Returning to Chattanooga

Having completed three days of corporate training, it’s time to go home. I’m not sure if it’s the intensity of the class or the late hours trying to keep up on work, or the early morning wake up time I can’t seem to get past, but I am exhausted by the end of the class. Four of us are going to the White Plains airport together, but we have over an hour to kill before we leave. We agree a drink is in order, but by the time we all get served and settled, it’s almost time to leave. We drink our drinks quickly and head to the lobby to order a cab. Then, we have to wait 15 minutes for the cab to come. It occurs to me that we did things in the wrong order.

Another group waits for a cab in front of the building. They are dressed in suits with ties and we wonder if they were here for executive training. A regular blue cab and a black town car pull up at the same time. The men in suits approach the black town car, but it turns out it’s ours. We get a slight chuckle out of that. We don’t have to squeeze to get three in the back and all of our luggage fits into the trunk along with a soccer ball that I assume belongs to the driver.

The airport is crowded when we arrive, but the line moves quickly. We sit and chat some more waiting for our flight to be called. Perhaps I drank my wine too quickly, but I find myself exhibiting a less-than-professional sense of humor. I seem to be in “one of the guys” mode. This is an old habit I’ve developed really starting in my teen years. Perhaps I discovered at a young age that men have certain advantages and think being perceived as one of them will make those advantages rub off on me, but I have learned that men are as different individually as everyone else and sometimes I am more “guy-like” than they are comfortable with. Unfortunately, this lesson is lost on me today. After making a few comments that were not office-appropriate, I head to the ladies room. When I return, my colleagues are swapping stories about colleagues who say inappropriate things outside the office. I try not to think that there is a direct relationship between this topic and my earlier comments, but I make a mental note to behave better in the future.

Thankfully, my flight boards and I get seated. I flip through the airline magazine, impatient for electronics to be allowed so I can get back to the novel I’m reading. As much as I love my iPad, this is the one time when I lament not buying a paperback. I can’t pull my iPad out fast enough when the announcement finally comes. Unfortunately, no matter how much I want to read, my eyes keep closing and I find myself re-reading the same pages over and over again.

In Atlanta, I board my plane early. We are parked at the gate and seemingly ready for push back, but they don’t close the door. We sit for 15 minutes and finally, at our scheduled departure time, several more passengers arrive. One of them sits next to me and two more sit across the aisle from me. They talk across me in my aisle seat. They were on the same connection from Texas and had to run for this flight. They are sweaty and disheveled from running with bags. The woman sitting in the window seat on the other side of the aisle talks loudly and continuously, first to the woman next to me and then on the phone. Apparently, she has a spider infestation back at home. I am always amazed by loud talkers. While I am not what anyone would call a private person, I cannot talk in public without feeling uncomfortable with the knowledge that others can hear me. I often find myself talking so quietly that whomever I am speaking to constantly asks me to repeat myself. When I encounter a loud talker, I cannot help but feel that they operate on the assumption that everyone must hear what they have to say. There is a certain presumptuousness about it.

The woman from Texas continues chattering loudly through the safety announcements, through take off, and right up until the moment I get out my noise-canceling ear buds and crank up some music. After hearing only two songs, the announcement to turn off electronics comes on. When I pop out my ear buds, she is still jabbering. She doesn’t stop when the plane stops at the gate or when the seatbelt sign goes off or when she jumps up and pushes her husband to step out into the aisle so she can step out as well. Maybe she is too busy telling the woman next to me about her spider problem to notice that there is a certain etiquette to de-boarding a plane because she fails to wait for the passengers in the seats in front of her to step out before charging down the aisle. I hear her voice fading as she continues talking her way off the plane and I wonder who she thinks she’s talking to–her silent husband clearly stopped listening years ago.

I call Pat as I exit the airport, letting him know that we’ve arrived several minutes early. We agree that we will meet at baggage claim although I’m not entirely sure where that is. I follow the signs and walk outside only to discover I’m not more than 10 yards from passenger drop-off where Pat left me three days earlier. After all, it is a small airport.

It’s 11:30 by the time we get home and I am beat. I get myself ready for bed and take some extra vitamins when I remember the number of people coughing on my flights. Now I am awake again and don’t feel like sleeping yet. We turn on the TV and, magically, I doze off before Pat has time to pick a channel. Minutes later, Pat is waking me up to tell me to go to bed. I climb between our amazing sheets and feel like I really am home just before I fall into a deep sleep.