I’m aboard a Southwest flight from Indianapolis to Denver and although Southwest’s heart logo is a little bit tacky, I stand firm in my belief that Southwest is the best airline out there. They at least serve the best coffee, with cute little stir sticks (bearing that same heart logo), so that has to count for something. I just finished David Sedaris’s new book – “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls” and it’s prompted me to record as much as I can about my surroundings. He uses his “diaries” not for pouring out his heart or worrying about the idea for his next book, but simply recording things, everything, actually. People, places, conversations, colors, clothing, signage—whatever. So in the spirit of Sedaris, I should write down that a woman just threatened her son by withholding his snow cone. I imagine the alleged snow cone is one he plans to enjoy in the near future, considering this is a plane and we’ve been in the air at least an hour or more.
Richie is sitting behind me, next to some collegiate swimmers from the University of Denver, who I would bet were just at the IUPUI Natatorium for the USA Swimming Nationals. An event I really wanted to check out. Professional athletes fascinate me. It doesn’t really matter what sport they play, I kind of just want to be around them. Soak up their muscle definition, I guess.
Southwest’s policy for seating is a win-lose type of arrangement. It’s nice that you can choose your own seat, who doesn’t like freedom in that regard? Yet, their policy requires you to remember to check in early in order to be assigned a number in line. So it’s sort of like a first-come, first-served type of thing. But not really—because I bet it was amended for just that reason. I can see it now, people arriving at the airport eight hours early, just to be first in line for their flight. Getting some extra work done or hell, just catching up on sleep, right in front of the boarding door.
The problem for me, is that I generally forget to check-in until an hour or so before I’m leaving for the airport. Usually when I’m still in a packing frenzy. This means that I’m assigned one of the later boarding numbers like B-48 or even C-12. Yuck. Your goal is to be in the A category, and then, at the very least, you and your traveling-mate can likely find a seat together. As I said, Richie and I were forced to be a row apart for this trip. Lesson learned. It’s not that I get horribly frightened when flying. But it’s not particularly a feeling I like, the lack of control. But it’s a comfort to be seated next to someone you know, so you can at least grab their hand during takeoff and landing. I don’t think the person sitting next to me in a Hawaiian Shirt reading his James Patterson novel would appreciate me death-gripping his knee when I perceive the plane as free-falling through the sky.
A mom and her tiny son are pacing up and down the center aisle, which makes me anxious. Not because their blocking the center aisle which I’m sure is some sort of safety hazard (these flight attendants are way too lax – I went to the restroom in the middle of a turbulence storm and instead of the obligatory, “Maa’m, please return to your seat,” I got a “Hold on! This is gonna be a wild one!”) but because traveling with a child just seems so exhausting. Not only do you have to feed them, make sure they don’t pee themselves, and keep them at a decibel that doesn’t deafen the other passengers, but entertain them in a small, contained space for hours on end UP IN THE AIR! How can that ever work? I give up. Or really, I would just give in. Sure, you can have that soda. You wanna cigarette? Knock yourself out.
Despite my low-ranking boarding position, I managed to get an aisle seat, which is what I prefer. I know most people choose window seats, but I always opt for the aisle. More leg room. Maybe not, but it at least presents that illusion. I know that window seats are better for sleeping, but I don’t like to sleep for too long on a plane. I always nod off a little bit just after take off. Maybe because I get so worked up as the plan is initially taking flight I just mentally zonk out. My body doesn’t know what to do with itself so it just shuts down for a few moments. Then I shake myself up, order a Sprite and munch on some peanuts and Cheese Nips. The aisle also gives you easy access to the restroom, or lavatory as they’re called on a plane, and inevitably I will have to pee at least once, maybe twice on any given trip. It’s a curse and a blessing. I am so permanently hydrated, but my bladder pays the price.
I’ve flown to Denver more than I’ve flown anywhere else in the past two years. This will be my fourth time going there. I’m lucky Richie’s family lives there, or else I don’t see why I would go so frequently. When you look at Denver from far away, it looks like a little oasis, it just suddenly begins amid this expanse of flat fields and no-man’s-land to the East, and huge-ass mountains as far as you can see to the West. I hate it when you land and it’s hazy, as it often is in the summer. Then, you can’t see the mountains and Denver just looks like a normal city. Not Denver. When you get to Denver it’s like you’re on your way. It’s your checkpoint before you head into the backcountry, the trails, ski-slopes, or whatever it is you’re getting into. I can’t wait to get there.
Last thought: What do people who are allergic to peanuts do on planes? This haunts me.