I travel with a gigantic Timbuk2 bag Big Chris gave me. (Yep. Big Chris once gave me something!) This bag is really big. It can hold a week's worth of outfits or a small adult. And I'm really pushing my luck trying to carry this thing onto a transcontinental, double-decker 777, much less the flight of Bagger Vance.
As they boarded each "zone" or group, I noticed the woman scanning tickets told anyone with a rolling carry-on suitcase she'd have to take it. Literally everyone got a little pink ticket and seemed fine with it, their luggage going off to God knows where. My bag was over my shoulder, so on the plane it went. As I crossed into the cabin, the flight attendant greeting me announces in a Jamaican accent, "Dat bag not gonna fit. If it don't fit, you gonna have to take it back to the gate."
I looked down the aisle. Dat bag not gonna fit.
"Should I just give it to you now?"
"I'm not takin' dat bag from you! You got to take it to the gate yourself."
I should've just turned around and left my bag with all the others. But put on the spot and with a crowd behind me, I walked back to my seat, the bag banging all of the chairs as I went. I looked like an idiot trying to squeeze that bag into the tiny overhead compartment. I might as well been trying to shove a cello in there. It was ridiculous.
I had no choice but to give up and wait for everyone to board, while sitting on my bag, hunched over in my row. In the midst of the big, impatient line of people was my seatmate. This 20-something and her Marc Jacons bag had the aisle seat while I had the window, but me and my bag were taking up our row and then some. Silently, she indicated her seat.
The bag and I stood back in the main aisle to let her in.
"Hi." I sighed, exasperated. "I've got to run this thing to the front once everyone boards, so could you just scoot over to the window for a second until I can?"
She sat down in the aisle seat. My bag and I were blocking dozens of people from getting to their seats. My embarrassment was turning into panic. "I'm so sorry, but can you please just scoot over so I can let these folks by?"
She kind of leaned her body a little towards the window. I needed me and this bag out of the way and she gives me a lean. All the while, this group of people stuck in the aisle grew impatient and confused. "Seriously." I hissed, "Can you PLEASE just scoot over, just for a minute, so I can let these people pass?"
This bitch has the nerve to scooch a couple of inches over and extend her head a little more towards the window. She was now basically laying down on both of our seats. A hundred eyes are on us. In my fluster and panic, I screamed out, "Nope? No? Not gonna happen?"
I was surprised that I actually yelled that out loud but it worked. Without looking up, she moved into my window seat, let me place my massive bag on her seat and I crawled on top of it.
Everyone walked by as we refused to look at each other. As soon as the last person passed me, I ran forward with my bag, knocking the heads and shoulders of those in front of me.
With that, Ms. Employee of the Month announces over the PA system, "We now prepare for take-off."
I was that lady. I'd officially become that lady. "I need to give them my bag."
With a knowing smile, she let me out the door, onto the gangplank where an orange-vested woman from the ground crew was taking all of the bags belonging to those who were lucky enough to avoid my public humiliation. "I need to give you this!"
She took the bag, handed me a pink ticket and said, "This is one hell of a bag, honey."
I re-boarded the plane, marched back to my seat and there my seatmate was, back in her aisle seat buckled in and staring at her tray table.
"Thank you so much." I sighed. "Ugh, I'm so sorry. What an ordeal."
Livid, she unbuckled herself, stood up and moved forward into the main aisle, as opposed to the standard stepping back to let someone in. I had to shimmy around her, forced to demonstrate again just what a big, obnoxious problem traveller I was. I was tempted to turn to the back of the plane and address the crowd. "Have you been watching this? Anyone? A little help here? Unbelievable."
But one of the few benefits I've discovered in my advanced age is that what I'd heard was true. I just didn't give a shit anymore. I pulled out my magazine and was over my little production pretty quickly, even though I had my mortal enemy sitting next me. Deplaning in Atlanta, a crowd had formed in the middle of the gangplank and I quickly figured out it was for those of us who'd had out luggage taken at the gate.
Oh balls, how long's this gonna take?
Five minutes! Before I knew it, a big metal door opened and there was our luggage, stacked on shelves. I jumped forward, grabbed that cursed bag, threw it over my shoulder and was off.
On that one-hour flight across Georgia, I learned three valuable lessons:
1) Don't even bother checking your luggage. Just take it to the gate and claim you didn't realize how big it is. It's practically concierge service, and much, much quicker. Also, Delta's "zone" system is bullshit. Sick of being the last to board in zone 4, I dove into zone 2 on one of my flights to see what would happen. Nothing!
2) Apparently acting like a fucking idiot is a terrific way to embarrass someone.
3) That lady on the airplane doesn't care what you think of her. You can sit and fume the whole flight, staring at her and re-living her scene from earlier. I certainly have many, many times before. But now I know. She's doing what she has to do to get from A to B. This is coach domestic air travel. It's survival of the fittest. She might be red in the face for a moment, but what needs to happen is going to happen. Trust me. I am Beth Spotswood and I am that lady...
(*Speaking of travel, TK and his wife are running around the mid-Atlantic right now and I've been enjoying their reports.)