Even during the holiday season, an airport before 7 AM is a joyless place. Returning a rental car in the rain is a pain. Avis didn’t try hard-er. In fact, they didn’t try at all to keep the rain off my freezing head. How can you not have a covered parking lot in North Carolina? When it’s not raining, the sun is a brutal beast. No shade & no protection is not the way you become #1. I’ll be trying harder to book with Hertz next trip out.
The ticket line was jammed with – and this is no exaggeration, I counted them – 87 Japanese tourists, who, even after securing their boarding passes seemed much happier clogging up the terminal walk-ways than taking said boarding passes and running the TSA gauntlet. Actually, I don’t blame them. Transportation Security Agency agents are never a happy-face crowd, but before 7 AM, they are positively surly. “Your boarding pass, sir?” sounded a lot like “YOUR PAPERS, PLEASE,” done up in a Nazi SS officer’s sneering accent. So, putting off the x-ray machines and standing around comparing digital pictures of the North Carolina countryside is probably preferable to the abuse of the hand scanner.
After braving the TSA Christmas greeting, the all-you-can-eat for ten bucks Airport Breakfast Buffet sounds like a good deal, but it’s really an oxymoron, isn’t it? I mean, all you can eat? More like, all you can keep down once the turbulence starts. Oh, but they did have FREE wireless internet in the Raleigh-Durham airport, so I thought I’d munch on some soupy eggs and a slice of bacon so thin you could use it for tracing paper while I email my missus and wish her a sunny day, even though she’s still in bed two time zones away. Seemed like good idea, but Cingular had a different idea. They made their not-free wireless service stronger than the free service so that my cheap company computer would automatically connect to THEM and not to the freebie service finally forcing me out of sheer frustration and holiday good cheer to just give up and pay the $9.99 and be done with it. Oh, you trick-sie tricksters of the cybernet! But at least I got a full stomach and an email or two sent off before the Japaese group made it through security and stood around clogging up the concourse walk-ways.
After my breakfast of cold eggs and frustration, I decide to hunker down with an orange juice and a good book to pass the time before the cattle call. The orange juice must have been bottled in Tibet as it reacts wildly to the sea-level pressure of the Cape Fear Basin and complete stickiness ensues. Oh well, not to worry there is a restroom right around the corner. Joy!
Now, an airport restroom is rarely a cause for joy unless you have just spent the last two-and-a-half hours in a window seat of row 28 shackled by the virtual leg irons of two snoring linebackers who “lie” between you and the aisle that leads to the Nirvana affectionately known as the airpot (sic). Of course, after waiting for the 27 rows at six passenger per row to deplane, not to mention that princess in 14c who is holding up our exit by adjusting her scarf and hat just so before she sashays up the gangway, a janitor closet and a paper cup looks like the Taj Mahal of sanitary facilities. So you could say, “Joy,” when you see the be-skirted and be-trousered silhouettes on the doors of the necessary facilities when the need is great and the line has already dissipated.
Ah, but today brought real joy, or at least for me some real entertainment. After rinsing the stickiness off - holy cow, how'd I get that juice in my ear? - I did what you do in these places. Staring at the tiles (have you ever noticed how you can make them go all 3-D if you slightly cross your eyes just right?) and thinking again how thankful I am that men have plumbing compatible with stand-up relief, I hear the toilet repeatedly flushing behind me. Another joy – the joy of automated flushing. Adjust your seating, get a flush. Reach for something in your suitcase, get another – this time with a little spritzer to tickle your fancy. Lean over to tie your shoe and you can pretend you’re in France and every stall has a bidet for your refreshment and sanitary enjoyment.
After the fourth or fifth flush though, my tired eyes wander to the floor under the stall wall as I contemplate how the stall dweller will dry off after that deluge. Wow, those are the girliest shoes I have ever seen on a man! Oh well, I’m not going to make the best-dressed list this year either. But what about those brightly-colored argyle socks? And not just any argyle, but a pattern where red and pink-colored hearts replace the normal diamonds in the pattern! And there is way too much sock showing between those light loafers and the oh-so-tight, high-water slacks.
I may have to actually gawk at this guy when he comes out because I have GOT see the rest of his outfit. This is way past gay and streaming headlong towards flaming. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, just that I think it is going to be very interesting to observe.) Then I notice the multi-colored ribbons festooning the suitcase in the stall. Wow, no hiding in the closet for this guy. But then, as the toilet flushes again, I freeze in mid-shake and have the horrifying nano-second thought that I chose the room with the skirt silhouette by mistake.
But, no, I am using the urinal, so…
Any thought I have of gawking is replaced by an embarrassed empathy for a fellow traveler having a really joyless 7 AM airport experience. As the petite, attractive redhead emerges from the stall, I turn away and give her the chance to escape without eye contact.
Moments later, when I emerge relieved, refreshed, and renewed, I search surreptitiously for the argyle-heart socks - but to no avail. She will, hopefully, laugh about this with her girlfriends tonight when she gets home. I hope that thinking back on her faux pas will bring her joy.
For me, I’m laughing already. Just what I need – a little bit of holiday cheer. Plus, I’m going home. Now, that’s real joy!