As promised, today's guest post. I've taken the liberty of hijacking the naming convention from Mr. Monk in the hopes that Josh will write another post someday. Don't be afraid to leave comments.
The 8:40 AM out of Palm Beach
The 8:40 AM out of Palm Beach
An only-slightly-embellished retelling of a true story, by Joshua Culp; Spring 2013.
West Palm Beach is apparently the Spring Break destination of choice for well-to-do Senior Citizens from Northern Virginia. From my non-reclining aisle seat in the very last row of this Brazilian-made EMB170/175 (the safety card in the seat-back pocket in front of me does not specify exactly which model I am aboard at the moment) I have an excellent view of this airborne Romper Room. This place looks like the Chick-fil-a playground on a Monday night when kids eat free, only with dentures and hearing aids. If you think that buckling toddlers into the last row of a mini-van is challenging, you have obviously never tried to ensure that all of the Golden Girls are seated with their seat-belts securely fastened before the Captain may taxi for takeoff.
Ethyl and Phillip are seated two rows apart. Phillip is buckled up, well behaved, and a strong contender for teacher's pet. Ethyl keeps getting out of her seat to go back and talk to Phil every time she has a thought she wants to share with him. I don't know if Ethyl is passively-aggressively ignoring Miss. Playground Monitor, or if she really can't hear her. The flight attendant finally gets Ethyl's attention and begins corralling her back to her seat as Ethyl expresses her dis-satisfaction at not being seated next to Phil. As soon as Ethyl's back is turned and he is sure she can't hear him, Phil turns to the lady with the frosted hair across the aisle and says “after sixty-five years, I'm looking forward to these two hours away from her." Ethyl may not have been able to hear Phil, but the rest of the plane sure could. Blanche is seated in front of Phil and behind Ethyl. Irritated at Phil’s loud talking, she turns to Estelle Getty across the aisle from her and asks just as loudly "Who's got the duct tape?" From a few rows ahead, Betty White sticks her head up above the seat, turns around and states matter-of-factly that she does, in fact, have duct tape in her luggage.
Aside from my overwatch position, the other benefit of occupying the non-reclining seat in the last row is that I am first to be served my ginger ale come snack time in this preschool. I will make no apology about it: Mr. Pibb is not an acceptable substitute for Dr. Pepper. Since Miss. Playground Monitor already has her hands full, I don’t press the point. As the beverage cart makes its way through the cabin, the Bloody Mary's flow like water.
Snacktime is over and it's now naptime. We encounter some mildy bumpy turbulence which helps rock the Golden Girls to sleep. Phil, the over-achiever in the class, has a head start and is already snoring. How do toddlers try to get out of naptime when the fasten seatbelt sign is on and they should be in bed? Yes, every parent and flight attendant knows it is by asking for a drink of water and having to go to the bathroom. As Blanche orders another Bloody Mary, Estelle Getty is tottering towards the lavatory. Miss Playground Monitor stops Estelle in the aisle next to my seat to explain that "I'm not saying you can't go to the lavatory, but I have to tell you that the seatbelt sign is on... just so you know." Estelle slowly returns to her seat and dutifully buckles up. Dorothy stands up, wakes the peacefully sleeping Phil to get to the aisle, and goes to explain to Ma that she is allowed to go to the bathroom after all. Dorothy disturbs Phil once again and takes her seat. Phil realizes that there is no hope for naptime, and pulls out the crossword puzzle.
Nap time is over. The ladies gradually wake up and chattering and cackling fills the air. I overhear conversations about the best sandwich shops in Palm Beach, what to do with their late husband's closet of nylon shirts and restless leg syndrome. For the first time in the flight I notice The Gambler. Kenny is an elderly, Italian-looking gentleman wearing three gold rings and a bracelet. Due to the size of his nylon collar I can't see the gold necklace, but I know it's there. It has to be. The reason I haven't noticed Kenny before now is that he is sitting in the back left corner of the airplane, quietly listening to headphones and is completely absorbed in his iPad. Is it really fun to play a slot machine app on the iPad for two straight hours? I don't know the answer, but Kenny is working hard to find it for me.
The Professor is - you guessed it - an elderly gentleman wearing a navy blue sport coat over an open collar nylon shirt. No, the collar is not outside the sport coat. Remember, this is The Professor - he has class and poise - and he's busy chatting up Miss. Playground Monitor while waiting in line for the lavatory. The current occupant is the lady from the seat in front of me who ordered the spicy tomato juice. This could take a while; she has already flushed three times now. The Professor is discussing the finer points of how to open the cabin door in an emergency and how the plane sunk in the Hudson River because someone opened the wrong door and let water flow in. Miss. Playground Monitor reminds him that that is why no one is allowed to open the cabin door but her. More chatting ensues about which of the two handles to open first. Blanche rescues Miss. Playground Monitor by ordering another Bloody Mary. She leaves The Professor alone to continue reading the instructions written on the door. I start to feel a little nervous, return my tray table to its upright and locked position, and unbuckle my seatbelt. But alas, Spicy Tomato Juice Lady has flushed for the fourth and final time, and The Professor may now avail himself of the facilities.
With The Professor still locked in the loo, the Fasten Seatbelt sign comes on, and Miss. Playground Monitor issues instructions to prepare for our final approach and subsequent landing. As I fumble with the little button on my armrest, I remember that my seat in the very last row doesn’t recline in the first place. I compliantly turn off my phone where I have been recording this saga with my two thumbs, regretful that I won’t be able to capture the closing act of this airborne Romper Room. It, no doubt, will be memorable.