I judged an Irish dance competition a few weekends ago. Traveling always provides interesting opportunities for people-watching and other wackiness, such as:
In the security line at the airport, I was behind a family with two little girls, around ages 8 and 6. Both of them had long brown hair and were wearing identical orange dresses and pink sweaters.
The line was long and moving slowly. While we were creeping along, the older girl came and stood in front of me. She stared at me for a minute, then she started saying, “Pig, pickle, pig, pickle,” over and over again in this creepy monotone.
Now I have an idea for a comedy horror film…
Then, in Dallas, where I was catching a connecting flight, I saw a woman with two Chihuahuas, both white but one bigger than the other. Both were wearing identical pink dresses.
I was glad that it wasn’t the two matching sisters walking the two matching dogs. That would have been REALLY creepy.
These are not the actual dogs. I didn’t want to take a picture of any of these actual things, since people don’t always think that they are as funny as I do.
As I was boarding the plane from Dallas to my final destination, the lady at the gate counter made an announcement over the PA system. She said that our plane was small, with limited overhead bin space, and anyone in boarding groups 3 & 4 would have to gate-check their roller bags. Whew! I thought. I’m glad I’m in boarding group 2!
But then, just before it was my turn to scan my boarding pass and get on the plane, the lady made another announcement, saying that overhead bin space had reached full capacity, and anyone with a roller bag had to get out of line and gate-check it right then.
I wasn’t thrilled, but I knew that these things happen, and luckily I wasn’t going to be in a hurry when I reached my destination. I got out of line and dutifully gate-checked my bag.
So then I was pretty annoyed when I got on the plane and saw the empty overhead bin over my row of seats.
Even after everyone had boarded, this was the overhead bin across the aisle.
My bag and I had been parted for nothing. I feel like there’s a sad country song or a Mechant Ivory film here somewhere.
When we landed, the flight attendant announced that if we’d gate-checked our bag, it would be waiting on the jetway for us. Hooray! That turned out not to be true, though. Boo! Instead, I had to pick up my bag at baggage claim.
Well, like I said, I wasn’t in a hurry, and waiting at baggage claim gave me the chance to see another wacky sight: a woman pushing a specially-designed stroller with a Chihuahua and a mini-Yorkie in it.
It looked like a normal stroller if you weren’t really looking, and I only noticed it because the baby inside was making some VERY strange noises (I was relieved when I realized it was a dog making the noises, not a baby).
The woman pushing the stroller came and stood near me at baggage claim, and the mini-Yorkie was whining nonstop. “It’s OK, sweetheart; Mommy’s coming soon,” the woman kept saying in a baby-talk kind of voice.
Then another woman appeared, and the dog went absolutely nuts, jumping up and down and scratching with all his tiny might at the zippered compartment of the stroller. He started making a high-pitched screeching exactly like the noise your car makes when a belt is slipping.
“Mommy’s here, darlings!” cried the new woman, and then she unzipped the stroller compartment, took the dogs out, and put them on her shoulders.
On Saturday, the competition ran a little longer than expected. My flight was scheduled to depart at 6:30 p.m., and at 5:15 p.m. I was still at the competition venue. I reminded the organizer of my flight time, and she drove me to the airport.
I was trying not to feel panicky. In Denver, you really should be at the airport 90 minutes ahead of your scheduled flight time, because the airport is huge and security takes forever. Ray is so paranoid that he makes us get there 2 hours early. And now there was only an hour to go before departure.
The drive to the airport only took 15 minutes, because the airport was just outside downtown and not in a different time zone like Denver International. I got out of the car, thanked the organizer, and ran inside the terminal.
There was no one there.
I mean, I saw a security guard, and a janitor, and a couple people sitting outside the Starbucks, but that was it. And the Starbucks was the only business that was still open.
Did I mention that it was 5:30 p.m. on a Saturday night in a state capital?
Mystified, I followed the signs to security. Security was open, but the only people there were the three TSA employees.
Oh. Well, in that case, I thought, I might as well change out of my fancy judge outfit and heels.
I went to the bathroom and put on jeans, tennies, and a t-shirt. Then I came out and went through security, along with two other travelers who had now appeared. It took less than five minutes. Then I walked to my gate, where I saw via the departures board that my flight was one of only two departing that night.
Even with walking to security, changing, and stopping to take pictures, I still had a 20-minute wait before my flight boarded. No wonder no one else had been worried about the time.
When I landed in Dallas on my way home, it was almost a relief to see a packed-full departures board in the terminal. Much more what I’m used to.
In Dallas, I had a 2-hour layover. I grabbed some dinner and then went to sit at my gate so I could blog (yay!).
While I was sitting there, a middle-aged dad and his 9-ish-year-old daughter plunked their vast collection of luggage down on the seat across from me. The daughter looked sunburned, and both of them looked like they’d had a long day.
“Excuse me,” the dad said to me. “My daughter and I are going to get something to eat. Would you mind watching our bags for a minute?”
“Sure,” I said, automatically, before I’d really thought about it, and he said thank you and left.
When they’d gone, I took a better look at their stuff (since, you know, I was supposed to be guarding it). There were two roller bags, a pink backpack, a paper bag full of souvenirs of some kind, and a laptop bag. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t really trust people. There is NO WAY that I would leave any of my bags, let alone a laptop bag, with a stranger at the airport for even a minute. I’m so paranoid that I take all my bags with me when I go to throw trash away, even. The man had never seen me before in his life! How did he know I wasn’t some opportunistic kleptomaniac?
It wasn’t like anyone else seemed to be paying attention. The only person sitting in the immediate area was this kind of creepy twentysomething dude to my right who was watching a video on his laptop with his earbuds in and giggling.
Minutes went by, and the dad and his daughter did not come back. I started to have a new thought: what exactly was I supposed to do if someone did come by and mess with their stuff? Angrily confront them? That gave me an idea for a story where a con artist and his daughter ask an innocent-looking stranger to watch their bags, then send a confederate to pretend to steal the bags. When the innocent stranger jumps up to defend the bags, the daughter (or another confederate) takes the stranger’s wallet out of her purse.
Around this time, there was a security announcement on the overhead PA system–you, know, the one where they tell you not to leave your luggage unattended at any time because it’s a violation of federal security regulations. “If you see any unattended baggage, report it immediately to the nearest security personnel.”
Oh, geez. What if the man and his daughter weren’t con artists; what if they were terrorists, and there was a bomb inside the pink backpack? For several minutes, I pondered the ramifications of this story idea/paranoid fantasy (the line there is really blurry sometimes). The guy had been gone a really long time–more than half an hour by then. At what point was it reasonable for me to go tell someone about the bags without sounding like a crazed conspiracy theorist?
What finally made me decide that I’d had enough of bagsitting duty was not my fear that the guy was a con man or a terrorist, but rather my irritation that he was messing with my bathroom schedule. I make fun of Ray’s travel rituals all the time, but the truth is that I have mine, too. One of them is that I always use the restroom as soon before boarding the plane as possible so that I don’t have to go during the flight. The digital display behind the check-in counter was telling me that there were five minutes to go before boarding started, and it was time for me to hit the restroom, guy or no guy.
Before I had to take any drastic action, though, the guy and his daughter came back (with a pizza box, so I guess they really had gotten dinner and weren’t international criminals). Relieved, I gathered up my stuff and made it to the restroom and back right as my boarding group got called.
You want to know the worst part? After all that, the jerk didn’t even say thank you.
Until next time!