Tuesday, January 20, 2009

EPISODE 5 It’s Terminal...


....but not the way you think. This episode occurred while dating my current husband. So, while it was long after the end of my first marriage, long after the Vodka Collins era of my life, and after my crazy had ended, it still goes to show that I simply must be a magnet for oddities, even when they are not the result of alcohol, roommates, or exes.

It was Spring of some year back in the mid 90s. Pete had to fly down to our vacation island house and property on Union Island in the Grenadines. I can't remember why, and it was going to be only a short business trip. But I was disappointed that I couldn't go, and probably ticked off for some other reason that has long been lost to my memory.

I was driving him to the Orlando airport. We stopped for dinner somewhere. We got into an argument at dinner and it never really let up once we got back on the road for the airport, which made for a long, miserable trip...not one you want to make just before sending your boyfriend off on a jet plant for a long, Caribbean weekend. The fight was a bad one...I remember us even pulling over to the side of the road to argue several times....me threatening to get out of the car...etc., etc. Stupid stuff. With it being that bad, you'd think I could remember what the fight was about, but I cannot.

His flight did not leave until 7:00 the next morning, which meant he had to be at the airport for check-in at least 90 minutes before departure (5:30 am). So our plan was to spend the night in some decent little hotel somewhere, grab some sleep, and then I'd drop him off at the airport before heading home the next day. However, with our little fight, stopping for dinner, and our constant pulling over to argue on the way there, it was LATE when we got to Orlando, and we could not find a hotel room. At least, not one within reasonable driving distance from the airport, that did not charge $350.00 per night. We drove around checking different hotels for about an hour...it was now after midnight....we only needed the room until about 4:30 or 5:00 AM...there was no way in hell we were going to pay $350.00 for about 5 hours of sleep! It must have been spring break week, or there must have been a convention in town, but we just could not find a room except for the airport Hilton that, while convenient and would have allowed us to "sleep in" until about 5:15 AM, still with taxes and surcharges, would have cost us close to $400.00 to spend a few hours sleeping.

So we ended up parking in the short term parking garage at the airport and trying to sleep in the truck. 5 hours of sleeping in a truck. Not comfortable...especially when you're still ticked off and seething. We finally quit arguing, but were physically and emotionally drained. We bumped and hit the stick shift and the horn several times, trying to get comfortable and nap just a little bit. Security came over at one point to see what was going on. We didn't exactly fess up that we were trying to sleep there all night, so we just said that we have arrived at the airport for our morning flight WAAAAAY too early, and we going to just sit there and keep from roaming the terminal.

5:00 AM arrives and we get out of the truck. We head to the bathrooms to try to freshen up. Coming out of the bathroom, I find a Coke machine. I'm dying of thirst, so I get me a tall, cold bottle of Diet Coke. Not a can, and not a plastic bottle, but one of those tall, glass, "old-school" coke bottles. Pete goes to check in at the American Airlines counter, checks his bags, and we have a little time to kill before he has to board the plane. We walk around some, and are trying to not argue, but whatever the devil it was that had gotten into us the night before, came back again, and we started arguing again. Here we are, two grown adults, walking around the airport, arguing. Security kind of keeps an eye on us (and this was pre 9/11). We realize we're being given the fish eye, so we go into an empty alcove where the pay phones are to continue our "discussion" there. It's really just a long hallway, with a couple of drinking fountains, the row of pay phones, a tiled floor, and sounds echo loudly in there, we discovered. But we're whispering and are trying to keep our voices down and at one point, I reach with my glass Diet Coke bottle to put it in my very deep jacket pocket. I was tired of holding it, especially since when I argue, I like to use hand gestures a lot (wink). Apparently, my jacket pocket, while large enough, deep enough and wide enough to hold the bottle, was not where I thought it would be, because I tried to put the coke bottle in the pocket without really looking. Just sort of felt around for the pocket with my hand and when I thought I had found it, I dropped the coke bottle in....or so I thought.

I dropped the bottle straight on the tile floor. It sounded like a bomb going off! Miraculously, the bottle did not shatter or even crack. It landed standing straight up on the floor. But it being heavy glass, and then hitting that tile floor in the empty alcove, it sounded exactly like a bomb or a gun going off. And here it was: us! The fighters! The ones who had spent the night in the parking garage, and after a night of no sleep and arguing, we looked like hell!

