Similar to my last post on dining alone with a dead cell phone, traveling alone forces you to pay attention to your surroundings. Most of the time I travel alone. It’s a strange thing, isn’t it? Agreeing to get in a large, contained vessel with a bunch of strangers to ascend more than 30,000 miles up in the air, putting your life in the hands of someone you don’t even know? Okay, maybe that’s the paranoid version of flying alone but it’s what I recently felt when flying to Fort Lauderdale.
After acting wretched to the woman checking me in for my flight, I knew I was in need of a chill sesh. I acted out of emotional stress, frustrated by the miscommunications between airline staff and customers traveling alone with a disability, the end result working against me. The painkiller I had taken the night before did me in–it wasn’t helping to ease any of my anxiety or body aches for that matter. The only plus point discernible from taking that evil little pill was all that anxiety made me overwhelmingly tired and I managed to fall asleep on the plane, a rare occurrence.
I’d like to believe my unconscious state is why I failed to notice the two men sitting in my row were a couple. A gay couple. An OLD gay couple! I was instantly thrilled upon discovering this and wished I hadn’t fallen asleep so as to take in more about my travel seat-buddies, whom I will call Frank and Willis.
As I sat down in my seat, I was drawn to the men’s age. I examined Frank’s (the female energy of the two) wrinkled, veiny hands; the folds of his skin overlapping making his hands appear long and Dumbledore-like. I instantly pinned these two men as cool, Brooklyn street-card-playing, trash talking grandpa’s headed down to join their old buddies at some mafia-driven circle in South Florida. Their gold jewelry prompted these mafia vibes. I had to resist the urge to ask them how old they were (thought I wish I had). Could you imagine?
I picked on a (small) something when I wasn’t approached with the same old-school chivalry, trust me, it’s not always the case, that possesses men to offer a hand or carry my bag (“Lady with a cane, can I help you? What’s wrong with ya leg?) But really, I didn’t expect much from my seat companions–these guys had some years on them. They deserved to sit back and enjoy the show. As I approached my seat, cane steady, Frank said, “You gonna make it?” That’s it. I figured I would get a follow up question or comment upon sitting down but nothing. No plane talk. No friendly exchanges.This made them even cooler. Frank and Willis kept to themselves, observing the plane passenger traffic. Still in my drug induced state, I decided to join their people watching game.
Feeling residual shame from my behavior at check-in (I apologized to the counter woman), I avoided looking at passengers boarding in case I seemed familiar to anyone at check-in. That’s when the paranoia kicked in: I was certain something was going to go wrong on this plane. This would be my last flight, I just knew it. Things were operating too smoothly. Will there be a fire? A terrorist scheme? Is there an air marshall on board? A particularly boring looking, ethnically obscure young man entered the cabin. HIM! I chose him as the terrorist that would down our flight. He was wearing a suit two sizes too big and carried a small white bag from what looked like a Hudson News stand. Something about the way he carried that bag, walked onto our flight made me suspicious. This paranoia eventually wore off. But back to Frank and Willis.
Jewelry fit for a Don: Frank and Willis both had large, pronounced rings on their right hands. Frank wore his on his pinky finger while Willis chose to wear his on the often ignored index finger. Both were oval-shaped. Frank’s was a black stone with a gold base. Willis had classic gold. They both wore gold bracelets. Frank had two gold link chains on his skinny right wrist. He was a right-arm jewelry kind of guy.
I looked at Frank from the side while he nodded off to sleep; he was a handsome man. You could tell he was a catch in his heydays. Willis looked a few years older than Frank, chair-ridden without his walker or Frank’s assistance. Willis needed a wheelchair just like me. Still, you could tell Willis was the one in charge. He was sneaky. The kind of sneaky where he’d poke up in butt with a cane or trip you with his walker.
I lowered the window shade so the light wasn’t in their eyes as attempted to nap. They popped back to life when the JetBlue Snacks and Beverages portion of the flight took place. They each took two snacks from the JetBlue Community Snack Basket. Frank opened a bag of chips for the both of them. Do grown men-folk share a bag of chips? Willis asked for a can of ginger ale that they would split. Do grown men-folk spilt a can of soda? Frank opened his tray table to which Willis used as his own. Without processing any of this as couple behavior, I thought it was cute. Like an old bromance that lasted decades and didn’t have time for any embarrassment. Now that snack time was over, off to sleep for me.
I woke up from my scattered slumber to Frank’s voice–he sounded like a chain-smoking version of Ray Romano’s TV mother. Never would I have thought THAT voice came out of THAT man. I actually turned around to see if perhaps there was someone else this harsh, lady-like voice was emerging from. Nope, it was Frank. We were close to landing. As we approached the ground, Frank pointed out a popular church on US 1 from the window. He took out his flip phone to call Nancy. I had enough time to catch the adorable background picture on his cell phone of a elderly man. Maybe it was a picture of himself but I got the feeling it was Willis. Frank told Nancy they had landed safely. He planned to drop Willis at home. “I’m putting him upstairs and then I’m going to the grocery store to grab some things.” They discussed the details of their dinner. Soup and a sandwich. Frank got heated when he had to repeat these plans to Willis more than once. PUTTING YOU UPSTAIRS AND THEN IM GOING TO PUBLIX. YOU ARE DRIVING ME CRAZY. NUTS I TELL YOU! Frank was aggressive but you could tell he loved Willis dearly.
We deplaned, waiting outside the gate for a crew member to push our wheelchairs. Frank, Willis and I made brief small talk. I learned they lived in Pompano Beach for more than 25 years. They were visiting family in NJ but it was too cold for them. Back to Florida they came.
The wheelchair guy walked up to his and asked Frank and Willis if they were together. “Yes, yes we are,” Frank smiled.