The vacation did not start well. For one thing Dee was sort of getting over a cold, and Andi was not quite that far along in her battle with the pernicious disease. They were both hacking and spitting and sniffling and nose blowing and wasting whole forests of tissue. They had traveled to Bozeman and spent the night at the Belgrade La Quita Motel to somewhat ease the transition from sedentary ranch living to the stresses of travel. They were also hopeful that the hotel rest would ameliorate the cold symptoms if not the disease itself.
It did not. And they had forgotten how hotels were not unstressful. The AC hummed, there was a light under the door, there was a street light outside the window that filtered past the curtains, the TV had a blue screen that filled the room with a blue, shadowy not-quite illumination that was certainly not the quiet dark of home. Somebody seemed always to be passing in the hall, their voices dopplering past the door.
These were not things that hindered Andi, she was snoring prodigiously as soon as her head hit the pillow. Dee could not find a pillow that suited him, his eyelids only muted the light. Pretty soon the bed sheets were a tangle around his ankles. He slept maybe two hours, cursing himself for not remembering that hotels somehow aggravated how he tolerated snoring. He should have remembered to bring ear cotton.
When he finally got out of bed, sometime after 4am, he thought, “well, I can get some shut eye on the airplane.” He medicated with tussin, cough drops, and pseudoephedrine. He sat in the stiff hotel chair and thumbed open his device. He opened Facebook and was immediately confronted with a long post by Virgy Ostlin about her trip to visit the grandkids, the grandkids, the grand kid’s breakfast, the grandkid’s tantrums etc. complete with pictures of grandkids, their meals and their cute tantrums.
Dee slugged into a fitful, sweaty doze. Andi snored until around 8 o’clock.
Check out was 11:00. So, at 10:50, they checked out and boarded the shuttle to the airport. At Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport, check in, security nightmare, and stagger to the gate requires—always requires, will in perpetuity require—a mere 30 minutes of the be-there-two-hours-prior-to-departure. They were sitting, dazed, tired, hacking, tissue snotting, on airport benches at gate 5 by 12:45. The flight did not begin boarding until 2:22.
Dee had a deep admiration for and envy of people who could sleep on airport benches. It was not a skill he had acquired. And so it was somewhat of a surprise to find himself waking to Andi shoving an elbow in his ample gut.
“It’s delayed,” she hissed.
“Whu??? Dee tried to unmuzzle his head from a dream in which he was peacefully sleeping on a beach.
“They delayed the flight,” Andi said. She sneezed into her hand and leaned over to get a wadded tissue from her bag. She wiped the tissue across her nose.
“What?!” Dee was awake now. He started coughing again and fumbled to find and unwrap a cough drop.
“‘When we have an update. . . .’” Andi said in her quoting-an-idiot voice. She sneezed again.
Dear reader, I have not bored you with the first hour and forty minutes of the airport wait. Fortunately our protagonist slept or almost slept through it despite coughs, snivels, and trashed tissue. Unfortunately I cannot put him to sleep for the additional hour and twenty minutes before they could board a plane. It just would not be realistic. Nobody sleeps when they are trying to gain some illusion of control. Suffice it to say that at least an hour of that time was a stressed, tense, and rageful attempt to ensure a connecting flight. The rest of the time was fuming resignation that, at best, they were probably going to be stuck in a Minneapolis hotel for the night. More likely they would spend the night on airport benches.
Dee and Andi were finally on the ramp down to the airplane. It was a ramp full of angry individuals silently fuming that all their plans, schedules, programs, and carefully notate calendars were broken by the general incompetence of a broken airplanes, broken promises, and the general malfeasance of accident. In this crowd was one person who was letting the world know this was not something “with which she would put up with.”
She was a dunn-haired, large woman—by Dee’s estimate, about five feet high and three feet across the shoulders and waist and maybe three-five across the ample hips. She was jerking behind her a carry-on the size of a small horse. She was declaiming “And we got sick people here they are making us fly with who should be arrested and stopped from spitting their HIV snot in decent people. . . .” She swung the small horse luggage for emphasis and had pretty much claimed a large portion of the ramp as her territory. Of all the unhappy campers, she was the model, the very mold and shape of unhappy campers. And she was not the suffering-in-silence type. She was not one of the silent majority.
Andi leaned over to Dee and wheezed a whisper, “Anywhere but 16B.”
And sure enough when they got to Aisle 16, she wasn’t in 16B. She was in 16C.
“Excuse me,” Dee said as politely as he could, “But, I believe you are in my seat.” He held up his boarding pass.
The large woman wore a sneer the size of a snarl. She turned and glowered under heavy tattooed brows. Her glower said “SO!?” She snarled, “What do you expect me to do about it!”
“Well it’s my seat,” Dee said.
She Whumpfed through her nose, folded her arms and pout glowered at the back of the seat in front of her.
A young steward approached through the irritated crowd “Is there a problem here?” He said.
The woman turned her Medusa gaze on him. But she shifted and hammed her hand on the seat back and hefted herself and turned to move to seat B or A.
“I need to get into A,” Andi said. The dragon scowl turned toward her. Then the woman hefted herself into the aisle. She scowled at Dee, “What kind of man doesn’t sit with his woman?” She said.
Dee thought of many things but did not say any of them. Instead he sneezed.
“GOD,” the woman hiss-huffed, “Keep your freekin’ HIV ‘eeebola’ out of my face.”
She turned and dropped her full heft into seat B.
“God, I hate vacations,” Dee said. He sneezed again. He slid into 16C. There wasn’t going to be enough room to survive all the way to Minneapolis, let alone sleep. He started coughing.