I sat at the airport, fighting to gulp down the firmest (and most expensive) "pretzel bites" I had ever encountered. I had spent the whole week vacillating between frantic worrying and manic excitement, and I was aware that I was eating way too fast. I couldn't help myself...I was a bundle of nerves! I was taking my first international flight, by myself, to meet my husband in Paris!
My carry-on suitcase kept falling over at my feet and crashing into the legs of passersby. "I'm sowwy..." I said again and again, as I fought to swallow the concrete in my mouth and simultaneously haul my suitcase upright.
It's not surprising the damn thing couldn't stand up straight—my carry-on was most certainly packed over capacity.
See, I'd had a small...situation...with packing.
My husband had insisted that I not check any bags. After all, I had a layover in Zurich, and all manner of mishaps could happen to my luggage between here and Paris if I didn't keep it with me at all times. So I had bought myself a rolling backpack to hold the stuff I'd need for the plane, and the rest I attempted to cram into a small carry-on suitcase.
This would have worked out fine if I hadn't broken my tailbone recently.
See, the first leg of the flight was seven and a half hours, and there was no way my sore bum was going to tolerate that much abuse without the specially-designed butt pillow I had purchased at a medical supply store.
The only problem was that it was huge.
The ass cushion presented a serious packing dilemma. It definitely would not fit in my backpack, and even when I squished it up and stuffed it into the suitcase, it was nearly as large as the bag itself.
Even with the bare minimum packed (I was in danger of having to wear the same pair of pants the entire trip by the time everything was stuffed in the bag), it barely fit. I had to unzip the expandable section and sit on the suitcase to get it closed.
But none of that mattered now. I was going to Paris! In a matter of minutes they would be calling my section...oh, wait...they were calling my section. I chucked the remaining pretzel bites—which by this point could have served as substitutes for Lincoln Logs—threw my backpack on, and dragged my painfully overstuffed suitcase onto the plane.
Now, as a vertically-challenged person (I'm 5'1" on a good day), I always need help lifting my carry-on bag into the overhead compartment. Picture a blond, pale-skinned Snooki—sans heels—trying to heave an overstuffed carry-on that's half her size into the overhead baggage bin, and you've got me...except without the horrible hair and the bad makeup and the slutty clothing and the obnoxious attitude...
Actually, never mind, don't picture Snooki.
Anyway, I always end up holding up the boarding process while some poor shmuck behind me is stuck helping me stow my bag. Thankfully the embarrassment usually only lasts a couple of seconds, and most people are pretty nice about it.
Unfortunately, this time the kind gentleman who offered to help me was stymied by the fact that my bag seemed to be too tall for the overhead bin. It just wouldn't fit. People murmured and grumbled as the guy next to me sweated and grunted and shoved. I could see stewardesses gesturing in my direction, and I knew what was coming, They were going to ask me to check the bag.
My voice goes all high-pitched and screechy when I'm stressed or embarrassed, so I'm pretty sure everyone in coach heard me when I shouted, "Wait! I know what the problem is! It's my giant ass-pillow!"
I stood on my tip-toes, unzipped my bag and noisily wrestled the humongous piece of medical equipment from my carry-on, which was still precariously balanced over my head on the edge of the storage compartment.
I'm pretty certain there was an audible sucking sound when my suitcase finally released the pillow, but I can't be entirely sure because I was too distracted by everyone staring at me as if I were a performing circus elephant that might, at any minute, fall off its ball and land in a pile of its own poo. (I guess now I know how Snooki feels, at least.)
I heard a few murmurs of "What did she say?" so I held up the pillow to clearly display it to all the curious passengers.
"I broke my tailbone, and it's a long flight, so..."
I saw sympathetic looks and nodding heads. One passenger even blurted out, "Oh, you poor thing!" I signaled to my gentleman helper that he could probably easily stuff the suitcase in the overhead compartment now...and sure enough, it slid right in.
Crisis over. *sigh*
I tucked my backpack under the seat in front of me, settled into my seat—ass pillow in place, of course—and opened the hermetically-sealed package of blue dryer lint that the stewardesses mistakenly referred to as a "blanket."
(On a side note...I'm not sure exactly what airplane "blankets" are made of. Like pork rinds, they seem to be made of embellished nothingness, and are therefore a complete mystery to me. But my sister bought me a Snuggie one Christmas, and the first time I washed it, I swear I peeled enough airline blankets from my dryer's lint screen to service at least three people.)
I threw the mystery-fabric over my lap, settled in, and dug out my cellphone to snap the following picture:
I was going to Paris! (You can see how excited I am—I've gone all blurry from anticipation.)
The seats next to me were blessedly vacant, so after a moment's hesitation and a brief internal debate about the importance of being environmentally responsible, I stole the little plastic bags of Snuggie lint from those seats too, piled up all the pillows, and built myself a little sleep nest.
The plane was to arrive in Zurich early the next morning, at which point I'd have a brief layover, and then I was to finally arrive in Paris at around 10:00 in the morning. I was significantly exhausted from the stress of the week, and I was looking forward to getting some good rest on the flight over.
I smiled as the pilot cheerfully introduced himself over the loudspeaker, dutifully listened to the safety precautions—nodding as the stewardesses assured us that "even though your mask may not inflate, air is flowing,"—and watched a few obnoxiously loud movie previews. Then the lights went out, the pilot wished us a pleasant flight, and I swallowed a sleep-aid pill and snuggled into my nest, looking forward to waking up to the sun rising in Zurich.
I was therefore completely surprised when I was awakened in the middle of my personal snore-and-drool fest by the pilot's voice booming loudly through the cabin.
"Ahhh...excuse me, ladies and gentlemen...I'm so sorry to disturb you, but..."
I looked around—it was still pitch dark outside. What the heck?
"You may not be aware of this, but two of the bathrooms on the plane have stopped working. We are about four and a half hours into the flight, and at this point, we feel it is a better choice to turn around and head back to base, then change planes. We're truly sorry about this inconvenience, and we assure you we will do everything possible to get you to your final destination as quickly and smoothly as possible."
My sleepy brain attempted to process this information through its drug-induced haze. We were more than halfway there. Most people on the plane were asleep, and there were certainly still enough bathrooms left—since the plane wasn't even close to full—so why were we turning around and flying four and a half hours back? Wouldn't it just make more sense to continue?
Now, I have no idea of what goes on in the inner workings of airlines, but I've watched plenty of episodes of Lost, and I know that some strange shit sometimes happens on flights. Perhaps the pilot suddenly realized that if we continued on that same aircraft we would all crash onto a mystical island with smoke monsters and talking dead people. In that case...by all means...get us the hell off that plane!
But anything short of that seemed just ridiculous.
The passenger across the aisle and I exchanged meaningful looks. "Why would they turn the plane around just because two bathrooms are broken?" she asked me in a conspiratorial whisper. I didn't know, but the adrenaline had kicked in again as I realized that I would now miss my connecting flight. My phone wouldn't work internationally, and since we were going to arrive back at our starting point in the middle of the night, I knew my husband's cell would just go to voice mail (which he may or may not remember to check).
I spent the flight back alternately sulking and worrying. I didn't bother stuffing my giant ass pillow back in my carry-on when we arrived back at the home airport. Screw it...if they were going to yell at me for having an extra gigantic pillow on my person, they were going to get one hysterical cry-fest.