It was December 2002. I’d been invited to go on a cruise with my then boyfriend (now husband) and his family for Christmas. I was booked on a flight from Kanas City to Denver and then on to San Diego. I was still afraid of flying but the excitement of the trip was outweighing my fears. Also, I hadn't seen Nick in more than three months and had just spent the better part of the last year working out like a fiend and dropping 27 pounds. In addition, I’d been spending my mornings in the tanning booth so I was a nice golden brown (I know—it’s really just skin damage but I was young and stupid.). Yes, I looked GOOD!
I’d planned my airport attire very carefully, wanting to walk off the plane that evening in such a way as to completely turn the heads of every man but most especially, Nick. I wore a shockingly short tan skirt, black ¾ sleeve turtleneck (a slim cut) and my knee high black boots (my hooker boots—yes). My hair was piled high on top of my head and put great effort into walking gracefully, sitting gracefully and just generally exuding utter beauty from every place possible. This was NOT a practical outfit.
Sitting in the terminal in KCI, we were made aware of bad weather in Chicago. Chicago—who cares? Well, as it turns out, I did. Our plane was coming from Chicago and it wasn’t expected to be on time. I walked up to the customer service agent, telling myself not to panic. I was told more or less that I would probably miss my connection, but not to worry, there was a Frontier flight (I was flying United) that I should arrive in plenty of time for.
Oh, whew! Great! He printed off something for me with lots of numbers and letters and said “Here—you’ll need this.” I went back to my seat feeling much better. When our delayed flight finally made it, I boarded with only slight nervousness. Everything was going to be fine. I’d make it to San Diego in plenty of time.
Getting off the plane, there was a gate agent handing out hotel vouchers. But I didn’t need a hotel voucher. I had a ticket on a Frontier flight. I tried explaining this to him but he didn’t seem to believe me.
“Well, you can try to get over there.” I would try. Heading in some direction, I started looking for Frontier. I was having no luck and time was short. It was getting late and most things at the airport were closing. I found a shoe shine man who was packing up his things.
“Excuse me,” I said. “Can you tell me how to get to Frontier?”
His smile faded quickly to a look of pity. “Oh… Head that way—“ he pointed off to the right and I started to walk away. “No no, you have to listen to me now. Head that way, get on the train—“ a TRAIN? As soon as I heard that I knew I would get lost. I did my best to remember his directions and took off running—no easy feat in my hooker boots. On my way to the train, I dug out my cell—nearly dead but I called Nick and left him a message with my new flight details. I would make it—just keep believing it.
On the train, I finally relaxed. Mostly because there was no other option. We were packed in like sardines but I found a place to hold on and stand up. I tried calling Nick again—no signal on the train. I checked my watch—I had maybe 25 minutes.
Getting off the train I ran through the terminal, doing my best to remember the shoe shine man’s direction. Finally I make it.
“Is this for San Diego?” I ask in a heaving breath.
“You just made it!” The gate agent is taking my bag, my coat, asking for my ID. I practically strip as they search me for who knows what. I must have looked a fright—completely disheveled. I’m sure I looked like a security risk of some kind. But I’d made it!
“Where’s your ticket?” She asked. I handed over the piece of paper I’d gotten in Kansas City. “This isn't a ticket.”
“What? What do you mean?” I explained to her what had happened. She’s typing furiously into her computer, shaking her head. I started to panic. Tears welled up and I paid them no mind. What she’s telling me makes no sense. I do not, in fact, have a seat on this plane. I am not reserved. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200.
I’m crying freely now. Another gate agent has joined us and is trying to reassure me. “It’s just one night in Denver. It’s nice here.”
“I HATE DENVER!” I hissed at her. I have lost all manners. I was not polite. I was not forgiving. I was making an absolute scene. Finally, the first gate agent says:
“Well, we can put you on the plane but your bags won’t make it.”
“That’s OK!” I was suddenly cheerful. My bags and coat are thrown back at me and the gate agent walked me down the jet way to the plane. I was so grateful. I thanked the gate agent over and over in between blubbering sobs.
As I get on the plane, the flight attendant took my bag from me and pointed to the aisle seat in the first row. I hurried to get my seat belt on. They had actually held the plane for me. I looked around and EVERYONE was staring. The flight attendant leaned down and whispered to me. “Do you need a drink?”
I just nodded and continued sobbing. The internal monologue in my head was berating me for my behavior.
‘Stop it! Stop crying! You’re on the plane. What’s the matter with you?’
But I just couldn’t stop. I was sitting next to a little boy and his mom and I heard her whisper “Don’t stare!” But everyone was still staring. I was still blubbering. The plane finally took off. I had been using an airplane drink napkin as a Kleenex and it had long stopped working. My makeup was completely cried off. My hair was falling. My eyes were red and puffy and now I was a snotty mess too. At least my hooker boots were still on!
After I finally calmed down, a nice elderly lady sitting across the aisle put her hand on my arm. “Are you ok?” I relayed the entire incident and realized everyone was listening, even the flight attendant. They were all so sympathetic! I would have thought that since they were all now delayed because of me that I’d have gotten annoyed comments or harsh sentiments. But they were all “Oh, you poor thing!” Maybe Denver wasn't so bad after all.
After half an hour or so, I was finally able to calm down and stop my blubbering. I took out a mirror to try to salvage some of my hard fought outer glam. It was hopeless. The makeup was long gone. Puffy red eyes, every blemish showing. My hair had fallen from its once perfectly curled pile to dangling stringiness.
Thankfully, when I got off the plane, none of this mattered to Nick. He was there—just as I knew he’d be—to hold me and let me cry out the frustration and relief. Of course, my luggage hadn’t made it. When we went to his house, I finally got to meet his grandmother—my roommate for the cruise. She’d said she wanted to go to Sea World the next day—Nick was working there at the time and could get us free tickets. Would I like to go. Well, sure! But…
I had no clothes. I had no makeup. I had nothing. Tossing the impractical outfit I’d worn all day into the wash and borrowing pajamas, I finally was able to rest. The next morning, I put it all back on (hooker boots included) and spent the day completely inappropriately dressed for Sea World. At least I’d made it. My luggage was soon to follow.