No matter how abundant and great the art is about, there are a lot of varied and fun installations, the airport is a tiresome place.
It is, for me, dreary. I dread driving toward it. My car jockeys off the I5 and onto the exit and I creep along into the parking garage. I wind up the ramp and cruse through the lanes looking for a yawning opening that will accommodate my Ford Escape. I park a lot at the airport, so my first action upon turning off the key is to make a note of my lane number.
My tired black Atlantic roller bag drags behind me as un-anxious as I am to enter Terminal B. But, we trudge along the cement deck, through the automatic glass doors that part as we approach.
The swath of industrial beige/brown carpet leads to the tram. We, my fellow passengers, and I herd into the tiny tinny car and again doors automatically work. Just as the faceless announcer warns…the train jolts to a start and we all sway and catch a poll or window sill to remain upright.
I stare at the tarmac over people’s shoulders. Never making eye contact.
Doors part allowing us to exit and we march into a roped off queue. I scramble to free my driver’s license from my wallet and marry it to my boarding pass. I align them correctly so the TSA agent will have an easier time reading them. Again, I stare slightly to the right or left past faces awaiting my turn in line to prove who I am.
I wrestle off my jacket, slip off my shoes and hoist my belongings onto the automated belt that will x-ray my life. The bottom of my bare feet are cold against the slick tile floor. My shoulders feel the breeze of the human x-ray as it swirls around me.
Shoes and jacket back in place and travel essentials accounted for…I see the upside down tree with light bulb leaves hovering over the departure gate sign. OK.
One and one-half hours to get to my gate and the mixed smells of roasted meats, burritos, pizza, coffee, donuts and perfume mixed together attack my nose. I pay for a bottle of cold water and head toward my gate with my book.
The restroom is on the left. My trusty valise and I struggle to get through the metal door and into the slim stall so I can pee.
All types of beauty products being applied at the mirror accompany the women peering and primping in to the wall long mirror over the sinks. I wash my hands in tepid water and the sweet flowery soap smell is nasty. A wave in front of a blinking red sensor spits out six inches of rough brown paper towel.
I snuggle into a genuine Naugahyde chair, park my bag and open my water and my latest only-have-time-to-read-at-the-airport novel trying not to hear anyone speaking around me.
No plane attached to the expanded walkway yet, so I listen for the roar of the jet engine that will soon arrive to take me away from home again.
Flying SWA to PHX yesterday morning. Let’s just say I LOVE being an A-List flyer. I usually get a TSA-PRE designation on my boarding pass…which means, nothing comes out of bags and shoes and jackets stay on! Wow. Sweet.
Anyway, my roller bag is heavy today. I have three days of work in AZ and had to bring my work boots. Along with my carry-on with my work computer, my purse…which fits nicely into my computer bag…only two carry-ons you know. I am laden down with stuff.
They call boarding and just as cattle are lead into a shoot of a stockyard pen (minus the cattle prod and pending death to become ground beef), my fellow flyers and I funnel down the jet way and into the plane.
With my purse/computer bag hefted onto my nearly sixty-year old left shoulder, I am double fisting my roller bag carrying it down the slim walkway between the rows trying to avoid the typical aisle seat sitter’s tripping hazards: feet, elbows and heads. All of this is heavy. And this is always the time I rethink what is in my bag…and why did I bring it. But, as usually never leave any of it at home.
The train of people slam to a complete abrupt halt; some lady is rearranging her carry-on in an overhead bin and is so intent on retreating her newest People Magazine she is obviously oblivious to the queue of passengers pining for the unclaimed seats her butt is blocking.
I usually don’t make eye contact while waiting and mindless stare straight between the shoulders of the person in front of me. However, this youngish guy sitting in the aisle seat says. “That bag looks pretty heavy.” I acknowledge it is and explain it is holding a pair of steel toe boots (Why did I go there???). The denim draped derriere is still dangling ahead and is deterring our quest for passage…so the moment of conversation continues.
“Why do you have those?” he asks with a very quizzical perplexed way. A bit too interested in my lipstick red TravelPro 21inch for my taste. The easiest and quickest explanation I can think of is “I work on the railroad and need them for my job.” Without missing a beat, he shoots back, “You don’t look like you work on the railroad.” I blankly stare back at him. Seriously, what do you say back to a remark like that?
Now, I am internally seething at butt lady. She is still working her magazines…there must be a new edition of the Enquirer to peruse. Her bulbous backside continues to block the remaining A list and now pouring in B list passenger’s way. And by now my arms are getting tired and I still have to lift my suitcase way above my head and thread it into the compartment reserved for such bags.
You have to realize this whole scene is played out in about 90 seconds. Although it appears in writing to have taken months.
Finally, she tucks in her tremendous tush and we can pass. I get two steps past Mr. Aisle Seat and start hefting my bag into the overhead. He leans around, peers over this shoulder and sees me…no he did not get up to help me… and says, “I meant it as a complement.” I just grin and find my window seat two rows away. Again, what do you say back to something like that?
This exchange got me thinking, what does someone who works in the railroad industry look like? Are we to wear striped bib overalls, red neckerchief, and matching striped hat?
Foamer alert: Just as information, the striped hat was fashioned from some scrap fabric. In the olden days, yes…when I was born…railroad wives sewed their husband’s overalls to wear to work. These garments were essential for keeping soot, grease, smoke and dirt away from and protected their good clothes underneath. I kid you not, take a look at some old-time photos and you will see guys with a suit and tie with bibs on top.
Some smart wife decided there was enough left over ticking (the material first used for overalls…hardy enough for mattress and pillow covers) and made her beau a chapeau. The rest is as they say is history. Another interesting fact…oh I know it is not interesting at all…but if an engineer wore a poke-a-dot hat…that meant he was a passenger man. Stripes were strictly freight. I still have my dad’s poke-dot-hat…for a photo; see my post “Retirement isn’t for Everybody.”
Back to my trip: There is no point here. Except that all my railroad friends look normal to me. No cow-catcher noses, smoke stacks sticking out of craniums or additional limbs or heads. We are just normal folks that talk funny. Between ourselves we use a lot of jargon and words that are usually not acceptable in polite company.
As of January 24, I celebrated my 40th year working around trains and railroad people. And a lifetime of living within the industry since I am 4th generation. It has been and continues to be a fun and interesting journey.
Lonnie now two years retired!! And loving it…relaxed, golfing, putzting around the house. All of our family, friends, and neighbors are enjoying Mr. Fix-It fixing it.
And with me quickly approaching 60, friends are asking if I am ready to “pull the pin.” (RR jargon for leaving)
The simple and direct answer is: No. I enjoy my job…except for a few folks…and I am good at it. I don’t see any reason to leave.
My job allows me creative freedom, some travel, excitement, diversity in duties, great benefits, good vacation and sick time. But most importantly to me I am in a position to make a difference in other people’s lives in a good way.
So, right now retirement is not for me. But, thank goodness not for the same reason it was for my dad.
Note to self: when sleeping in an airport overnight…never ever take a row of seats with seats behind. The seats to our backs filled up during the night with some very strange and scary characters. So, much so…the janitor told me to be careful and keep an eye on my stuff. Check. I love people watching…but the epitome is 2am at this airport in front of the Marks and Spencer all night grocery store. God, I feel like I am…