Thursday, March 30, 2006

The Flying Aardvark

Sounds like a pub if you ask me. Actually, it sounds like a pub even if you don’t ask me.

I made it to the airport by 5:30 for my 6:30 flight. I haven’t flown in quite a while and so I was a little anxious about getting through security without any embarrassing moments. Not that I’m easily embarrassed, mind you, but I always feel awkward in social situations, especially around strangers. And I have, too many times to count, come across as a rube, goof, or madman, depending on which unscripted response I receive from my cerebral cortex (or my gluteus maximus, or wherever my psyche has hidden itself today).

For example, I went to the post office a couple of Saturday’s ago to buy stamps, and managed to time my arrival to about five minutes before the inside doors opened. Having some cash in my pocket, I decided not to wait in the long line, but rather use the vending machine up towards the front of the line. Sidestepping carefully, so as to not anger anyone who might think I was trying to cut into line, I made it to the machine. Feeling everyone in line watching me, it took two tries to get it to take my money. I MAY have muttered something under my breath like, “Hmmm. What seems to be the problem? Yep. That’s REAL money, alright…” Maybe. Then, when the change started plunking, it seemed extra loud because of the silence. At which point, I COULD have said, a little louder than before, “JACKPOT!” I didn’t stick around to survey the crowd, but my guess is that they were pretty evenly split between “rube” “goof” and “madman”, with “madman” having a slight edge.

Anyway, back to the airport. I walked up to the counter and told them my name and they handed me my boarding pass. I did think it was odd that I wasn't asked for any identification, but then maybe they don't have too many Aardvarks flying with them, so we're easy to pick out.

At the security check-point, I managed to remember to take off my belt and jacket and shoes and so didn’t get yelled at. But I did set my boarding pass down. In the bucket. Before I put in my belt and jacket and shoes. So I had to dig it out before proceeding on. All the other stuff – keys and such – that I normally keep in my pockets I had already put in my carry-on, so I was able to waltz right through (actually, it was closer to a foxtrot – or maybe a tango) and start gathering my things to re-dress. For some reason, I had the strange urge to smoke. Anyway, it did feel odd putting my belt on in front of strangers. Maybe it’s because the only time I undo it otherwise is when I’m a) going to the bathroom or b) taking my pants off. And, contrary to what you may have heard (even if it WAS from me), neither one of those things is something I do with strangers looking on.

Having finished that, I headed to the waiting area at the gate. Fortunately for me, the airline I was traveling on only has ONE gate at DFW. And, it’s right across from the security check-point. So even I was able to figure out where I was supposed to be. It being a Thursday and early in the morning, most of the travelers were of the business variety and so, there wasn’t a lot of quality people-watching to be done.

The flight was a little more than half full. No one was sitting in the middle seat, increasing the overall comfort level by a factor of at least three. Plus, this airline didn’t have a first class, so they used the extra space to put an inch (and maybe a little more) of additional room between the remaining rows. For the first time in a long time, I could sit with my legs straight out in front of me. Wonder of wonders! Already giddy from the deluxe accommodations, I was nudged slightly higher by the fresh doughnut I was offered in flight. The only thing that could have made the experience any better is if the person handing me the doughnut had not been a Robert Reich look-alike (on stilts obviously). Anyway, it didn’t seem to affect my appetite any, but then again, not much does.

When we landed in Denver, I had about thirty minutes to kill before the flight carrying the person I was traveling with arrived. (They flew from Houston) The people-watching at Denver International was much more satisfying than that at DFW. Mostly because it was later in the day. Well, that, and the fact that the terminal design put about eight gates in a space big enough for a crowded four, so folks were sitting, standing and leaning on everything in sight. I loitered around until the other flight arrived and then it was off to work.

As a general observation, the cell phone has certainly changed our social habits and no where is this more apparent than in an airport. The things you learn about total strangers…

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