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Flying the friendly (but stupid) skies

January 13, 2013
By KELLY VAN DE WALLE (vandkel@hotmail.com) , Times-Republican

You know that feeling you get when your leg falls asleep but you don't notice it and get up really fast, only to fall over sidewise like you're an elephant that was just hit with a tranquilizer dart?

That's what my brain did when flying for the first time in several years.

Because of this, when I was asked to travel for business (I'm pretty important), I was caught woefully unprepared. During my preparations I discovered a fun feature; with certain airlines you can download your boarding pass to your phone, which is scanned at the gate. I must say, I felt really savvy figuring that out. I imagined it was how Bill Gates must feel all the time.

My fellow passengers were primarily older folks, so naturally they had their boring paper boarding passes that didn't double as a communication device (well, I suppose that's not true. They could've written a message and attached it to a pigeon's leg or something). As we were boarding I finally spied a gentleman about my age preparing HIS phone. I nodded to my fellow young person, a nod that said, "Look at all these squares with their paper boarding passes. We're so young and hip." If we weren't separated by a few dozen people I'd strut up to him, put my hand in his hair and say, "Let's get out of here and go to a club where ladies dance in cages."

You know, real Alpha Male talk.

Unable to get to him for this conversation due to the crowd I held my phone above my head like a lighter at a rock concert, signaling for him to do the same. He saw me, but ignored the invitation to mega rock, phone-style.

I frowned. We could've had a moment.

Once landing at my destination, I figured I'd take a shuttle to the hotel and ended up spending a delightful 45 minutes talking to a Canadian couple that never once talked about hockey, ice or syrup so there's a good chance they were terrorists. They, like everyone else, moved on while I remained, looking like a guy that just loved hanging around airport shuttle stops.

On his fifth trip around, a shuttle driver of Indian descent strode up to me.

"You still here?" he asked.

"Yes?" I replied, not knowing if he meant this in some sort of metaphysical way like he was the Shaman of airport shuttles and I needed to pass his test in order for my shuttle to appear.

Unsure if I answered correctly, I started following him. He sensed my presence, as all spirits are known to do.

"What you doing?" he asked. "Hilton you go now?"

Was this a riddle?

"No," I frowned. "I no go Hilton."

While I did not pass his test it was good to learn my spirit guide wasn't a 60 year-old Indian shuttle driver. It could still be a griffin.

After 45 minutes I called the hotel to see if they existed and if they wouldn't mind picking me up so I could pay them.

"We don't have a shuttle service to the airport," the front desk lady replied, the opposite of whatever helpful is.

"That's exciting," I replied, hating her instantly.

I could've taken a cab, but the estimated fare was $60, which I rejected out of principal, and decided to take something called a "shared van" driven by a very focused Laotian man named Felipe.

For those who are uninitiated, a "shared van" is a delightful mode of transportation that grants you the opportunity to "share" each other's music, culture, odors and respiratory infections. It's for those that hate the efficiency and speed of cabs but love remembering what it's like riding in the middle seat of your parents' station wagon, only now you're all adults and there's stranger flesh spilling on everyone. Simply put: it's delightful and you should try it.

Thankfully I was the last one in, which forced everyone to work to accommodate me. It was exciting how various parts of me had no choice but to end up on other people's laps. Needless to say I was very popular. I found myself between Hefty European Lady and Turk, a 50-something African American man wearing a colorful knit hat. I think my elbow got to second base with Turk.

My destination was the furthest away, meaning were seven stops before me, ensuring I'd get to savor this experience for as long as possible. I tried to make the best of it.

"Let's play 20 questions!" I announced to the van. "You start," I said to Hefty European Lady. She turned towards the window.

"I'm NOT a flavor of ice cream" I hinted, getting the ball rolling.

"I'll give you another hint. I can probably cause paralysis in small birds."

"Right! I'm the week-old tuna sandwich that must have replaced Turk's feet here!" I nudged Turk with my shoulder.

Turk gave me a look.

"My name's not Turk," Turk said.

Classic Turk.

As the van reverted back to a collective hatred of me I noticed a lack of credit card machine on the back of any seats, which I took for a slight problem as I didn't have any cash.

"Everybody takes credit cards," I figured before taking flight. Everybody, that is, except Filipe's Happy Time Fun Van.

Filipe was not too pleased after I explained the situation, but he found an ATM and pulled over. Eager to get this situation over with I hopped out of the van like I was Mr. T about to pity some fool, only I misjudged how muscular my legs must have become during the flight and bashed my knee against the side of the door and kind of spilled out onto the sidewalk. It was the kind of pain that would've probably had lesser men crying, whereas I merely almost passed out. I had to sit down on the curb.

Hobbling to the ATM I punched in my information expecting money. Instead, the ATM decided to join in the "Hate Kelly" club the van formed and refused to comply; because, why not. (I later learned my bank requires notification if I'm going to be traveling out of the state. It also sets a curfew and insists I finish my vegetables before agreeing to let me have my own money)

"Well, Fillipe, we have a problem," I said, limping back to the van that I was convinced at this point was cursed.

"No money?" he asked, his eyes tearing up like he was some fly-ridden orphan in one of those late-night commercials with the sadness music behind them.

"No, no money," I replied, clasping my hand about his shoulder to let him know that we're both in this together and please don't take me to some shed and make me fight a snake to pay off this debt.

As he began searching/cleaning his van he happened upon an old, half-crumpled credit card slip from 1981.

"Will this work?" he asked.

"Absolutely," I replied, not having a clue.

"We try," he replied, scribbling down some numbers before handing me my bags. I think he got uncomfortable during my 30-second goodbye hug.

So here's my tip the next time you have to travel: do yourself a favor and stay home. But be sure to tell your bank.

---

Kelly Van De Walle is the senior creative & marketing writer for Briscoe14 Communications (www.briscoe14.com). He can be reached at vandkel@hotmail.com or via skywriting. Follow Kelly on Twitter @pancake_bunny

 
 

 

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