Fortunately I am a very experienced international traveler who well understands the importance of properly scheduling connecting flights. You must always have at least two hours when making an international connection because something always goes wrong. In my case, things started going wrong two days before the trip when Mrs. WM asked how come I wasn’t packing.
“I got two days. I’ll pack tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow you’re onna flyin’.”
“No,” I huffed. “My flight’s Friday.”
“That ain’t onna your flyin’ email schedule you sent.”
“Honey, would you lay off? I know my flight schedule, for dog’s sake.” She shrugged. That night before I went to bed I checked my flight schedule. “Holy shit,” I yelled. “I depart tomorrow at 6:00 AM!”
She ignored me as I tore up the apartment packing my mini-bag. I got up at four, exhausted, and she drove me to LAX. It was a packed flight to Boston and the plane was late but thanks to my clever scheduling I still had an hour and a half.
There was an endless line at Starbucks but I had time to kill. The departure board showed my flight was on time but no gate had been assigned. “That’s weird,” I thought as I slowly sipped my coffee, charged my phone, and watched the ground crew pump up the plane’s tires and oil its chain in the midst of a freezing rain. Flakes of snow drizzled down. “No wonder the East Coast is angry,” I concluded. “It’s still winter in fucking May.”
After a while I checked the board again but still no gate assignment and it was less than an hour to departure and the lobby was about as lively as a small town viewing at the funeral parlor after all the marshmallow casserole was gone. I wandered over to Team Surly at the American counter where three agents were ignoring me quite professionally. Just as I was about to set myself on fire to get their attention they deigned to ask if I needed anything.
I refrained from the obvious, i.e. a club with which I could bludgeon them to death. “Which gate is the Madrid flight leaving from?”
They laughed in revenge at my living in sunny California while they were still wearing wool underwear in May. “That’s Terminal E,” said the agent lady with the winter beard.
I didn’t have to ask where Terminal E was because their gleeful smiles told me it was at least a pair of back-to-back 4-minute miles away. Off I ran but not before checking my phone to see that Ol’ Grizzles had landed and was in the same predicament as he’d gone with the $15 cheaper flight that only gave him twenty minutes to make his connection. “Will you wait for me at the shuttle bus?” he texted.
“No,” I texted back. “Every man for himself, like that time you and Munch and SITL abandoned me on the side of I-10, thirty miles from home with no water in 100-degree heat.”
I made it to the security screening but the plane was leaving in fifteen minutes and they were paging “Passenger Davidson” and the line was slower than a Starbucks with two customers and four baristas.
At that moment Ol’ Grizzles loped up waving his homemade plastic security clearance badge. They were paging him too, but he has an Italian surname with the vowels in all the wrong places so it sounded like they were calling for “Passenger Degeneratis.”
“Sir!” Ol’ Grizzles shouted to the TSA man with the tooth. “We’re going to miss our flight. Please let us go to the front of the line. We’re professional bike racers on our way to the Tour de France.”
The TSA gentleman licked his tooth and stared at our tummies and rather mature appearance. Then he looked at the boarding passes. “This don’t say nuttin’ about France.”
“We have to pick up the team car in Madrid.”
The gentleman shrugged. “If these folks don’t mind you cuttin’ it’s okay with me.” The line was long and people were frantically undressing for the x-ray scanner. Wool underwear was everywhere.
Ol’ Grizzles made a brief speech beginning with his great-grandfather’s trip through Ellis Island and threw himself upon the mercy of the liberal Massachusetts court but only after swearing he hated Ted Cruz and supported gun control. They applauded and put dollar bills in his thong and we were whisked through and made our flight.
Which is when the trouble began.
We flopped into our seats and began catching up on old times, lying about our fitness, and discussing which of the Norwegians would first succumb to acute alcohol poisoning. After three hours or so of hilarity, crudity, and fiddling with the video on the seatback in front of us, the irate occupant of the seat turned around.
“Would you PLEASE pipe down? SOME of us are trying to SLEEP!”
Now in addition to being cantankerous, ornery, ill-tempered, and out of sorts, Ol’ Grizzles is pretty much always spoiling for a fight. “Shove a sock in it, you floppy-peckered douchebag,” he said. “Or I’ll put you to sleep permanently.” I elbowed Ol’ Grizzles who gave the seatback a stiff punch for emphasis.
We touched down in Madrid and immediately ran into Sherri from Dallas who was also en route to Mallorca to enjoy cycling, Spanish culture and profound inebriation, which she had begun six mini-bottles earlier on the flight to Madrid. “Fuck I’m ready for this vacation,” she said.
“Oh?” I asked.
“Yeah. My mom had clots in her femoral arteries last night and my good friend Susie got diagnosed with colorectal cancer and checked herself into a Motel 6 and took fifty Ambien but she lived and one of my neighbors blew a hole in his chest with a shotgun so it’s been a rough week.”
“You must be from Texas,” I said.
“How’d you guess?”
“Just a hunch.”
As luck would have it, the three of us were on the same row on the flight to Palma so we told her how we had met on Grindr. Ol’ Grizzles pulled the squashed salami and cheese sandwich out of his pocket that was left over from the snack cart and began eating it. Sherri and I eyed it hungrily but Ol’ Grizzles refused to take the hint. The rain was pouring on the tarmac, reminiscent of Boston without the sleet. We glumly contemplated nine days of cold riding.
“Didn’t you say the weather here was always gorgeous this time of year?”
“Yeah,” he said as we flew up into the deluge. “But I guess I lied.”