flying coach class, up in the sky

Since it’s been about a hundred years since I wrote anything of any substance, let me remind you all of three very important aspects of my personality:

  1. I am usually running late.
  2. I have a horrible sense of direction and get lost a lot.
  3. I tend to obsess over things.

In a Hoover Family First, the six of us were scheduled to leave Piedmont-Triad International Airport in Greensboro, North Carolina, at 11:52 a.m. on Thursday, June 14th. All six of us. In two rows on a single airplane. With other humans around. I’d been stressing about this for weeks, because seriously, this was a recipe for disaster. And it was to be Jamie’s first airplane ride in all sixteen years of her life so far.

Mom, Ginny, and Dad were leaving Roanoke in one car, and Sammi, Jamie, and I were leaving Lynchburg in another car. We would meet in Greensboro at the airport and check in together.

Our flight was at 11:52. Greensboro is about two hours away. We planned to leave the house at 8:00 in the morning.

Leaving at 8:12 didn’t really seem like a problem, because we had tons of time, and I’ve flown out of Greensboro many times and find it to be a pretty easy airport to navigate. So I wasn’t worried about leaving late. In fact, I was feeling pretty good that we were only 12 minutes behind schedule. That’s practically on time as far as I’m concerned. I was, however, worried about the Bates Motel sign that Sammi and John had left plugged in and turned on in my guest bedroom. I was obsessing that it would make the house catch fire and burn to the ground if I left it on for 5 days while I was out of town. Sammi told me to go back and unplug it if I was that concerned, but I didn’t want to take the extra time. Besides, we had to get gas.

So we stopped to get gas and I began obsessing about other things. Like IDs. Did Sammi and Jamie both have their IDs? We’d need them to check in. Yes, they said, they had their IDs. I asked them to double-check, just to make sure.

Sammi showed me her ID.
Jamie’s ID was missing.

We jumped out of the car and tore through our suitcases and carry-on bags. No ID. We called Sammi’s boyfriend in case it was in his truck. No luck. We called Mom and Dad to tell them what was going on and proceeded to head back to my house to get the ID. At least I could unplug the Bates Motel sign while I was there.

It was raining. Traffic sucked. We made a plan that I would be the only person to get out of the car, because each additional person who exited the car at my house increased the likelihood that we’d lose or forget something else. So I ran into my house in the rain, unplugged the sign, and began looking for Jamie’s ID. After a few minutes, I found it where it had fallen under a picture frame leaning against my wall. So I raced back to the car and we started our trip to Greensboro again.

Except this time it was more like 8:45. I was a little more stressed, but figured we’d still have time to make the flight – we’d just be cutting it a little closer than I’d prefer to cut it. But that was okay. We’d still get there an hour before the flight – maybe even earlier if I could make good time to Greensboro.

And I made damn good time to Greensboro. In fact, I may have made illegally good time to Greensboro.

We were still in good shape. We were following Mapquest’s directions to the airport and were told to take one of two exits with conflicting information. Sammi suggested one exit and because I’m an asshole, I yelled at her and took the other exit.

That was the wrong exit, we discovered fifteen minutes later when we were nowhere near the airport and, in fact, were headed toward Durham. We were getting several increasingly frantic calls from our parents, who wanted us to please go ahead and get to the airport ASAP.

Finally we realized we were going the wrong damn way, and we turned around and tried to head back in the direction of where the airport might possibly be. We also realized that we were pretty certain to miss the flight, so I told Mom and Dad and Ginny to go ahead and board, since they’d have an easier time rebooking 3 of us than 6. I had a second set of directions that told us to take the Cone Boulevard exit. I did that, and began to think I was going the wrong way on Cone. So I turned around and went the other way on Cone until I reached…a dead end.

So then I turned back around and started to drive in the direction I’d originally been going. And eventually we made it to the airport, and parked, and caught the shuttle to the terminal, and walked dejectedly into the terminal. Which was empty except for the three American Airlines employees who were waiting for us.

“Are you the Hoovers?” they asked. We said yes and they said, “Hurry! We can still get you on the flight!” so we raced the ten feet to the check-in counter and they were like, “Oh, actually we can’t. Sorry.”

So they started to try to rebook us, though they said it wasn’t looking good. I said, “Listen, all we want is to get to Des Moines or Kansas City tonight. You can split us up, you can put us on as many connections as you need to, I will drive to Raleigh or Charlotte if that’ll help, just please please please find a way to get us there tonight.” They were very nice and awesome and said they’d try.

