Let’s Spend a Few Hours in Jack’s World

Just got home from a four-day trip to Arizona.  Lots of business, plenty of sun.  More than enough food and alcohol.

I awoke this morning feeling very happy to be going home.

After a wonderful breakfast (huevos rancheros) with my friend and partner, Lenny, I packed my bags and left for the airport.  I was having such a good time, that I had lingered a little too long.  I was only slightly behind schedule for my 11:20 flight.

I made it as far as the freeway when I realized that I might actually need the Marmot down jacket that I had left hanging in the closet in my hotel room.  The weather report called for a snow/sleet mixture in Buffalo.

In Scottsdale, the temp was about 85 with blue skies and no humidity.  Can’t imagine why I didn’t think to bring my coat as I was leaving.

I must also mention that Running Girl bought me that jacket for Christmas after I hounded her for it.  It would not have been appropriate to leave it behind for the housekeeping staff.

After turning around, I roared back to the hotel and retrieved the coat.  It was now 9:20.

The valet parking guy told me that I had plenty of time.  “Saturday mornings are a breeze in Phoenix,” he advised.

As the great Mel Brooks said, "Work, work, work."

I relaxed.

As I approached Sky Harbor Airport, I marveled at how nice the name of the airport sounded.

I then followed the 250 “Rental Car Return” signs through and out the other side of the airport.  I continued driving for over five miles following these signs.  I felt like some desert version of Hansel und Gretel.

Tick, tock.  Tick, tock.

“Sir, you didn’t fill up your gas tank,” the Rental Car guy chastised me.

My partner, Dave, had picked up the vehicle.  I had assumed he took the return-the-damn-thing-empty option on the car.  No such luck.

After duking the Avis guy $10, this little misunderstanding was “arranged.”

I will spare you the description of the “Rental Shuttle Express” taking us back to the airport from somewhere in California.  I just want to say that I hated the pasty-faced geek across from me clutching the pleather-bound Intelligent Investors’ Bible.  I bet if I hadn’t been pressed for time, I probably would have wished him a successful investment career and gone blithely on with my life.

Sky Harbor Terminal Four resembled a bazaar in Constantinople minus the monkeys and chickens.  When I tried to get on line (that’s how they say it where I’m from — not this silly in line stuff.  “In line” is for skating), a Southwest Airline employee in a Day-Glo™ vest told me that I was in the wrong spot.  The SWA queue was so long that you had to begin your journey in a different part of the terminal until you were allowed to graduate to the big-boy line in front of Southwest’s counter.

I resisted the urge to ask the agent why she was wearing Day-Glo™ indoors, and lined up with the patience for which your Major is known and beloved.

When I finally got to the counter, I was permitted to address…a machine.  Which spat at me a document that said, “Obtain Boarding Pass at Gate.”

What the fuck did I just wait on line for?

At least they took my bag without a hassle.

Security was slow.  The guy in front of me asked if Saturdays at this Airport were always like this.  His accent screamed southwestern to me.  To me, all of the folks in these big, square, western states sound alike.  I politely responded that I too was new here.

At least this time they didn’t shoot naked pictures of me or touch my junk.  I don’t like the sound of that back scatter stuff.  It sounds vaguely pornographic.

At the gate, the Southwest agent gave me a boarding pass from the very bottom of the deck.

If you are unfamiliar with SWA (as opposed to NWA — a very angry rap group from the 90s), there are no assigned seats.  Instead, you are issued a “zone” for boarding purposes.  A’s board first, B’s second, etc.  This business practice is calculated to reduce all passengers into three-year olds fighting over day care center toys .

The zone indicated on my boarding pass was something like Z-28.

“I’m sorry,” I pointed out to the agent.  “I’m traveling ‘Business Preferred’ not with these peasants who are all lined up, ready to grab the good seats.

“Au contrair,” she stated like a feudal lord deigning to address a mere serf.  She then showed me how my business reservation had been cancelled.

I’ll say this for Stephanie, the concierge at W Hotel in Scottsdale.  She had a winning smile and other nice attributes.  But, when she changed my reservation due to an extension of my stay, she didn’t put me in “Business Preferred.”  Let’s just say that I probably wasn’t paying close enough attention to the proper things.  Running Girl’s not reading this, right?

“No biggie,” I told myself.  I’m getting on the plane.  I’m probably riding on that seat in the rear lav.  But, I’m still going home today.

I was the second to last one on board (should I say in-board?  No!).

Imagine my surprise when I came upon a vacant aisle seat right in the middle of the aircraft.

When I asked the pleasant-looking couple occupying the window and middle seats if it was occupied, I could not hear the lady’s response.

Those of you who know me are familiar with the fact that I am going deaf (no shit).  I had to ask Madame to repeat the question twice.

The third time, I leaned in to hear it better.  It was then that I spotted “Therapy Dog Jack” lying on a blanket at Madame’s feet.  She was asking me if I liked dogs.

As a matter fizact, I do.  Therapy Dog Jack looked very sweet.

