It was midnight, and I had 8 hours to kill. The lightning and thunder continued outside as I slumped in the Washington airport lounge. I’d missed my connecting flight and was now going to bed down in public. I needed to be inconspicuous enough to grab some sleep but obvious enough to be noticed if someone decided to kill me.
I’d calculated if I left the airport to grab a hotel, by the time I’d checked in, then cleared international customs to get back for boarding my morning flight, I’d only have 4 hours to sleep. Plus, I’d left my brush at home, and my tangled wet hair already looked like I’d slept in a gopher hole. Airports are busy places; everyone around me had their own stories, the violent storm having messed up everybody’s plans.
Because I watch too much TV, I carefully put my passport in one pocket, my wallet in another. I was wearing a pair of desert camo pants, not remotely flattering but in hindsight a brilliant purchase. Into another pocket went my phone. Cash in another. I ran out of valuable things before I ran out of pockets.
I carefully jammed my purse under the row of seats I’d staked out, and pushed my carryon against it. I put my iPad under the sweatpants I was using as a pillow. Any attempt to rob me would be thwarted. Like a wounded animal on a savannah, I peered around at the danger surrounding me. A young mother had two kids sleeping with their heads in her lap. A guy was snoring away under a baseball cap, a young businesswoman was pecking away on her laptop, and an extended family was trying to make their grandfather comfortable. Okay, not exactly a code red situation.
I lay facing the room, trying to figure out when I’d last eaten. The airport kiosks were closed, and didn’t open until 5am. I set my alarm for 5. My alarm. I crack myself up. Not keen to sleep in front of strangers, I put a t-shirt over my head. Then I turned to face the wall, not caring that my camo butt was facing out. I debated putting in earbuds to block out the noise with music, but then I realized I wouldn’t hear someone sneaking up to strangle me. I wondered if I had to pee, which of course made me have to pee. I put all my stuff back together to go 10 metres to the washroom; anything you leave unattended gets blown up, not stolen.
I never did sleep. At 8 am, I boarded a flight for home, bleary eyed and mussed up. I sat down, looked at my seatmate and said, “does this plane smell like feet?” He replied that it did, and promptly went to sleep. It was worse than feet; it was feet with a side of diaper. Thankfully a woman doused in some hideous floral scent sat down in the row ahead. The kid behind me started kicking my seat; a kid 4 rows back started hollering.
Our flight attendant jolted us awake turning on the mic. An apparent graduate of the Chirpy School of Supreme Irritation, her voice slid up and down two octaves with each word. People don’t talk this way; I wanted to punch her. I was sitting at an emergency exit and she asked if I could yank the door off if we crashed.
I told her not to worry; I’d be the first one off the plane.