For a second it looked like they were going to put two of us through DFW on American and one of us on Delta, in which case Sammi would split off so I could stay with Jay for her first plane ride. But then, the ticket agent said, she was able to get us all together on two flights. The first would leave Greensboro around 5, which was when we were originally supposed to arrive in Kansas City, but it was okay. We’d hang out in the airport. The second would be from Dallas to Kansas City, and we were going to be in first class.

FIRST CLASS!! That made it all seem okay somehow. So we thanked them profusely and headed toward the stores and restaurants. And then poor Jamie discovered that her monthly visitor had paid an unexpected visit. And Sammi had decided the day before to quit smoking. So there I was in the airport with a cranky, tired, menstrual sister and a cranky, tired, nicotine-withdrawal sister. We got some lunch and some puzzle books and settled down to wait out the day.

It wasn’t so bad. Sammi caved and started smoking again, which was completely fine with me if it meant that she’d be a happier traveler. Jamie got some Aleve and did some Sudoku. Sammi did word searches. I read Real Simple from cover to cover and called in to my office a million times. Finally, it was getting closer and closer to our flight time and we were getting all antsy to get on the damn plane and go, already. We were ten minutes away from boarding when the gate agent got on the loudspeaker and announced that storms in Dallas had delayed our flight by an hour.

So we waited some more. And I discovered that I’d left the zipper on my skirt down during my last bathroom visit 30 minutes ago and was flashing my striped panties to everyone in the airport. So I fixed that. And we waited. And finally we boarded the plane.

And Jamie’s nerves got the best of her and she started crying. Sam and I held onto her and she cried and shook like a leaf until, without even realizing it, she’d made it into the air with the rest of us. After that we occupied ourselves with spying on first class.

Our plane didn’t have a curtain between coach and first class, so we could watch everything that went on up there. First class had little hot towels! Little glass bowls of nuts! Drinks in real glasses! A whole meal! Blankets and pillows! As we sipped on our free soda in plastic cups and split our $5 tube of Lays Stax, we daydreamed about our next flight, in FIRST CLASS. We were getting hungry but wouldn’t eat much in Dallas, because hello, free food in FIRST CLASS.

Sammi told Jamie the worst part was the landing. Jamie got tense. We headed for the ground, and she said, “Oh, that wasn’t bad at all!”

“We’re not on the ground yet,” Sam and I both said at once. But the landing was soft. Nice and easy. Overall, it was a good starter flight for Teh Jamison.

And from Dallas to Kansas City our asses would be in FIRST CLASS.

Oh, but first, our flight was delayed again, due to the backup in Dallas. So we got snacks and chilled out. And then it was nearly time to board, and since we were in the first rows in FIRST CLASS, we’d get to board first. So we decided to go hover by the gate. And as we were hovering, the gate agent announced that they had to change the front tires on our planes, so we’d be delayed.


Jamie concluded at some point that if we’d left Virginia at the same time and driven to Iowa, we’d have gotten there in the same time (or faster) than it would have taken us to fly by the time we actually got to my grandparents’ house.

They changed the front tires, and we were the first on board except for the snooty rich dude who sat beside me. And we were off on our FIRST CLASS adventure.

We did not get hot towels.
We did not get bowls of nuts.
We did not get a damn meal.

We did get drinks in real glasses, though I wussed out and didn’t feel like alcohol. I’m superstitious and only drink regular Coke on airplanes. And we did get blankets before everyone else. And my seat smelled like pee because I was right behind the bathroom. And we got little foil packages of generic Chex mix. So basically, aside from the extra leg room and the real glasses, our maiden FIRST CLASS voyage wasn’t very different from the dozens of coach class flights I’ve taken in my life.

Our parents and Ginny were waiting when we arrived in Kansas City after midnight, and by the time we got to Leon, Iowa, a few hours later, Jamie was conked out, Sammi was cranky, and I was so punchy I was talking about UFOs and my underwear in the same sentence. And I don’t know why.

5 Replies to “flying coach class, up in the sky”

  1. I got tense just reading this. I figured out recently that it’s not just the flying that gives me anxiety; it’s the whole experience around flying: the waiting, the lines, the crowds, the delays, the jaw-tightening urgency.

    Ugh. Gah. Bleh.

  2. well it is about time you posted something and I felt like i was there the whole time, good descriptions!

    I was laughing about the zipper thing and the fact that you were stressing over ids and the sign…I was traveling with the rents once and they kept on my about my id and i, in fact, ended up leaving it at home…good memories!

  3. Meanwhile back at the ranch…………the three that made the first flight had to wait 7 plus hours for the lost sheep to make it to Kansas City so we could all ride together in the rental van to Iowa. How did we while away the hours? We flew from North Carolina to Kansas City to watch the newest Pirates of the Caribbean at the local mall. Including air fare I would venture to say it was the most expensive movie I have ever seen!

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