I keep calling him that because he was wearing a vest very similar to the Southwest Agent’s garb — except, Jack’s was blue.  Stitched in white letters was….you guessed it.

I snapped this photo of Jack covertly at the baggage claim when his mommy wasn't looking.

I felt fortunate to get this seat.  I quickly sat down and buckled up, while professing my admiration for the canine race.

The husband was very nice.  He was engaged for the entire flight with his iPad.  He did not overdo the chitchat.  Not a bad seatmate.

As we were rolling down the runway about to take possession of the bright Arizona skies, I gathered my courage and asked what’s the deal with the therapy hound (except I said it nicer than that).

Madame smiled sweetly and asked, “Which version would you like?”

Being The Major, I replied, “The most interesting one, of course.”

Sounding vaguely like Marlon Brando in Streetcar, Madame explained to me that she had this doctor friend who wrote her a letter stating that Madame had a “mental illness” which required that Therapy Dog Jack tag along for the ride.  She assured me with a titter and wave of her ringed and braceleted hand that she did not have a “mental illness” and that she just liked having her dog along for company.  He calmed her.

I laughed companionably and settled in for the transcontinental flight.

Truth be told, Jack was not a bad row mate.  I had three infants seated Othello moves away from me.  Oddly, we later learned (when their parents compared notes) that they were all born in July 2010.

Other than letting loose the occasional stink bomb, Jack was much better behaved than those babies.  Sorry, but they were acting really immaturely.

Really, it was a pretty good flight until landing.

We came in 20 minutes ahead of schedule.  At first, we were rolling toward the terminal.  Then, not so much.

The disembodied Captain’s voice told us that there were no open gates.

Madame began to get antsy.  “Why can’t we just pull up to any gate?” she asked loudly.  “I see an open gate right there.”

Her husband assured her that all would be well.

After 15 minutes of stand-still, the crew advised us that we could get up to go to the bathroom.

This did not sit well with Madame.  She began to panic.

“Why can’t the Captain just pull up to any old gate.  What are they going to do to him?” she screeched.

Fire him, strip him of his pilot’s license and arrest him were the obvious thoughts that came to my mind.  I dared not utter them.  I did not want to engage her.

Mister didn’t say boo, either.  Apparently, he had seen this version of his wife before.

Therapy Dog Jack expelled a fresh dose of canine flatulence.

At this point, the Captain told us to resume our seats.  We would be moving.

“There, see,” said Mister.  Now that the pilot was solving his problem, he was all “It’s gonna be just fine, honey.”

The Captain’s next error was that he didn’t inform us that, instead of rolling toward the terminal, we were going to a “hardstand” position elsewhere on the tarmac.

Seeing the aircraft move away from the terminal did not have a soothing effect on Madame.

At this point, the babies were much better behaved than my seat mate.

Mister was furiously tapping his iPad like he wanted to disappear into the screen like in that a-ha Take On Me video.

Jack just laid still and farted.

I was relating all of this to Running Girl via SMS.  That is, until I noticed that the guy over my right shoulder was reading my text messages.


Running Girl’s response was: FUCK OFF, DUDE!

This was uncharacteristic for our RG.  I wrongly assumed that Subway Dude had hijacked RG’s phone.  It turns out that Running Girl had a really, really hard week (or, at least that’s her excuse for potty fingers).

Anyhow, it did the trick — the schmuck went back to pretending to do something else.

After 50 minutes of this, our valiant Captain announced that the reason for the delay was that the airlines were de-icing the planes at the gate.

Madame began to scream, “That makes no sense at all.  It’s raining outside.  Why do they need to de-ice?  Only in Buffalo!”

I dared not point out that, although it was indeed raining here at the surface of the Earth, it’s a lot colder up in the stratosphere.  That would only bring up the fact that we had just traveled through those conditions.

Madame asked the same question three more times.  No one responded.  She was in full-blown panic attack mode now.

Even the babies were going, Holy shit, man.

Therapy Dog…well, you know what he did.

Madame’s attention was now drawn back to her calming pet.

“Jack has to pee,” she exclaimed.  “It will serve this stupid airline right.  Go ahead, Jack.  Make pee-pee.”

I prepared to lift up my loafers to avoid the consequences of this advice.

Mister finally awoke from his Norwegian dance music reverie.  “No,” he stated in an urgent tone.  “Don’t have the dog pee here,” he insisted.  I kind of agreed with him.

Luckily for us all, the plane began to move toward a gate at this time.  We had been at a hardstand for one hour.  Instead of arriving 20 minutes early.  We were now 40 minutes late.

It took a long time for the passengers to deplane.  Madame was eerily quiet during this period.  Mister retrieved her full-length mink coat from the overhead compartment.

The next time I laid eyes on my row mates was at the baggage claim.  An elevator opened and Madame burst forth carrying Jack at arm’s length.  She ran across the terminal and ushered her Therapy pooch to the great outdoors that is Buffalo Niagara International.

Despite my intense curiousity, I declined to pursue.

You might say that I’m glad to be home.

— The Major


One response to this post.

  1. I am surprised the entitled dog owner was not making a transfer to Park Slope.


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