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Maxed Out

Flying the friendly skies

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The ticket didn't arrive by the time I had to leave for the airport. The sun rises in the east.

I apologized in advance to Terry, the ticket guy at United's desk at Vancouver, and told him I was about to make his day, which didn't seem too hard given his day couldn't have started more than 30 minutes ago since it was only 6:30 in the morning. "No problem," Terry said with more cheeriness than anyone should have at that hour.

"No problem" to Terry apparently includes the concept of paying again for a ticket I'd already paid for once. But he did manage to get me on the same flights I'd previously booked once I assured him there was a ticket out there that definitely wasn't going to be cashed in.

Everything was back on track and going well. At that hour, the drug dog was nowhere in sight to mistake the lingering aroma of last night's barbeque for something illicit and I breezed through US Customs with no more than a wink and a smile and a few semi-legible scratches on the declaration card.

I found my seat at the back of the plane - the part that sometimes survives the disaster of which we do not speak - settled in next to the mandatory chubby person assigned to the centre seat and prepared to wait. Much to the surprise of all the passengers, we actually managed to get airborne on time. The crew was apparently surprised at this strange twist of events too because it took them longer than normal to break out the celebratory "we took off on time" champagne.

They were going to serve me breakfast on this flight. I couldn't remember the last time I'd been served any food on an airplane. On a flight from Florida to New Mexico I once made the mistake of asking just how far a guy had to fly on, I think it was Continental, before he got fed. "About halfway around the world," the steward replied without a hint of sarcasm and just enough conviction in his voice to lead me to believe he was telling the truth.

But United was actually going to feed me. The stewardesses pushed a fully loaded cart to the front of the plane. I was sitting in the last row. Honest. Watching them make their way to the back was like watching one of those long lens movie shots where some guy is running forever and never gets any closer. They were just about all the way to my row - the chubby guy had eaten both magazines and half an armrest by that time - when the captain announced we were preparing to land in Denver.

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