My oldest son, Francis’s wife just had a baby. Being a thrilled grandparent, of course a trip from the Northeast to California was in order!
Exactly 23 hours and 50 minutes before my flight, I dutifully “checked in” with Southwest in order to get a boarding pass with a “low number”. For those unfamiliar with Southwest Airlines, passengers are boarded according to the letters and numbers on their boarding passes, Letter A, 1-60, Letter B, 1-60 and Letter C-1-60. You can only register 24 hours or less to get a boarding pass, so I try to do it as early as possible in order not to get stuck with a high letter/number. It never ceases to amaze me that calling in at 10 minutes after 24 hours yields me the combination B-10. How could 70 people have checked in before me? Was everyone else sitting at their computers at 5 in the morning just waiting for that magic moment when their prize would be a low number? But I digress…this system is only mentioned because it will pertain to an issue which will occur later in this post.
Anyone who knows me knows that I get motion sickness very easily. (Almost my entire childhood was spent sleeping in the backseat of my parents station wagon as we traipsed across the country.) My plan was to sleep the entire 7 hour flight to California. (Another talent of mine is to be able to sleep anywhere, anytime, a skill that came in handy in college where cat naps were caught on the couches in the student lounge between classes.)
My sleep technique is somewhat unique…I can only sleep if a pillow is wrapped around my head. Yes, a pillow wrapped around my head. Tightly, so as not to let in any light. Using a king sized pillow with some of the feathers removed, one end of the pillow goes under my head, the pillow is wrapped around the front of my head, and the other end of the pillow is secured behind my head. For those unfamiliar with my technique, it looks as though smothering myself is a possibility, but an air hole from my nose down to the bottom of the pillow is created. Sleeping my way to California would be no different. Dragging my pillow onto the plane the next morning, I settle into my window seat waaaayyyyy at the back of the plane. (There is always the possibility that the plane won’t be full and I could have the whole seat to stretch out on to sleep. Alas, not so lucky this time.) Settling in and maneuvering my pillow strategically around my head, I became comfy. Because I put my own comfort first and don’t worry about what others think, any references to the appearance of “Marshmallow Head” would not hurt my feelings. As I sat there, cozy and drifting slightly off to sleep, I could hear the usual commotion of the “onboarding” of the plane. Most of the seats have been filled except for the unpopular middle seats. At this late stage of boarding, three different sets of couples found themselves in the back of the plane trying to get seats together. Their seat numbers were probably in the C-45 range. As they moaned and groaned about being separated, the stewardess ordered single people to change seats. People like myself who had obtained earlier boarding passes were being directed to move into those vacant middle seats! I feigned sleeping; it would have been upsetting to sit in a middle seat in which my pillow manipulation would have been unsuccessful, especially for a flight of more than 7 hours. One kind gentleman who gave up his window seat to sit in the middle seat next to me, instantly regretted his choice. The woman in the aisle seat had obviously had one too many to drink, and she slurred her words as she chatted to him, providing him with a non-stop foray into the dysfunctional family she called her own. As I woke intermittently throughout the flight, and she could always be heard talking about one thing or the other. I was filled with sympathy for my poor seat mate who had no place to escape and no pillow on which to feign sleep.
The flight was otherwise uneventful Of course, I could not know for sure because I slept through most of it…
For more stories about my childhood, please, read my book. Here is a link: