And then he smiled. Mr. Grumbles still eyed him angrily and warily out of the corner of his eye. I tried to crawl into my book. "It's a Harley hat." The shaking became more visible. "A Harley hat, sir?" Blink, shake, blink. "Yeah." Then there was a long pause. "I like it, sir." Several beats passed. Then Mr. Grumbles turned his head towards Mr. Earnest and said, "Thank you." And smiled. And then he began to share with Mr. Earnest and with the Two Fat Sisters sitting to his right all the of reasons why airlines suck and are a bunch of liars. Somewhere in the middle of his tirade he mentioned he was from Missouri. When he reiterated for the eighth time that the airlines are a bunch of liars one of the Fat Sisters said, "Well I guess a Missiouri boy like you must just tell them to 'Show Me'!" Loud guffaws all around. I was glad no one was going to lose an ear, but any more jokes like that might have made me lose my lunch.
And hour later, after we were all told repeatedly that the plane that had finally come in from DFW had "minor" mechanical problems that were being worked on right now!, one of the desk guys came in from the jetway and began talking with the main counter guy. I was sitting close enough to hear them, so I knew before he got on the loudspeaker that I wasn't going to make it to DC that night. "Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to thank you for your patience, and I'm sorry to announce that the mechanical problem we told you about earlier is more serious than we thought, and this plane is going to be taken out of service..." Before he'd had a chance to continue on with his schpiel about putting everyone up in hotels and first flight out of DFW in the morning (which turned out not to be the case for everyone-- I ended up in Tucson for the night, which, since I wasn't getting home until midnight the next night regardless of what way I went I was just fine with staying in Arizona), Mr. Grumbles had literally leapt out of his seat, shaking visibly with fury, and declared, "Now you're gonna see a hillbilly get mad!"
Dear god, it was funny.