"Hey, look," God said, "Tom and Gayle are going to Tennessee on vacation for the week."
Grins of anticipation broke out on all the angels' faces.
"Oh, Lord, no. You're not going to do it again, are you?" said one of the angels.
"Hee hee," said God. "Don't worry, I'll give them fair warning."
When we left for Tennessee on Southwest airlines, we naturally checked the weather forecast on the smart phone, and it didn't look promising. Little icons with dark clouds, rain and lightening marched across the screen for the next seven days without interruption--no little suns peeked at us.
Yet, we dodged those little bullets for four days, enjoying the Grand Ol' Oprey, some great restaurants and lounging in the high-end hotel, with only a short cloudburst once overnight. Gayle attended her DoTerra essential oils conference, and I laughed away most of the days with my old Navy buddy, Brian, seated not far from the well-stocked bar.
The rain began on departure day, but we flew from Nashville to Baltimore without a hitch.
"Look how happy they are..." said one of the angels, prompting his cohorts to steal a glance at God.
"Hee hee," said God.
In Baltimore, at 6:40 pm, when we checked the big board for departures, our home town was labeled "DELAYED" --two hours. A bit later as we watched lightening flashes through the rivers of rain on the windows, the delay became three hours. Then, suddenly at 8:30 pm, the board flashed back to "ON TIME," and we lined up to board, though Gayle continued frowning at the lightening flashes.
Within minutes, the board changed its mind again: "CANCELLED," like everything else in and out of Baltimore.
So, we were instructed to line up for re-booking--next flight 6:55 am tomorrow, and word spread fast that the hotels were already booked solid and lines to rent cars were crawling. At 10:30 pm, I'd had enough.
"Now, watch what Tom does, " said God. "And the angels rolled in the clouds laughing, though a few of them pleaded for mercy between howls. "Oh, Lord, no, no, no, a-hahahahaha!"
"I might as well explore the food situation for later," I told Gayle "Watch my bags."
Back in the Nashville airport there's a little tobacco store, about the size of a walk-in closet with a door in the back that leads to a legal smoking room. For five bucks you can get in and burn one, and I was primed for burning. But no such comfort appeared in Baltimore, so I walked and I walked, all the way to the fresh air outside, lit a Camel and enjoyed. It would be worth going through security again, I thought.
So, on my way back through security, I stripped my belt, emptied my pockets, slipped off my shoes, and produced my new boarding pass--and the Homeland Security lady rudely declared, "You can't go in," which triggered an indignant round of haggling from me that ended in her telling me that my boarding pass was for a flight TOMORROW, therefore I needed a "special gate pass" and I would have to go stand in line at the counter to get one. The line was one of those long snaking messes with about six or seven hairpin turns in it, so I hurried to the other end of the airport where there was another security line; maybe there would be a human being in charge who would show some understanding.
Nope. No human being, just another rude regulation reader going by-the-book from the TSA who said, "You want to get in? Go stand in line."
So I did, for an hour and a half, while my phone kept telling me to connect my charger--which was in my bag at the gate. I did get in one call to tell Gayle where I was. The lady at the counter then informed me that a "gate pass" wouldn't do me any good because the TSA, our security watchdogs, closed up shop and went home to sleep at 1:00 am. Nobody could get in until the next shift began at 4:00 am.
Nice to know that our watchdogs got a good night's rest.
I settled down in the baggage area and watched luggage from cancelled flights get strewn all over the airport floor like thick underbrush, people searching everywhere, then around 2:30 am Gayle staggered in. Some counter jerk told her she had to re-check her baggage for the morning flight, so we searched the underbrush and concluded that the luggage must be already on its way to loading, then we collapsed on a bench and stared at each other, brain dead.
"Nice touch, Lord," said an angel, giggling.
We got in line for our crack TSA team before 4:00 am. Apparently, we conformed to all the TSA regulations and they let us in, only to learn that our 6:55 am flight had been CANCELLED and we were officially assigned to the STANDBY list, which means we go to the bottom of the totem pole where every dingbat who arrived five minutes ago with a ticket has priority over us.
Howls across the heavens. Angels laughed, tumbled and rolled over each other in the clouds.
We sat through several boardings waiting for our names to be called and dragging our bags from gate to gate, waving goodbye to our overnight acquaintances until the 4:00 pm flight when I finally approached a counter clerk to beg. "Let's see," he said, squinting at the computer screen, "the best I can do is move you up ten places on the list, which makes you numbers 6 and 7."
A few minutes later, the crowd was aboard and they called Gayle's name. Hooray! The new clerk handed Gayle a boarding pass but she hesitated, waiting for me, "Go," I said, "Get on. I should be right behind you," but as I watched Gayle disappear down the tunnel, a boozy-looking business man interrupted. He had the wrong boarding pass, and the clerk told him he should have stopped at the previous counter--at which point I interrupted, "Do you have more seats?"
"I have one more seat...."
"Then I'm next."
"Excuse me, sir, I have a paying customer here I have to take care of."
Paying customer?! PAYING CUSTOMER??? Haven't I paid enough! With my money! With my time! With my sleep!
"I'm a paying customer!" I shouted.
No use. He got the pass, and as I watched the plane pull away, I noticed the next flight to Manchester on the big board, formerly 6:40 pm, now, CANCELLED.
I was slumped in a chair fighting sleep when word went out that the 6:40 flight was back on, and I got on.
Thank God Gayle was still awake to pick me up at around 9:00 pm at the Manchester airport.
"See," God said, "everything turns out okay. Tom even thanked me."
"As he should," nodded the angels in universal agreement.