Bucking the Universe – Part 1

September 8, 2018  4:42 PM

Have you ever had something you want to do, I mean really want to do, but problems keep cropping up that prevent you from doing it? It’s almost as if the Universe doesn’t want you to do whatever it is you want to do, so it throws one obstacle after another in your way?

After a couple of random, out-of-the-blue obstacles showing up and thwarting your plans, smart intuitive people take the hint the Universe is sending them, and make another plan.

Not-so-smart, clueless people say fuck you Universe, I want what I want, and they plod ahead anyway.  This was me yesterday and it wasn’t pretty. It’s kind of a long story, so I am going to break it up into two, possibly three posts.

If you’ve read this blog, you know I’ve been wanting to get a swim spa for my house. I’ve been testing pools in my area, but the one pool I really wanted to test is in Philadelphia. I’ve scheduled, and canceled for various reasons, two different trips to Philadelphia this summer. On Monday this week, my husband found super cheap tickets for us to fly there on Friday, Sept 7th.

I was leery to get the tickets for several reasons. First, the tickets required us to arrive in Philadelphia and leave Philadelphia the same day. We’d leave the house at 4 am and get back home by 8:00 pm. That is one hell of a long day.

The second reason is that Sammy, one of our dogs, is struggling with separation anxiety again. This means he barks non stop from the time we leave until we return back home. Not great for him, really not great for our cats. We’ve tried drugging him with Tramadol, but it makes him sick. This means, to do our day trip, the dogs would have to be kenneled for Thursday night before we leave, and Friday night, because we will get back too late to pick them up.

The third reason I was leery is that the plane we were to fly into Philadelphia on is small, it holds 50 people. One row of one seat on one side and one row of two seats on the other. Maybe this isn’t small to a lot of people, but by my standards it is.

I am claustrophobic. I do not like crowds. I do not like to sit in the middle of a row in a theater or concert. There are a few restaurants I cannot go to because the tables are close together and the ceilings are low. I do not like parking garages, because they back up after large events let out and I’m trapped in them. I’m not big fan of planes in general because once those doors close, you’re stuck at the mercy of whatever the airline wants to do to you. If I do fly, I have to be in an aisle seat, near the front, where I can focus on all the empty space between me and cockpit. Poor Dennis always ends up in the middle seat. I pay extra for the seats with extra leg room, not because I have long legs, but because extra leg room means there’s extra space in between me and the back of the seat in front of me. You get the idea. Traveling with me is not fun.

These super-cheap tickets did not come with extra leg room. They didn’t even come with assigned seats. We’d have to wait until 24 hours before the flight to check-in online and select our seats. There was a possibility I wouldn’t get my aisle seat.

I almost told Dennis no. Don’t buy the tickets. But I really want a swim spa and the one I want is a quarter of the price of the ones I’ve tested here. Even at a quarter of the price, it’s still a lot of money, so I really should try it before I buy it.

Against my better judgement, I agreed that Dennis should buy the tickets and I went about mitigating the problems where I could. I was able to get our pet-sitter to pick the dogs up Friday night for us while we flew home. They’d get home an hour or two before we would, but that would be okay.

Dennis logged into the airlines 24 hours before each flight and reserved us seats. They weren’t extra leg room seats, and they were definitely more in the middle of the plane than up front, but at least I scored an aisle seat each way.

Thursday night came, and I was starting to get nervous about the trip. I was dreading the day. That’s understandable, though, right? It was going to be long, with most of it going through airports and flying.

At least packing for the trip was easy. Since we could only bring bags that fit under our seats (we didn’t have access to overhead bins with our super-cheap seats) I threw in my swimsuit, flip flops and a little make up. That was it. I have audio books downloaded on my cell phone and I took small ipod earbuds instead of my noise cancelling headphones. The flights were short, only about an hour and half, and space was at a premium. I didn’t bother to pack any snacks on the plane for the same reason. This isn’t much different from driving to the casino in the Dells for the day, I told myself.

Holy Crap, was I wrong. So, so, wrong.

Friday morning started out fine. As fine as getting out of bed at 4 am can be. We have TSA pre-check, so we walk past the line at security at Mitchell Airport and get right through. Dennis didn’t get tagged for a TSA search this time, so that was a good omen. (You can read about Dennis’ experiences with TSA here.)