To say security came running is putting it mildly. We were surrounded almost immediately with everyone except maybe the Department of Justice. Security, cops, airline personnel...you name it. It took quite a while for the excitement to die down...they wanted to make sure no one was hurt, no guns or bombs had gone off. And here I am, trying to explain that I had simply dropped my diet coke bottle. They were all a little skeptical at first...I mean, who wouldn't be? The bottle didn't break. I still had the bottle, but I was trying to tell them I had dropped it, and it had made the horrific, Earth-shattering sound, and not even a crack to the bottle itself? It was odd, even I have to admit that. And I don’t know if it being so early in the morning made things better or worse. Worse, perhaps, because so few people were around to absorb and muffle some of that sound when I dropped the bottle; better, perhaps, because there were fewer people to observe us in one of our many moments of shame.

So they do everything but give us a body cavity search. They check Pete's boarding pass to make sure he really is ticketed to fly out...they take down our info and want my truck tag number to make sure I leave when I say I will. Short of arresting us, I don't know what else they could have done to us. I was embarrassed, to say the least. All this fuss over dropping a coke bottle!

By the time they finally ensured the security of the MCO airport from the two wack jobs that were US, it was time for Pete to head to his boarding gate. So off we went. He sent his carry on bag through the X-ray machine and we said our good-byes. In spite of our fighting from the night before (and from a few moments earlier) I was going to miss the old fart, and so I started crying. Really, it was from pure emotion and exhaustion, but I cried nonetheless. So we stood there for a few moments, me crying, him consoling me, just holding each other, quietly and more calmly than we had since leaving for the airport the night before. He finally breaks away (run, Pete, run) and gets on that tube-tunnel-whatchamacallit that would deliver him to his boarding gate. So I stand there with silent tears and watch him leave, thinking back over the last few hours.

I sort of noticed out of the corner of my eye a family of about 7 or 8 all saying good-bye as well. They were Hispanic and everyone was talking at once. Some were grown ups, some were a little kids. A couple of them, like me, were crying, as well. It was a loud scene, all of them talking in Spanish, all talking at once, with a few wails from a couple of the kids thrown in to boot. But I really was more intent on my own thoughts at the moment. Until....

everyone but one of the Hispanic family members went through the boarding gate. Everyone except what must have been the husband/dad/grandpa. An older gentleman, at the very least. He was gushing the tears, huge, hiccupping sobs that went on and on. He could not seem to get ahold of himself. His family was gone now, through their own, tube-tunnel-whatchamacallit that would take them away from this sobbing older gentlemen left now standing beside me at the security gate. He was really upset. He was wailing, moaning, clutching a handkerchief, and began clutching his chest.

Yup, clutching his chest. A let out a sob, gasped, threw a hand over his heart and then turned towards me, began speaking to me in Spanish (which I know very little of) and sounded like he was pleading somehow, "Por favor, por favor" and then grabbed my arm and fell to the ground. I managed not to fall with him, but he was now lying at my feet, a glazed look on his face, sweating, can't breath, and good ol' me, standing there.

Somebody noticed this scene and for the third time in 6 hours, security was called and found me! I was just sort of standing there, with this man prone at my feet, and he kept clutching at my feet and legs and talking to me. I don't want to even think what the police must have thought of me by this point...you can imagine. The questions, the accusations, me trying to explain that I didn't do anything...I didn't even know this man, and I certainly didn’t shoot, assault or harm him in any way!

They quickly realized this man was having a heart attack, and EMS was called. They wouldn't let me go for a while. They had a few more questions to ask me. Finally, they believed that I had just happened to be the one lucky enough to be standing there when this complete stranger keels over of a heart attack at my feet. When I was finally allowed out of there, I beat it the hell out of there before I was accused of high jacking a plane next. Who knew what my next adventure would be. Never was I so glad to leave a place in my life. It had been one of the most surreal night of my life. And me, the most innocent thing you could ever imagine in your life (wink).

You can rest assured that when it was time to pick Pete up from the airport, it was worth the extra $50 to have him take the extra flight back to our regional airport. It was a long, long time before I set foot in the Orlando airport again. Can ya blame me?

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