I stand in line at airport security in Portland, watching the priority boarders pass us up like hot girls in a VIP line at the club. Ah, the feeling of inferiority in the morning. Reminds me of high school. I can hear the guy behind me reading a sign: “Wow, so 12 year-olds don’t have to take their shoes off? I had no idea!” What, were you born yesterday dude? What are you thinking, that we go back in time and be 12 again so we don’t have to take our shoes off? As if that’s an option. Shut up. Man, I’m grumpy today.
We split into two lines for two different conveyor belts for our luggage. I always end up in the extra slow line… The one with the family that’s flying for the first time and tries to walk through with a can of hairspray in their pocket or tries to smuggle a jug of milk in their bag and then act like they didn’t know it was less than three ounces. I always make it through airport security just as my flight is starting to board, leaving me a matter of seconds to consider getting food for my flight. Not having food on a long flight is torture, where you actually debate ordering the plane-trash sandwich… A roll that tastes like high altitudes, with cheese that has passed through hundreds of time zones, mustard to mask the other tastes, and cold cuts made with nitrites from the 1800s. And what’s worst is that I can’t express my disgust with airplane food on stage without sounding like a hack. So I just have to sit with it, and ask only myself about the deal with airplane food.
I look at the lines for breakfast, and know that I will miss my flight waiting for eggs, so I run to the coffee stand, get an oatmeal and a muffin. I only have two hands which I need for luggage, so I put the top on the oatmeal and put it in my backpack. I get to the gate, they call my boarding group, I walk to the line, where then a lady passenger waiting to board approaches, “Sir, you have something leaking from your bag and its dripping all over you!” As if it was an emergency that effected the safety of the other passengers. Look out for the Quaker Oats bomber, folks! I run to the bathroom and clean the oatmeal out of my bag, my outfit, and my hands in less than three minutes, and run back to the gate. The guy scanning tickets says, “Sir, your bag is too big, you have to check that.” Dude, I’ve been flying on planes almost every day for the past few weeks, with this same bag. It fits. I was just on a United flight the other day. You have to believe me.
He doesn’t, and has me measure it in their bag size measuring thing, which is way inaccurate. They make it extra small so you feel like an idiot when you put your bag in and it just sits on top, refusing to slide into the slot, in defiance to both gravity and you. The other passengers look at you and shake their heads, thinking “That greedy f*ck! Trying to take his whole life on this plane and use up our precious carry-on space! We must eliminate him- wait, AND he’s Middle Eastern!?…”
I stomp the bag into the stupid hole, and it finally sinks in. I take a few moments struggling to pull it back out, then I dust myself off and walk right past everyone semi-victoriously to board the plane. I guess I’m really just upset that I have to fly to Ohio today. I want to go home! I’ve been on the road for two weeks; I was already in Ohio last week and it was freezing and dry. My skin gets chapped and my hair gets frizzy. It’s painful… My least favorite weather. I just spent two amazing days in Portland, where there’s no snow plus no drought– exactly like back home in Cali. Except Portland is so fresh, it reminds you that there just might be hope for the environment. But now I have to go to frozen Dayton, Ohio for just one night only to fly back to the desert of LA tomorrow. It makes no sense that this gig wasn’t scheduled for last week when I was in the Midwest, but alas: this is how the college bookings work. You take what you get offered.
I slip my bag in the compartment above my seat with ease. There’s nearly twice the room in the real compartment than there was in their fake baggage size tester at the gate. Idiots. I stare at the built-in TV screen in front of me, scrolling through the options of good things to watch, all of them costing good money. I’m not going to pay for this stuff. You do know TV is free right? What a waste of resources. To build these mini TVs in every seat, expecting that we are dumb enough to pay for it. I look next to me and a guy is sliding his credit card to watch something. No man! We can’t let them win! I want to slap his hand. Ugh. I’m going to take a nap.
I wake up with half of a functioning neck as we begin our descent into Chicago. The pilot comes on, “We’re an hour early!” Nice. So this whole time you are telling me we can make four hour flights in just three hours? Why couldn’t I have just slept in an hour more then? We land and then the pilot says, “Well, looks like our gate wont be ready for another 45 minutes.” Wow, what a great use of time. At least my phone has service now. I turn it on, and get a message from Southwest: “Your flight tomorrow from Dayton to LAX has been cancelled. To request a refund, call…” You kidding me? So now I’m going to be stuck in the place where I don’t even want to be in the first place? They call it Ohio, because you first greet it and then realize it’s a disappointment. ‘Oh, hi! Oh.”
