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Let's Fly to Wisconsin!

Had a pretty good travel day on Tuesday! Just kidding. Let’s start with this: I went to my local dentist a month ago in order to have two broken crowns replaced. Two days ago, I bit into a soft piece of cheese and one of the crowns broke loose and fell out leaving me with insufficient time to go back to the dentist and have it replaced before flying to Wisconsin for Christmas and New Year’s. So now I’m chewing with nothing but a stump where there used to be a molar.

When we travel, we typically leave our car at the airport. Long-term parking is only $9 per day, dirt cheap compared to a lot of big city airports. The only time we’ll take an Uber or taxi is if the length of our trip makes it more cost effective than driving ourselves. A 20-day trip met that threshold. I scheduled an Uber XL the night before to pick us up at 10:00 a.m. the next day. The following morning I got an alert from Uber Driver Sue that she would be there in 14 minutes driving a red Chrysler Town and Country mini-van. If you knew my wife’s proclivity for overpacking, you’d understand the necessity for a larger vehicle. Fortunately, because of our frequent flyer status on Delta Airlines, we are allowed 70 lbs. of luggage per bag instead of the normal 50 lbs. Try humping a couple of 68-pounders around some time. LIFT WITH YOUR LEGS!

To her credit, Uber Sue showed up right at 10:00 o’clock. Score one for her. Her minivan, however, had seen better days. At first glance, I wasn’t sure it could handle the 35-minute drive to the airport. We got into the Uber and I said, “To the airport, Sue!” Typically, I’m not averse to some idle chatter with an Uber driver. You know, things like, “So, where are ya from then?” Or “So, how long have ya been Ubering then?” The first sentence out of Uber Sue’s mouth as we pulled out of our property was, and I’m not making this up, “As a public service to all my customers, I always want to remind everybody to make sure you get your annual mammograms!”

I said, “Well, Sue, I don’t think I’ll be needing a mammogram any time soon, but my wife is good about doing that on a regular basis!” Those would be the last words I would speak. It was as if Uber Sue had used that opening to begin a recitation of her entire life story. It was total T.M.I. overload for a first-time conversation.


We got to a busy intersection where we had to turn left across three lanes of traffic. Uber Sue made a break for it, not noticing that the car ahead of her had stopped in the intersection. We had nowhere to go so her car ended up sitting right in the middle of the third lane of oncoming traffic. My wife was on that side of the vehicle and we could both see the cars speeding toward us. Thinking we were about to get T-boned, she frantically said, “Whoa, whoa, whoa! We’re right in the middle of the road!” Three cars swerved to miss us before Uber Sue could make the turn. She apologized multiple times while assuring us that she was a highly rated Gold Star Driver. After that near death experience, her claim seemed dubious.


Uber Sue continued her narrative. She talked fast and didn’t take a breath between sentences or pause where there should have been a comma or period. She kept looking back in her rear view mirror trying to make eye contact with either of us as if to affirm her in the telling of her saga. After 10 minutes of this, I just turned my head and looked out the window while my inner voice kept repeating, “Please make her stop. Please make her stop.” Then, by the grace of God, my wife’s phone rang. She took the call which necessitated a brief pause in Uber Sue’s story. After my wife hung up, there was a two-minute lull. The silence, indeed, was golden.


Then Uber Sue asked what local restaurants we liked. Before either of us could answer, she launched into a 15-minute history (going all the way back to 1910) of three different restaurants in Fort Walton Beach. We’ve had a place in Destin for almost 20 years. Not once have we driven to Fort Walton Beach to go to a restaurant, and I doubt we ever will. As we got closer to the airport, I had already unbuckled my seat belt ready to beat a hasty exit. She pulled up to the terminal and said, “If you want me to pick you up when you get back, I’ll give you my cell number. A lot of my customers just text me when they land!” I was already out of the car trying to hoist the two 68-pounders out of the back. Apparently my wife is a lot nicer than me. I saw her get her phone out and take down Uber Sue’s number.


Because my wife has higher status on Delta than me, she had been upgraded to 1st Class seats on both legs of our trip to Milwaukee. I was in an aisle seat in Comfort+, a small win. After boarding our flight to Atlanta, I sat down first knowing that two other passengers would have to squeeze by to get to their seats. A woman came first and took the window seat. Then I saw a tall fella coming down the aisle. He must’ve been 6’ 7”. He was covered with tattoos. He had full sleeves on both arms and colorful designs enveloped his neck. Like unruly vines, they had started to encroach on his face. We made eye contact and he indicated that he was in our row. He squeezed into the middle seat between me and Window Woman. He took over both arm rests and splayed his legs. I scrunched a bit to my left in order to salvage what was left of my personal space and avoid the dreaded thigh touch. 

I glanced down at his left hand and noticed that he had a tattoo across the back of his four knuckles. It said K-I-L-L. I couldn’t see his right hand, so I’m not sure how he completed the phrase, but I was hoping it didn’t say N-O-R-W-E-G-I-A-N-S or T-H-E-G-U-Y-I-N-S-E-A-T-1-1-D. To make matters worse, he was chewing gum and proceeded to snap his gum for the entire trip from boarding to deplaning. I chose not to say anything.


We got to Atlanta and headed to the Sky Club in Terminal B. Holiday travel tends to bring out the masses to the Atlanta airport. I have nothing against dogs in general, but the number of people bringing their dogs to the airport and onto planes has gotten a wee bit out of control IMHO. As we walked into the club, there was a guy with not one dog, but two – two yappy fur balls on leashes sniffing around other people’s ankles. They were both wearing tiny vests that said ‘Service Dog. Do Not Pet.’ My inner voice said, “Hmmm. I wonder what services they provide.” Given the snarky mood I was in, the guy is lucky they didn’t pick my ankles to sniff. I might’ve gone full Jan Stenerud on them. He would have had to rename his dogs ‘Field’ and ‘Goal.’ But I digress.

After a relaxing hour in the Sky Club, we boarded our flight to Milwaukee. My wife boarded ahead of me and took her 1st Class seat while I navigated my way back to 13D in Comfort+. My two seatmates had already strapped in. One row behind me and to my left was an older gentleman. He was on a flip phone talking to somebody in Milwaukee. For some reason, he didn’t seem to have any control over the volume of his voice. It was so loud that it actually startled me and a number of other people sitting around him. Heads swiveled to look back at the commotion. The man seemed oblivious to the sound of his own ear-splitting conversation. Finally, right across the aisle from me sat a young couple with what looked like a 4-month old baby. We’ve traveled with small children before, so I understand the challenges. I know it’s especially difficult for a baby to clear his ears during take-off and landing. But, holy moly, that kid could scream! I felt sorry for the poor guy sitting next to the couple. The dad was up and down the whole flight trying to keep the child pacified, but nothing seemed to work.


Ahhh, what a day! Isn’t holiday travel grand?


In the end, we made it safely to our destination. I picked up the rental car, grabbed my wife and the two 68-pounders and we headed to our daughter’s house. 30 minutes later, this made everything worthwhile! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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