While I am tempted to outline in excruciating detail my
magnificent Hawaiian vacation shared with dear and amusing friends, I
respectfully acknowledge an odd phenomenon of the human mind. People
would rather hear about your latest trip to the grocery store than your
trip around the world.
Eyes automatically glaze over at phrases like, “And then we climbed to the top of a volcano”--which, for the record, we did not in fact do.
So I will ungratefully cut straight to the only trying leg of our week-long journey--the flight home. Not that the flight there was a barrel of yuckles, but at least Oahu and Maui awaited us rather than bills and mildewed laundry.
I compose this on hotel stationery at a creepy, don’t-think-too-hard-about-it 35,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean. I have a child at each elbow and an absent husband who stayed behind on the North Shore to complete his business assignment. Yeah, yeah, tough job and all that.
Our jumbo jet is crammed, quite literally, with more warm bodies than a fire marshal would ever allow in a restaurant of this size. But, hey, which is safer--a monstrous vessel hurtling through space or a Denny’s bolted to earth?
A flight attendant squeezes along the narrow slit comically referred to as an “aisle.” He peddles headsets for a film with Richard Gere playing, surprise, a commitment-challenged hunk wooing, surprise, a much younger woman in the form of Winona Ryder.
Question: When will Hollywood recognize that every shred of this worn formula is altogether unappealing?
Question No. 2: Why do flight attendants always ask for exact change? Can’t the airline spare them some change? I mean, what other enterprise requests exact change, as though it didn’t anticipate the prospect of customers?
Matthew, my five-year-old, wants a headset. I cave in, because he broke my heart during takeoff sobbing, “I need Dad!”--moving my daughter to tears, as well.
Erin, 8, listens contentedly to the Beatles on her Walkman. “You’re fine without a headset,” I suggest. “You don’t care about the movie, anyway.”
Silly me to pretend that Erin might this one time say, “O.K., Mom. No need to waste $5 just so Matthew can never, ever get something I don’t get, too.” Especially when, moments before, she inquired, “If the oxygen masks come down, will you put mine on first, or Matthew’s? Just wondering.”
We are trapped between the dinner cart and the beverage cart, the latter of which provides drinks 15 minutes prior to the arrival of meals and again 15 minutes afterward--assuring that passengers must consume their roast chicken and cold bread without the benefit of liquids.
Music to the ears: “Where’s my barf bag?” Matt suddenly feels a little queasy. I prop up the bag and we wait it out.
Onward to another crisis. “I really, really need to go potty!” Matthew plaintively announces. He is situated in the middle seat of the middle seats in this horrid two-five-two row configuration. Of course, we remain blocked by the dinner and beverage carts. Furthermore, trays heaped with half-eaten food and sticky cellophane dangle over our laps.
I press the flight attendant button. No one hustles to our aid. Finally, I hand off trays to my friend across the “aisle,” as well as to the patient single guy sitting beside Matt.
’Scuse us, ’scuse us! Sorry! Could you let us by the cart? He’s desperate!
Turbulence hits the second we lock the restroom door. “I don’t need to go anymore!” determines Matt. I try, unsuccessfully, to persuade him to follow through.
’Scuse us, ’scuse us! We’re baaack! Bing! No more turbulence! No more “fasten your seat belt” warning! ’Scuse us, ’scuse us!
We are standing in line outside the restrooms when turbulence strikes again. ’Scuse us, ’scuse us! We’re baaack!
We undertake this obstacle course three times, until Matt proclaims himself magically free from the urge for relief--obvious self-denial that perhaps pains me more than him. By the way, a flight attendant has yet to answer our call.
Both kids deem the movie boring--but not so boring that they will relinquish their headsets long enough for me to ascertain what fatal disease ails Winona Ryder, who inexplicably passes her final days in the company of a cad twice her age.
At long last, the plane begins to descend. From our perspective, it looks like we are slicing through a layer of clouds. Then, thunk, we touch down in a blanket of fog.
“Yay, we’re home,” I sigh.
“Why ‘yay’?” says Erin. “I’d rather be in Hawaii.”
Understandable. Just don’t tell anyone what we did there.