I exit the plane into the Chicago O’Hare airport, walking from Terminal B all the way to F to get to my connecting flight. Really? Why not just have United in one terminal. I pass by seven Starbucks on the way, that’s how far the walk is. Right as I get to my gate, they announce, “The flight to Dayton is being pushed back 2 hours, because the crew is in Lexington.” The crew? Never heard this one before. The crew?! Find a f@*king replacement crew. How hard is it to hand out peanuts on an hour-long flight?! I have to be at my gig in two hours. The two hour delay will make me an hour late for my own show. The school will have to cancel, and I’m out a grand, plus this wasted money on travel, because the crew is in Lexington? WHERE THE FUCK IS LEXINGTON???! See that guy eating pizza over there, ask him to be the crew. I’ll be the crew! Please. PLEASE.
I go up to the lady at the kiosk. “Can I get on another flight, to Columbus? I have a gig to make.” She says, “Sorry, all flights are closed. We have no crew. They are in Lex…” -ington, right. I hate you. I walk over to the charging area where the business-y travelers sit, all figuring out how to cope with the delays. I plug in my phone and listen to the guy next to me talk all cocky to someone on the phone about how his tire business in Virginia is taking over the world. It’s always the guy who is doing the most insignificant thing who talks like he’s the messiah of business. I call the three contacts I have at the school in Ohio, and none of them pick up. I call my agent, and she doesn’t pick up, so I leave a message. I start doing the math in my head. If this show is gonna get cancelled now that I am late, me going to Dayton is a trap, since I’ll be stuck there tomorrow, because my return flight is cancelled. What I need to do is get Southwest to put me on a flight from Chicago back home and cut my losses. But Southwest doesn’t fly from O’Hare. Only Midway airport. I map it, it’s one hour away, and the last flight of the day to LAX is in..exactly 2 hours. I would have to leave now. I wait anxiously, listening to the king of tires yapping next to me, and news on the TV, talking about how the South is practically frozen over. Atlanta is covered in ice. I thought they called it Hotlanta. People are abandoning their cars there because they can’t drive on the ice. Fix that, Tire Jesus.
My agent calls: the school will reschedule, I can go home! Boom. I grab my bags as I dial Southwest, waiting for them to confirm they can get me on that flight, before I leave the gating area. God forbid I walk out and then find out I have to go back through security and go to Dayton. “Can I get on the 7pm to LAX?” “Checking… Checking… One moment… Yes. It is open.” Boom. I speed past the TSA agents out to the taxis, hop in one and “ride” through the gridlock Chicago rush hour to get to the other airport. I literally flew to Chicago so I could watch the sunset from a cab. My credit card won’t swipe in the cab, so I hand the cabbie all the cash I have, $80, and run to the gates. Yet again, I’m going through TSA, and yet again, in the slow moving line. I now have ten minutes to make my flight, and I’m starving. I look at all the food options, pizza, McDonalds, hot dogs, and there are lines everywhere. Except the salad place. Shocking, Chicago.
I grab my salad and run to the gate, getting on right as the doors close. So nice to be flying Southwest again, where there’s a sense of humor. United, Delta, American… So serious. Southwest acknowledges that we could all die together on this flight so we should make the best of it. I pass out, and wake up now with the a fully useless neck, and suddenly the plane starts shaking. Some of that really real turbulence. Where the plane feels like it’s going to fall apart. Where everyone is gasping, and the pilot tries to act like it’s normal, but we all know he’s just as scared as the rest of us. My heart starts beating. This could really be the end. Just because I took an unnecessary flight to Chicago? Just because that crew decided to stay in Lexington? Just because half of America is frozen? Just because I want to make money and travel the world, doing what I enjoy? Yeah, I guess these are good enough reasons to die. Well then: bring it. I’m ready. On cue, the guy in front of me farts one of the worst farts in history, a fart of pure terror, and I accept that I’m going to die to this smell. The smell of fear and Chicago pizza.
The plane stops shaking, and everyone on the plane sighs in relief. “We made it out of the rough patch, should be clear here on out!” says the pilot. Suddenly it’s as if all the stress I’ve felt today has left my body. I’m still alive. And in some convoluted way, I realize that’s why I had to fly to Chicago today. To know that I’m still alive. Suddenly I remember my last near-death experience, which I totally forgot about. It was in Kentucky just last month, when I almost spun out on the road. Wait, it was in Lexington! Where my crew is. How did I forget about that? There has to be some meaning to this. I just don’t know what it is…
I know that traveling can bring out the worst human side of me, but I also know that it’s a test of faith. That traveling really should not be about the destination, but savoring the idiots you meet along the way. Sure, today seemed like it was a waste of money and time, but it was really a roundabout way of reminding me that I’m alive, a fact that I, strangely, often forget. And even though I spent a day doing unnecessary traveling, getting an extra dose of the worst part of my career, I really just ended up getting what I wished for. To not have to go to Ohio.