Saturday, October 31, 2009

Surprising Septuagenarians in the South West (or "Eating Like An Asshole Week: Day 7")

Our final day in Austin was only a half day, as we were flying out around 2:30 for our trip home. We ate kolaches at a local kolache place my sister liked. They were tasty enough, but I took issue with their using the term "bacon" in the title of my "bacon, egg and cheese" kolache, as the kolache contained merely the memory of bacon within its doughy center and not any actual bacon that I could detect.

The sister saw us off at the airport, we checked our bag and started through security. For some reason, my bag was flagged as containing objects of interest and the TSA folks had to rescan it twice before asking me if they could search it. All it had in it were a bunch of wires, adapters and a funny-looking usb/AC outlet/car adapter, so I had no problem with them searching anything. I just found it odd that beyond the many graphic novels I picked up while I was in Austin, there wasn't much else different about the bag than it was when I first went through security in Charlotte.

Now, with the ongoing financial troubles the airlines have been having, we all know about the increase in fees that some airlines charge for checking bags. They did this allegedly to make money to offset rising costs. However, I suspect they have not actually accomplished that goal. It may not be universal, because some airlines still allow you one check bag per person and then charge you $15 for any additional bags checked, but American Airlines just goes ahead and charges you $18 for your first and then the price goes up from there. So now, instead of people checking their luggage and going about their flight, everyone tries to smuggle as much of it aboard as carryon. Both of our flights on the way home left 15 minutes late because it was taking so long for everybody to get their carryon luggage crammed into the overhead bins. Similarly, it took extra time to deboard for not only the same reason in reverse, but also the seeming inability for people to do the math and realize that they needed to get their shit together BEFORE it was time for their row to deboard, not wait until that moment to finally unbuckle and get up and try to pull down their massive bag. We didn't miss any flights because of this, but we hardly had any time to scarf down some food between flights in Dallas because of it.

On our leg from Dallas to Charlotte, we had another annoyance in the form of a passenger on our row. Normally we like to fly in the D&E two seat row side of the plane, but for this particular leg we had no choice but the B&C seats of an ABC row. When we arrived, the A-seat passenger was not seated by the window, which meant there was no point in belting up until he or she arrived, as we'd have to get up to let them in. Across the aisle from us was a man with a thick Australian accent, who was seated in the E seat by the window and was working on his laptop. I only knew he had an Australian accent because a few minutes later, the actual ticket-holders for seats D & E arrived and pointed out to him he was in the wrong seat. I knew exactly where his correct seat would turn out to be, and sure enough it was the A seat next to my B. What kind of myopic dumbass can't tell and A from an E?

"Bruce" was all smiles and amiable enough about his error, as we did the across the aisle shuffle of him, his laptop and his carryon laptop bag, so I hoped he'd be a decent enough seat-mate. I might have even enjoyed chatting with him and hearing what his story was, except that he immediately began annoying me with a consistent yet seemingly absent-minded flaunting of airline regulations, which he continued for the rest of the flight.

It started out when the stewardess came on the intercom and told everyone to put away their personal electronic devices. Dude was still engrossed in whatever he was doing on his laptop and wasn't in a hurry to stop being engrossed. He took a good four minutes or so to actually shut it down and put it away, during which my estimation of him as a fellow traveler decreased with each passing second. We were still on the ground, mind you, so I didn't think it was all that big a deal, but the flaunting of regulation still got under my skin. Then, immediately upon putting his laptop away, he whipped out his iPod, plugged in his headphones and turned it on. What was next, a cell phone call?

Being a non-confrontational soul, I just sat and seethed. I've often suspected that the necessity to turn off electronic devices during takeoff is bullshit. After all, they let us turn them on once we're in the air. But who really knows? I mean, until Mythbusters busts or confirms it, right? My inner self, however, was screaming at me that I should lean over, yank one of his earbuds out and assure him that were our plane to crash due to his rule-breaking, the crash investigators would indeed find his corpse with an iPod wedged up its ass.

A stewardess happened by soon enough, saw his transgression and gently told him off. However, we were no sooner in the air than out came the iPod once again, several minutes before the go-ahead was given. I quickly put my own earbuds in and fired up my new Zen XFi-2. I expected he would fire up his laptop, but he kept it stowed until later, preferring to watch some sort of rodeo videos on his iPod. When we were about five minutes away from landing in Charlotte, though, he fired up the laptop again and started looking over some horse-training material, just in time to be told to put it away again over the speaker. Again, he took his time in shutting down.

Now, I realize that none of this really matters at all in the grand scheme of things. His actions were hardly endangering anyone, they weren't making me nervous, and the man didn't seem to be operating with any kind of malice (in fact, he was all smiles and good-natured attitude when we saw him at baggage claim fifteen minutes later--you know, after we had to wait for all the people in the rows ahead of us to get their shit and luggage together and then a move on). Really, it shouldn't bother me, but it does. It chaps my ass that he was either A) taking his time to follow regulations when not busy flaunting them on purpose; or B) just not paying attention to what he was being asked to do. They're equally bad, in my book. And I wasn't the only one annoyed by him. I could tell that my wife was irritated by him as well, and she probably would have told him off, but she wasn't sitting directly next to him. I could feel her willing me to say something, but knowing how unimportant it was in the grand scheme.

After we were in the terminal and out of earshot, I turned to her and said, "So... Aussie cowboy?"
"Yep. That was my guess," she said.

We didn't leave the airport until nearly 9 and then had several hours to get back to Borderland. Our only chance to eat like assholes on the way home was by stopping at a Jack in the Box on the way out of town, and we were only assholes for thinking we'd get good food there quickly. (In my experience, Jack in the Box food looks far better than it actually is and almost always takes about five minutes longer to receive than you really hoped it would. In fact, I once literally--and, as usual, I assure you I am in no way misusing the word "literally"--waited over 25 minutes for food at a different Charlotte-based Jack in the Box because the particular restaurant I was at was concentrating all their attention on filling drive-through orders and didn't care so much about the mass of customers like myself who were still waiting for their food. In their defense, that particular store on that particular night seemed very much as if it were being managed by morons--though probably only figuratively in this case.)

When we got home, the cat was happy to see us. The dog had to wait until the following morning to be picked up from doggy jail. She'd developed a case of kennel cough while in the clink, too, but unlike the previous stays there did not develop a bladder infection. We've decided that for our next vacation we'd prefer going somewhere we can take her, too.

That may or may not happen, as in the time it's taken me to write this up since we returned from Austin, we've actually added a fuzzy new family member--one who'll certainly factor into things for future vacation plans.

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