Sunday, September 9, 2012

Nightmare at 20,000 Feet

Anyone else a fan of "The Twilight Zone"?

One episode, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," starred William Shatner as a nervous airline passenger who sees a gremlin out the window...and for someone who hates flying as much as I do, that particular segment has haunted me ever since.

And yesterday...coming home from my deployment in Hattiesburg, MS...I felt like I was re-living a scene out of my own "Twilight Zone" series.

It began innocently enough...I drove the 80+ miles north from Hattiesburg to Jackson, that I could catch a 2:30 American Airlines flight that would connect in Dallas, eventually getting me back home around 6:30 pm. I arrived at Jackson really early, and so I settled into a chair at my gate with some water, chips and a good book on my Kindle. Life was good...the airport was relatively small, and extremely empty, so it was quiet, peaceful and relaxing.

Shortly before the 18 or so of us were to begin boarding...a man approached and sat down in the empty chair right beside me.

Well. This got my attention - as there were HUNDREDS of other empty chairs in this airport, so why did this guy feel it was necessary to sit right beside ME??!! I looked up from my book, and there was a guy - looking exactly like Richard Dreyfuss - dressed in a pilot uniform and staring right at me with a big smile on his face. Uh. Okay.

"Hi!" he says, exuberantly. "Where are you headed?"

"Uh....Dallas," I said.

"I KNOW that," he said...."I mean, after Dallas?"

"Uh...Kansas City," I answered.

"Is that where you're from?" he asked.


"So...what were you here in Mississippi for?" he asked.

Persistent little guy, wasn't he?

"Uh...Red Cross. I was here for the hurricane."

"Awesome!" he exclaimed.

Well...then began a torrent of further questions, while he asked a bazillion questions about all-things Red Cross related.

He then reached over and touched my neck.

"What are those scars from on your neck?" he asked.

Um, that's rather personal, I wanted to reply...but being the nice girl that I am, I replied, "Skin cancer."

"WOW!" he exclaimed. "Those are BIG! Did they hurt?"

"Uh...yes, actually," I answered. And I KNOW they're big. He didn't have to point that out to me. Thanks for that.

He then reached over and touched a bracelet I had on my wrist that reads, "Living For Something Greater."

"What's this mean?" he asked.

"It means that when I get frustrated when I'm deployed, I read it to remind myself why I do what I do," I explained.

"That's awesome!" he said.

About that time, they were calling for the 18 or so of us to begin boarding - THANK GOD - so I stood up and began collecting my things.

"Oh - you're on this flight?" he asked.


"Awesome! I am, too!"

"Are you the pilot?" I asked, thinking, "Surely not...they wouldn't let a fruit loop like this pilot a plane."

"Yup! This is MY plane!" he replied.

Great. " a good job," I said. "I hate flying."

"I hate flying, too," he replied.


I admonished, "Don't SAY that!!! That's not funny!" as he just smiled at me.

So...I went on and boarded the plane, and as I buckled into my seat (Row 2A), I look up to see the cockpit door open...and sure enough, there was Richard Dreyfuss, turned around in the pilot seat, staring at me with the biggest grin on his face. He sees me and gives me a big thumbs-up.

At this point, the other passengers see this little exchange, and look at me for some sort of explanation. All I can do is shrug, and say, "I think he likes me."


I do have to say, though, to his credit, that it was one of the smoothest flights I've ever been on. He may be excessively touchy-feely, as well as excessively talky, but he knows how to pilot a plane.

Anyway, after landing in Dallas, I quickly scurry off the plane so I can avoid Richard Dreyfuss, and hurry on to my connecting flight. Here, it was a much larger plane, and I was seated in Seat the window. I had chosen this seat purposefully, as there was supposed to be no one in Seat 9B.

However, when I sat down, I noticed a dark black suitcase jammed under the seat in front of 9B...and one was sitting there.

"Odd," I thought to myself. "Maybe someone left it from the previous flight???"

As the plane filled with people, I thought I would mention it to one of the flight an "unattended" bag makes me a bit nervous in today's terrorism-filled world. What if that bag had dynamite or something in it??!! My mind was racing with all sorts of weird thoughts on why a bag would be sitting...all by its lonesome...jammed up under an empty seat.

Soon, the doors to the plane were shut and the flight attendants were going down the aisle, shutting all of the overhead bins. When one of them got close to me, he leaned down and indicating the black briefcase, said, "That's my bag. I was going to sit by you, but I have to move to the back row." He then picked up the bag.

I said, "Whew. I was worried. You know...'unattended bag' and all that," rolling my eyes a bit.

Misinterpreting me, he said, "What?! Were you going to go through my bag? Here - you can look now...there's nothing in there!"

WHAT?! He thinks I'm a bag thief???!!

NOOOOO! That's not what I meant!!!

Before I could explain, he walks off...clutching his bag ever close to his chest...clearly assuming that the lady in Seat 9A is not to be trusted. This certainly made for an uncomfortable flight, believe me.

Geesh. First, I get hit on by a pilot...then I get mistaken for a bag thief... was clearly very strange yesterday at 20,000 feet.

Home never felt so good as it did last night.