Whenever I’m invited by my employer to go on an out-of-state trip for a conference, I always feel privileged and rewarded. Then I arrive at the airport. My most recent excursion into the inconvenience and discomfort that can only be administered by an airport was for a conference in beautiful Colorado, but first I had to make it out of DFW alive and sane. (One out of two ain’t bad, I guess.)
The first hurdle to jump was the dreaded TSA. Going through TSA security is like going on an awkward date. I has the potential for fun, but often results in partial disrobing, someone going through your personal belongings, more physical contact than you would like, and a rush at the end to get the humiliation over with. That’s the part I dislike the most. As I was frantically scrambling to keep my jeans from falling off while I got my belt and shoes back on, containers of other people’s stuff were flying toward me on the conveyor belt while the TSA staff and other passengers shook their heads in pity.
Once I had collected myself from being violated in the name of homeland security and walked beyond earshot of the laughter of the TSA, who were undoubtedly looking forward to our second “date” on my return flight, I began to do what I always do when I want to change the subject-look for something to eat. Unfortunately the selection at most airports is comparable to the food court at the mall, only with less variety. My goal that day, at the ungodly hour of 9:00 AM, was to find those precious breakfast time gifts from God, a Chick-Fil-a chicken biscuit and a large Diet Dr. Pepper (because I’m all about starting the day with a healthy and natural meal). After roaming the concourse for what seemed like an eternity and finding not a single letter “C” adorned with chicken parts, I resorted to the Honey Butter Chicken Biscuit from Wendy’s, an unspeakable abomination that reminded me of something your mother might make after telling you she could cook one just like the one from Chick-Fil-a, and at a fraction of the cost. I ate the whole thing-out of spite. Wendy’s also apparently has something against the world’s most perfect soft drink, so instead of Diet Dr. Pepper, I drowned my disappointment in a substandard Coke Zero. I don’t know who Wendy is, but she should be ashamed of herself.
I always try (and fail) to time drinking my airport soft drinks in a way that I can avoid using the airplane toilet, which feels like trying to go to the bathroom standing in a high school locker while handcuffed and spinning a log in a lumberjack competition. However, true to form, my plane was delayed for over two hours, so my timing was completely thrown off. After waiting an entire thirty minutes after the chicken biscuit debacle, I was forced to eat again and order another large Coke Zero. This time, I ordered a chicken salad sandwich from a food stall with a French name that ended in something that sounded like “Blech.” Like most chickens salad sandwiches, this one tasted like a wet napkin nestled between two wet paper towels. Oh, and there were some raisins in there somewhere.
After our first flight delay due to the airline’s inability to find any flight attendants who wanted to go to Denver, we were then told that the plane had a maintenance issue, apparently involving a de-icing valve. This meant we would sit for another hour in the gate waiting area that smelled like a bath towel that had been used on a wet St. Bernard while the maintenance technicians rounded up a tube of Gorilla Glue and a new de-icing valve from the local Auto-Zone.
Not only would I not able to wait until I arrived in Denver to use the restroom in the privacy of my hotel room, I would be forced to risk my personal hygiene in the abominable airport men’s room. The cavernous latrine I chose was especially putrid, and the fragrance was intensified by the non-existent air-conditioning in this chamber of horrors. When I finally found a stall that didn’t look like the aftermath of a cattle auction, I immediately lunged for the toilet seat covers. Making these work was harder than I thought, especially on an automatically flushing toilet, and after wasting about 15, I gave up and resorted to lining the seat with exactly 5,000 sheets of toilet paper. (I’m sure the legions of bacteria appreciated my providing them with more comfortable accommodations.)
As always, the timing of my restroom visit couldn’t have been more perfect. While I was depleting a month’s supply of paper products in the men’s room, my flight gate changed, and boarding began immediately, which placed me at the end of the line for boarding, an ominous way to start my actual flight-but that’s a whole other story. At the moment, I’ve just landed at the Denver airport, I’m hungry again, and I need to go to the bathroom.