This week’s travels took me to Pittsburgh, connecting through Baltimore. It was a last-minute trip, so the choices on connecting flights in the time crunch were fairly limited. I hopped a flight from STL to BWI and we got there on time, without incident. A two and a half hour layover was just enough time for me to grab a bite to eat at a decent restaurant just a short walk down the terminal.
The layover was decidedly uneventful, sans the mention of an excruciating soft jazz Christmas soundtrack. Boarding began. My “A-List Preferred” status with Southwest allowed me to board after the “elite upper echelon” Business Select passengers, but before the rest of the “common folk.” As with most full flights, we were advised by the flight attendants to find the first open overhead bin and the first available seat. I didn’t ignore my instructions. I dutifully followed the guidelines set by our airborne caretakers.
The first seat I found with an open bin above happened to be an aisle seat. I put my bag in the overhead bin and sat down quickly so the others behind me could do the same. I did not realize the person I had chosen to sit next to would prove to be quite the trainwreck. A self-centered trainwreck at that. She had put her obnoxiously large “purse” in the middle seat, and positioned herself in such a manner that she was leaning over into the middle seat. She was using this well-known tactic of making it look like the middle seat was unavailable, so she could have more elbow room. It was all for naught, as all she would have to do is sit there and act like herself.
She was keenly focused on the white glow of her cell phone, the contents of which seemingly making her sigh loudly and angrily every few seconds. Each breath intruding upon my own personal airspace one seat over came with the unmistakable odor of alcohol. I could only surmise that she had consumed about a gallon of wine before getting on this plane. Her clown-esque makeup and overall disheveled demeanor only served to bolster this assumption. I strained my neck around looking for other seats. It became evident that I was in a prime spot – near the front of the plane and on the aisle which would make for a quick de-plane in Pittsburgh. Disheartened but accepting of my fate, I uttered a quiet, “Oh well.” Immediately assuming that I meant an offense towards her, the woman blurted out, “WHAT!?!??” I didn’t bother acknowledging her outburst, but put on my headphones and focused my gaze on the movie on my tablet. I did however, keep the volume down low enough so that I could hear what else this disaster of a human being had to say.
Scheduled take-off time: 10:30pm
10:09pm: First utterance of “Jesus”
10:12pm: Second utterance: “Jesus, damn-it” while looking out window
10:16pm: Everyone boarded, doors about to be closed
10:16pm: “Jesus Christ” – apparently antsy that we’d not taken off yet, despite it being 14mins early
10:19pm: Flight attendants close door, begin safety announcements
10:19pm: “Assholes” – reacting to the flight attendants using humor to enliven the presentation
10:22pm: “Jesus fucking christ, come on.” (Still 8mins ahead of the scheduled departure)
Woman, still on her phone, obviously texting someone & getting madder, looking back & forth between the window and her phone. We had already been told to turn devices off or put into airplane mode.
10:25 – “jesus, come on.”
10:27 – “are we leaving today? jesus christ.”
10:31 – Plane pushing back from gate “unbelieveable”
10:33 – takeoff, up in the air, woman is still on her phone
I mostly ignored the woman for the rest of the 35 minute flight. I just turned up the volume and watched my movie. I certainly did not want to engage any interaction with her.
Upon landing, there is always a mad dash to get that seatbelt off and be the FIRST one up in the aisle, the FIRST one getting the bag down, and the FIR- oh, wait, everyone has to wait? Good thing I jumped up and grabbed my bag, only to be uncomfortably crowded, crotch-to-butt with complete strangers that have absolutely no concept of personal space. At this point, the woman was cheery, and even remarked to me, “Wow, you got up quick!” My instinct was to retort, “Yeah, I wanted to get the hell away from you,” but I just nodded, not wanting to spur any further interaction.
Everyone got off the plane without incident. The Calamity Show, as I’ve dubbed her at this point, continued her antics at the baggage claim carousel. Still focused on whatever text conversation that was enraging her earlier. Still muttering obscenities at random. (It was NOT Tourette’s – I know what that looks and sounds like). My own bag had just passed me on the carousel. I did not pick it up because the situation with CS had elevated itself to comical status. I wanted to see the rest of the show.
Sure enough, it continued. She eventually put away the phone so she could find her bags on the large metal device. The first bag she picked up was a rather large hard-shell metallic pink suitcase. She struggled with it and it nearly toppled her over as she drug it over and slammed it to the ground in front of her. I should also mention that she was exhibiting another quality of air travelers that I cannot stand. Those that go to the baggage claim and stand RIGHT IN FRONT OF THE CAROUSEL. They stand so close that those around them cannot get up to the rail and get their bags. It is common courtesy to stand back a few feet so others can see their bags and move around and get to them. Not this woman. She was one of those that think their bags are going to disappear if they aren’t snatched up the very second that they are recognized.
After she offloaded the pink monstrosity she still stood there, as if waiting for more. As if her giant purse and oversized suitcase weren’t enough. She apparently had more to claim. Meanwhile, my bag had gone around two more times. I needed to see this through. I needed to have another farcical story to tell and entertain the masses. Though, just as I was considering grabbing my bag on its third trip, “Excuse me!!” was the next outburst I heard. She had TWO more bags to get from the carousel, two medium sized duffle bags, only slightly smaller than the first monstrosity. She also struggled with those. She had been such an abrasive person to those around her that no one offered help. She managed to get the bags into a pile next to her. The next task was to search for a luggage cart. I have no idea why she didn’t think ahead and get a cart beforehand. I suppose she had to get the precious cargo off the big evil carousel before they all turned into pumpkins. I didn’t stick around to watch the abuse she was about to lay on the poor airport employees for not having a cart available within milliseconds of her claiming her entire closet from the metal conveyor belt.
I went about my business. I picked up my rental car and drove the fifty miles to my hotel. The following morning, I got my work done and was able to go out and get a steak & a beer at the end of the day. A minor celebration for getting things done in a timely manner and being able to go home the very next day.
The restaurant I chose was in close proximity to a mall. After enjoying a steak, potato, and a moderate thirty two ounces of Sam Adams, I parked closer to the mall and walked around a bit. Once I had enough of the heat, crowds, and lackluster Christmas music, I decided it was time to go back to the hotel and pack.
As I was leaving the mall, I saw someone I did not expect to ever see in three lifetimes, let alone less than twenty four hours later. It was the same catastrophe-addled woman I had just encountered the night before. I stopped dead in my tracks. I had to do a couple of double-takes before I was able to focus and figure out that it was indeed the exact same woman I had dealt with previously. I couldn’t believe it. I had flown into Pittsburgh and THEN drove fifty miles away. At some random time at some random shopping mall, I had run into this woman again! What made the situation even better was that she was being addressed by two security officers. I couldn’t make out exactly what was being said, but it was not calm. SHE was not calm, the officers were. She obviously got caught doing something, or her behavior got her in hot water and the situation was being handled by authorities. As I made my way outside, I realized I had inadvertently gone out the wrong exit. I was parked on the opposite side of the mall. I went back in, passed the shit-show, and straight through to the parking lot at the other side of the mall. I drove around to the entrance on the other side of the mall where she was, and by that point, the actual police had shown up. Calamity Woman, two security guards, and two Police Officers were all outside. I was in hysterics. I had the window down. As I drove past, she had to have heard me laughing, and she offered the one-finger salute before continuing whatever tirade she was bestowing upon the Police officers.