Southwest Airlines Flight 671
The weirdest goddamn flight of my life: a timeline*
*none of these times are accurate
4:15 PM, CST: I am at Austin Bergstrom, listening to a live human sing the Dixie Chicks on a stage while the gift shop is blaring a recording of a different Dixie Chicks song. God bless you, Texas.
4:35 I try and cut in line to board my Southwest flight, because I have a B boarding pass and I'm a bad person that always cuts the line and always gets away with it. I am swiftly and mercilessly sent to the back of the line, but I'm not mad because I know I deserve it. Somehow, when I board, the window seat on the front row is open. I take it. It is next to two older women, both maybe 70 years old. One is white and wearing yoga pants and flip flops. Her name was probably Carol, if I had to guess.
The other woman is very clearly Indian. She is wearing a bindi and a parka. I snuck a peek at her ticket and her first name has at least 12 letters, but her last name was Patel so that's what I'm going to refer to her as for the remainder of this blog post. So Patel turns to Carol and asks her something, but neither Carol nor I can understand because her English is very limited and heavily accented. Carol keeps repeating "comprende?" I can already tell this is going to be the best flight ever.
6:35: Carol asks me how I am watching TV on my phone. I tell her that Southwest offers free direct TV on your devices if you attach to their internet. She doesn't understand how you can pay for Internet access but get this one single page for free, and I millennial-splane some bullshit. Then she asks me what I have in my ears. I have headphones in my ears, so I tell her "these are headphones." She asks how they work. I'm like "well I'm just a writer, but I believe some sort of electricity current comes from inside this hole in my phone and then that electricity goes into the holes in my ears and then my brain makes those into sounds." And then she asks where she can get some of her own. I tell her literally anywhere. She asks if she can use them at the gym. I assure her that they are largely universal.
7:30: Patel again asks something difficult to understand, but based on her hand movements and the fact that she keeps repeating "BOSTON" very clearly, I assume she's asking if we are also Boston-bound. Carol is not. She is getting off in Baltimore. I tell Patel that I am also going to Boston, and she asks if I can help her. Obviously, I tell her I will help her because she's old and barely speaks English and I'm not a monster. She pats my arm and calls me her daughter. I'm like okay whatever, lady.
8:45, EST: our flight is stuck on the ground in Baltimore because there's a really RUDE plane occupying our gate. I ask the flight attendant if it is difficult to get from our current gate to the B terminal, where my next flight takes off from, and she tells me "well you can't walk anywhere while we're parked right here can you?" And I'm like "wow no shit, thank you so much for your help," and I sit back down.
9:00: Still parked. Patel asks again if I will help her. I tell her yes, again. She calls me her daughter again.
9:20: We finally pull up to a gate. We have approximately 10 minutes to catch our connection flight. Patel tells me she needs a wheelchair, so I tell the rude flight attendant. That attendant tells me she'll call for a chair. She doesn't, so when we deplane finally, there isn't a chair. We wait for a while but then I get nervous we'll totally miss the flight, and Patel pats my arm and stands and starts to hobble down the hall. Arm in arm, we very slowly walk to our gate across the entire airport. She's out of breath, and I'm feeling very thankful for my youth and my English-speaking privilege. She calls me her daughter again and at this point, I'm wondering how many times she can call me that before I'm legally adopted.
9:35: We get to our gate. Our plane has been delayed, thankfully. The flight attendant at this gate looks exactly like Wendy Davis. I ask Senator Davis if there's a wheelchair that Patel can use, and if she's eligible for preboarding. She asks her name. I tell her I have no idea, but Patel hands me her ticket so I pass it along. She pats my arm and tells the other people waiting that I am her daughter, and they look very confused but ultimately accept it, as I have. Senator Davis looks at the ticket and says "you're going to Providence." Patel says "Boston." Again, Senator Davis says "Providence." I'm feeling very uncomfortable. Senator Davis turns to me and is like "sweetie, just go ahead and preboard for being so thoughtful." I tell Patel that this flight attendant will take care of her, and she looks at me a little scared. I'm also kind of scared for her but like, I can preboard, so I leave her. I get an aisle seat on the second row.
10:15: the average age on this flight is 75 at least. There's a really loud woman in the front row across from me discussing how Jesus didn't actually ever touch the ground, because it is sin that roots us to the ground. He just kinda floated everywhere, she says. I'm like "listen lady, I think you're confusing sin with gravity." But actually I say nothing. She moves on to discussing her own experience with exorcism. The (seemingly) stranger in the seat next to her is asking so many questions and I'm trying so hard not to laugh because GOD, PEOPLE OF THE WORLD.
10:35: They close the cabin doors. I ask Senator Davis if the older Indian woman made it to her flight. She looks at me like I have two heads, and I'm wondering if maybe I just imagined this entire goddamn thing? We take off. I put my headphones in and start writing this blog post.
Also, on an unrelated note, I met Roxane Gay this weekend and she was such a ROCK STAR. That is all.