I didn’t have an article in last week’s paper because Grandpa and I were on our annual vacation to our favorite island of Kauai. Although we are both retired, we still look forward to vacations that take us away from day-to-day chores and, yes, those ever-increasing doctor’s appointments. I wish that I could wiggle my nose like Samantha in “Bewitched” so my packing would be done in a flash, and that Scotty from “Star Trek” could beam me up and over to the islands, but we are grateful as all get out to still be able to go there on our own steam.
We began our adventure without a hitch. The car that was to take us to the airport was on time, and a very pleasant and friendly driver got us to Oakland in ample time to go through the lines and board our first flight. In the hour-long journey, we found out everything about him and how much he loves driving people and talking to them. I chatted with him. Grandpa fell asleep.
Why we have to go up to Seattle to go down to Hawaii is beyond me, but both flights were quite delightful and we got there safe and sound. After a marvelous stay in paradise with dear friends and ideal weather, we sadly headed back to the airport in Lihue where, at this point, the real fun began. “Where is Scotty with the teleporter now?” I asked.
After my friend’s bag was searched for an unspecified metal object (later revealed: her mirror’s base) and both grandpa and I were put through the round x-ray machine, we found out that the first flight was delayed a half-hour. Normally, this is not really a big deal, but our connecting flight (yes, back through Seattle) was a little tight, so it would all depend on whether Pilot Bob could pick up the pace a bit.
Sitting in row eight has its privileges ... For a mere $79 per seat, we had many benefits. Along with unlimited beef jerky and one free checked bag, we got an extra few inches of legroom, which sounded great with my knees. I was in the center seat, between Grandpa and my new friend, whom I shall call Don. A friendly man seated by the window, Don told me of his mechanical skills regarding planes and then proceeded to scare the you-know-what out of me as he described each and every noise followed by: “But there is nothing really to worry about.”
I was worried.
Don was also a big-and-tall customer, so after his six shots of whiskey and several bags of potato chips, he decided to spread out a bit while he slept. I inched closer to Grandpa, hoping not to wake the kind, sleeping giant on my other side, but when he woke up to the sound of the food-and-drink cart, he was raring to go about the upcoming landing. I now know everything there is to know about landing a plane “without incident,” which Don assured me “rarely happens.” I don’t drink, but at that point I wished I did. Despite the odds, we landed safely and had 30 minutes to catch the next flight. I will miss Don.
If the gate to our second flight had been close-by, I wouldn’t have had to run about half a mile in my flip-flops — carrying macadamia nuts and chocolates — to catch a tram, and then sprint to the departing plane. We made it with moments to spare, and this time I opted for the aisle seat, leaving Grandpa to deal with Don #2 by the window. New Don never said a word.
The man across from me waved to his family in the back and sat down in one of the only vacant “premium seats.” He was politely told that these were a paid-up-front upgrade and once the seatbelt sign was off, he would have to return to his assigned seat, of which he claimed he didn’t know the number or letter. Again, with the kindest manner, the flight attendant told him she’d be happy to look it up for him on her computer. When the bell dinged and the seatbelt light went out, he immediately closed Facebook and feigned sleep. The flight attendant was onto him, however, politely pretending to wake him up, sending him on a walk of shame back to his seat in row 22. Maybe it was the beef jerky that made him do it.
We love to explore. It can be a day trip in the car or a plane ride off to somewhere we enjoy. People are entertaining. I chat with anyone who will respond, and I love hearing about someone’s life. Some stick in my mind more than others, but I will always remember Don #1. Now if I can only figure out a way to get the “Bewitched” lady to unpack my suitcases and do the laundry!
Marla Luckhardt is a Brentwood resident who works with senior care and advocacy groups. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.