Then we board the plan. I have to bend down to not hit my head on the top of the door when I walk on to it, and I’m 5′ 3″. My chest constricts as soon as I look down the long narrow body of the plane with the low, low ceilings. The entire plane reminds me of being inside an MRI cylinder. I was thinking there is no fucking way can I do this as I look for my seat.

The aisle in between the rows of seats, is roughly the amount of space you get between your knees and the seat in front of you in a movie theater. No one, including the flight attendant, can get down that aisle without their hips slamming into the arms and elbows of the seated passengers trying to fold their own appendages into their allotted seat space, which is roughly the size of a small Amazon box.

There is no way to sit in the seats and not have some part of your body touching the other person next to you. Any hope of retaining any amount of personal space on this plane is gone.  Thankfully, Dennis and I are seated next to each other because otherwise a complete stranger and I would have gotten to know each other a whole better than either of us wanted.

There I sit, belted into my mini seat, trying to look down the micro aisle to quell the claustrophobia that is quickly closing in. If I reach up, I can easily touch the ceiling over me, and the ceiling over the micro aisle isn’t much taller. The windows look like little port holes you’d find on a submarine, which reminds me that this entire plane reminds me a bit of being on a submarine. I toured a submarine once. For about five minutes. And then I hightailed back up top and let the tour go on without out me. Not a helpful memory to conjure up in that moment.

The flight attendant closes the door to the plane and I can’t seem to get my breath. I regret not snagging a couple of the dog’s Tramadol before I got on this flight. I focus on telling myself, it’s fine, there’s plenty of air. I concentrate on listening to the emergency instructions, anything to take my mind off the fact that this plane is getting smaller every minute I sit here. Then I realize I have to go to the bathroom. I look around for the bathroom icon up front but there isn’t one. There is one bathroom on this flight, in the back, which means I will have to make my way down the micro aisle filled with people. Cue heart palpitations.

Back in the “old days”, Pre-9/11, I’d have gotten up before take off, ran to the bathroom and let the flight attendant grumble at me. But I’ve heard of people getting thrown off of planes for doing that now, and although getting thrown off this plane isn’t that terrible of an idea, I really do want to get to Philadelphia. So I wait.

I take out my phone and put on my ear buds and start playing my audio book. I find that closing my eyes, listening to the words helps the claustrophobia abate somewhat. If your eyes are closed, you don’t know that you’re sitting within an arm’s reach of four different strangers.

This works through take off. I find out that you feel the acceleration and the bumps in a small plane far more than you do in a bigger plane. Thank goodness I remembered to take Dramamine before we boarded.

Ten minutes into the flight, I really have to go to the bathroom. I stop the audio book, which isn’t holding my interest anyway, and I stare at the seat belt sign as if I can will it to go off so I can get up out of my seat. The flight attendant is starting the beverage service (how the hell is she going to get herself and a cart down that teeny tiny aisle, I wonder). Suddenly, I see the bathroom icon light up. Someone is using it! The seat belt sign is still lit, but someone behind me got up to use the bathroom anyway. There’s hope!

I secretly unbuckle my seat belt so I’m ready to make a run for it when the bathroom icon light goes dark again and the bathroom is free. The flight attendant is making her way down the aisle with her cart toward my seat. If she passes my seat with the cart, I’ll have to wait until she serves the entire plane before I can get the bathroom. She’s five seats away. Then four. The bathroom sign is still lit up as occupied and the seat belt sign is still lit, too. Flight attendant is at three seats. Then two. While she’s serving the seats in front of us, the bathroom light finally goes dark. The bathroom is free, but seat belt sign is still lit. There’s no time to waste, a decision needs to be made since the cart is almost blocking me in. Do I make a break for it and ignore the seat belt sign or wait until beverage service is through?

Seat belt sign be damned, I’m going for it! They can’t kick me off the plane at this point, right? I jump out of my seat right before the flight attendant can block me in with her cart and I bolt to the back the plane toward the bathroom. When I say bolt, I mean I walk as if I were on a boat, because unbeknownst to me, small planes aren’t as steady as large ones. You feel the sway of the air beneath and you get thrown side to side. I know for a fact my hips and butt banged into several fellow aisle seat passengers who didn’t have the good sense to lean in and clear the way for me to get through.

