Monday, December 20, 2010

Airport Atrocities

First of all, we had to be at the airport at 5 a.m. Need I say more? Apologies to our hosts and chauffeurs, Jesse's parents! Second, there was the couple whose questionable genders and embarrassing public displays of affection obstructed curbside traffic for several minutes; while waiting for them to take a breather and kindly get out of the way so we, and the 20 vehicles behind us, could get out and unload the van, we tried to determine whether they were a man and a woman, or two men. One of them had a beard... Finally, after winding through the labyrinthine security lines and observing the new full-body scanners--which were, by the way, just sitting there unused--it was time to divest ourselves of all coats, shoes, and metal to walk through the standard detectors. I walked through without beeping. Jesse beeped. The TSA officer made him walk back through three times, insisting that Jesse had something in his pockets, even after Jesse turned his pockets inside out all three times. So Jesse was herded over to the pat-down area and had to listen to variations on the theme of "Okay, sir, I'm going to squeeze between your legs now..."

Five minutes later we all discovered that Jesse had been wearing his watch the whole time. (Jesse's note: "I was very disoriented by the fact that the TSA worker INSISTED I had something in my pockets!")

We had three connecting flights: Ontario, CA to Seattle, Seattle to Anchorage. Anchorage to Kotzebue. In each airport and on every plane, someone had hit the replay button so that all we heard was "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus" and "Santa Baby," the two most ridiculous Christmas songs in the universe. The Seattle to Anchorage flight, a three-hour ordeal, is the longest leg of the trip. On the Seattle to Anchorage flight, Jesse sat next to a portly Asian man whose eyes, when closed, disappeared into multiple folds of forehead and cheek fat; his nonstop snoring--a bubbly, sputtering sound of saliva trickling out toward an open corner of his mouth and then being sucked back in again--and his halitosis made him a delightful traveling companion.

We then faced the prospect of spending the night in the Anchorage airport because of low visibility during a snowstorm that had been raging all week in Kotzebue. For several days all three daily flights had been cancelled due to inclement weather. But the storm cleared up just long enough for us to land on time, and all was well. Our suitcases came off the plane caked in snow, it was 9 degrees with 35 mile-an-hour winds, and I started off my Christmas vacation in a jolly humor with frostbitten cheeks from the snow machine ride home!