Monday, November 13, 2006
Friday, Nov. 10, 11:15am: Shoeless and without belt I clear security. This is the first time I have flown in years (in a post 9/11 world). One of the security guards at Raleigh/Durham International – a catering colleague of mine – recognizes me.
“I know you from somewhere,” she says, her pierced tongue affecting her slight Southern drawl. “[Blank] Catering,” I say. “Oh, yeah,” she says. “They fired me and [blank]. It was over some bullshit.”
With the better part of an hour to kill I dive into Bradley Udall’s The Miracle Life Of Edgar Mint.
I sit down for lunch – an $8 veggie burrito – when the biggest son-of-a-bitch of a man sits down next to me. I overhear his cell phone conversation which involves talk of wrestling and how he’ll need a shot because his shoulder is hurting him. He’s mentions Hulk and The Undertaker to who ever is on the phone as well.
“Do they call you Tiny?” I say.
“Yeah,” he says. “My brother is even bigger.”
Then he explains how both him and his brother use to wrestle professionally. His brother wrestled under the moniker Mr. X.
“And your alias was?” I ask
“Tiny,” he says.
I take a puddle jumper (as my father would say) to Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., to make my connecting flight to Kansas City, which is where I am headed to attend the 11th Annual At Home Dad Convention. And yes, I am as surprised as you that it even exits much less on its eleventh year. Two shuttle trips across Dulles’ tarmac are required before I reach Concourse A… and a vodka tonic is required ($7).
Drinking at the airport reminds me of a time back in the late-80s when I spent several hours waiting at National Airport for a friend of mine – stuck in Chicago because of bad weather – to make it to the East Coast from Los Angeles. After several hours killing time in an airport bar, his flight eventually got cancelled and I had to leave only to return the next day to pick him up. I left thinking about how strange airport bars are; the strange mix of people you find there; the stories told and heard.
Twenty minutes later, beverage consumed and airport bar memories relived, my worse fears are revealed: my flight has been delayed an hour. This has several ramifications. First off, it most likely means I won’t rendezvous with British journalist (and father) John Perry at the Kansas City airport. We had planned to split a cab to the meet & greet session that evening at Boulevard Brewing Co. in Kansas City.
It also means I will miss the free beer at the meet & greet.
But this is Parenting 101: expect the unexpected.
I secretly admit to myself that I’m glad I’m not traveling with a wife and two kids and having to face a long flight delay. Because I am traveling alone, I exhale a sigh of relief.
Accentuate the positive.
There’s another trait learned as a parent. Making the best of a shitty situation is a weekly, if not daily, occurrence.
I peek at the departure board. My flight it delayed yet again.
I contemplate another adult beverage.
I stave off the desire for an adult beverage with a slice of pizza and my novel. I fantasize about possessing a text-messaging cell phone, an iPod, or a lap top. But I’m fully antiquated with nothing but a book, a pen, a few scraps of paper stapled together which turns into a makeshift notepad, and a meager slush fund in my pocket. Whittling away the hours in an airport is not a cheap proposition.
I check the departure board again. My 3:30pm flight has now been delayed from 4:30pm to 5:30pm. Clearly, the skies of United aren’t as friendly as I’d like them to be.
There goes the meet & greet.
Yet I’m starting to feel like a real working father and husband, one who has to slough away the hours at airports on business travel. Only I’m missing the fancy watch, the carry-on tote with wheels and an expense account.
Suddenly, I get this slight foreshadowing; a wee bit of déjà vu – like I’m soon going to be the angry drunk at check-in on some reality television show. Luckily for me, somebody else would step up to fulfill this role an hour later.
I speak with a Vietnam Vet who is in town for a battalion reunion that’s part of the new Marine monument dedication.
With all the delays and gate changes, mass confusion ensues and several KC-bound folks board the wrong plane.
I am one of them.
I introduce myself to the young woman sitting next to me and ask her about her travel plans. She is going to meet her boyfriend in Kansas City who is coming from Texas.
“And what about you?” she asks.
“I’m going to a convention for At Home Dads,” I tell her.
“What?” she asks.
“A convention for stay-at-home-dads,” I say.
“I’m going to write a story about it,” I explain. “I want to know who these men are.”
“A bunch of losers!” she exclaims with a hearty laugh.
Fortunately for her, I have boarded the wrong plane and won’t spend the next two hours schooling her on the definition of loser.
The best news when I finally board the right flight – at 6pm – is that nobody is sitting next to me.
I settle in and get back to The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint.
The woman across the aisle from me is reading Vanity Fair and I can smell the pages as she turns them.
My dinner is a blend of pretzels, roasted red pepper sesame sticks and BBQ soy nuts. All chased with Minute Maid orange juice. Yum!
When I finally get to Kansas City, it is passed 8pm.
I stand outside in the blustery weather – a mix of snow and sleet – and wait for a shuttle to take me to my hotel. Roughly, thirty minutes and $17 later, I’m at the Hampton Inn and ready for some food and drink. I call one of the organizers, KC dad Andy Ferguson, but the group from the brewery has splintered apart since the meet & greet and he apologizes for not being able to point me in any AHD direction.
I walk down the street from the hotel and step into a pub called Tomfooleries. I order a sandwich and a few beers and then head back to the hotel for some sleep.