Finally, I make it to the bathroom. The bathroom, if you can it that, is roughly the size of a very narrow clothes closet with about the same depth. It has accordion doors that slide open, which was fine, until I tried to close them. Closing the door involved contorting my body over the sink and the toilet to make room for the door to shut properly. I’m pretty sure that sitting on the toilet itself would cause one’s knees to bang into the sink. Bumpy, unsteady plane or not, I wasn’t trying it.

The sink was doll-sized, small even by airline standards and the water trickled out. I mean literally trickled. There was no water pressure. Nor was there water pressure when the toilet flushed. It trickled blue water. I really tried to get the full swoosh flush thing going on, but it just never happened. Maybe small planes don’t have enough juice to swoosh? They have to channel all their energy into keeping the rubber band engines running?

All this futzing around with the water pressure in the bathroom took a few minutes, so when I finally emerged (I had to re-contort to break free), the flight attendant and her cart had maneuvered two seats past mine. As I made my way up the micro aisle, which was even harder than going down it because there was still a definite angle up (I guess we were still climbing altitude), the flight attendant glanced at me, gave me a don’t-expect-me-to-move-for-you look, and asked me sit in a vacant seat several rows back until she passed me. Seriously? She was two seats past my seat. Considering each seat gives you about three feet of space, that would have been at most two steps back for her. Maybe three including the cart.

Since I was naughty, and got up when the seat belt sign clearly told me not to, I smiled and told her of course I would do that. Unfortunately, the vacant seat was five rows back and I was faced with a conundrum. Do I try to turn around in the micro aisle and let my ass take out the innocent people sitting on the aisle next to me or do I walk backwards down the swaying, bumpy micro aisle for five rows and only nudge them again with my hips.

I opted for backwards and nudging. I held on to the seat backs for balance because walking backwards down a slope that’s going up when the plane is bouncing and swaying, isn’t all that easy. And I’m not graceful by nature. So it really wasn’t easy for me, but I made it. I resisted the urge to go “beep, beep” as I backed up, although I do think it would been funny in that I-really-need-to-buy-a-swim-spa-and-get-some-exercise kind of way. Eventually, I got there and I flopped down in the free seat (thankfully it was an aisle!) where my thighs made quick acquaintance with the nice lady sitting next to me.

I kid you not, I sat there for about fifteen seconds, when the flight attendant pulled the cart back a few feet and motioned for me to return to my seat. Apparently, she felt that I was sufficiently punished for breaking the rules. I got back up, sashayed my way down the same damn micro aisle, bumping and nudging the same poor people again and made my way back to my seat. I swore off all liquids for the remainder of the flight.

When I got settled back into my seat, and used two wet wipes to sterilize my hands, I checked my phone. Surely an hour must have gone by since this flight started. The whole bathroom fiasco had to take fifteen or twenty minutes at least. Right? Wrong. We’d been in the air for twenty minutes total. Bathroom fiasco included. Fuck.

So I sat. I tried not to think about the small windows, the narrow cabin, the low ceilings and all the people crammed in near me. I tried listening to the audio book but I couldn’t concentrate and the engines were loud and bleeding through into the story. Even with the volume on high, I could still hear the plane noises through the ear buds.

Finally, out of desperation and the very real concern that I was going to freak out completely and have  a panic attack right then and there, I searched for downloaded music on my phone. Normally, I don’t download music to my phone. I stream it. Thankfully, I found a handful of songs I downloaded at some point, probably accidentally. Included in them was a 4:49 second Whitney Houston song, I Have Nothing. I’m not a huge Whitney fan, but I like some of her songs and this is one of them. I started playing it, top volume through the ear buds. And it worked! Whitney can sing, and she’s LOUD. She completely drowned out of the airplane sounds.

I closed my eyes and tried to mentally go somewhere else. I don’t know how to meditate, but I do know how to visualize scenes for my book. So I did that. With Whitney’s I Have Nothing on repeat, I disappeared into Hawksville, North Carolina with the characters in my book. After a few minutes I felt the pressure in my chest abate. Air came easier.  I unclenched muscles I wasn’t aware I was clenching. And finally, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, Whitney was still playing and we were preparing for landing. I made it. I made it through flying in a little tin can of a plane. When we disembarked, I was relieved. The plane we fly home on much larger, a normal sized plane with three seats across on each side. The worst of the trip was over, I thought.

Boy, was I wrong.

To Be Continued

5:50 PM

airplane

This is the type of plane we flew out on. It looks a hell of a lot larger from the outside than it does from the inside!

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