When you have been friends with someone for 25 years, there are a limited amount of firsts you can still experience together. Emily and I met in ballet class when we were two years old and since then we have lived through eachother’s first kisses, first heartbreaks, first jobs, first waxes … (Don’t ask.) At age 27, we weren’t certain how many more firsts we had in us. However, the night before Thanksgiving we realized we had one more to add to the list: flying together.
The next morning we were flying south to spend Thanksgiving with her brother and mother in Redondo Beach. The plan was to feast Thursday, recover Friday, and then drive up Highway 1 to San Francisco on Saturday. With nearly 1,000 miles to cover in 72 hours, I knew our trip would be a memorable one – primarily because Emily and I are two very different types of travelers.
It takes me about ten minutes to pack my one small suitcase. I rarely forget anything and I like getting to the airport in enough time to check any bags, grab a beer and perhaps a new book for the flight. Emily has never packed less than two bags for anything – including a half day at the beach – and prefers running through the airport at a full sprint to supplement any exercise lost to the day of travel. Stress would definitely be part of the first leg of our trip.
At 4 a.m. our alarms went off. We had 30 minutes before our dear friend Chris arrived to take us to the airport. Emily still needed to pack. And I needed a really big cup of coffee. When Chris arrived at 4:36, Emily was still wearing her bathrobe and towel turban and her clothes had not yet found their way into her suitcase. My clothes were on, but inside out – a realization I would not have until after we touched down in Long Beach and I actually examined what I was wearing.
“Go down and distract him!” Em said. “I just need to zip my suitcase and I will be downstairs in three minutes.”
Translation: It will be at least 15 before we roll out of here. After 25 years, I speak fluent Emily. And I did my best to buy her time. I chatted with Chris. Fussed with the luggage. Mused about the holiday. It worked for about five minutes. As I considered what to discuss next, Chris nodded towards the door and said, “We’re missing one.”
Pretending to forget something in the apartment, I dashed upstairs to check on Em’s status. (Still in her towel turban and sitting amidst a pile of clothes near her door.) Hoping to galvanize her packing efforts I tried lying. “Hurry! Chris is pissed! He is tired, hungover and late!” I yelled.
Seventeen minutes later she emerged. Chris, whose own flight was at 6:30 a.m., was in rather positive spirits as he maneuvered his truck through the deserted San Francisco streets and listened to Emily and I discuss our various strategies for takeoff. I pray. Emily screams until the plane reaches cruising altitude. “I just stare out the window and wait to die,” he said.
We pulled into SFO at 5:15 with Emily singing the 1977 Dan Hill ballad “Sometimes when we touch,” (a habit she formed while forced to listen to adult easy listening stations growing up) and barely enough time for Chris to hopefully dash through security and make his flight. Yet, despite the setbacks, somehow Em and I had a full 90 minutes before takeoff. I was amazed. We headed off to the Jetblue counter to check our bags.
Now, I have mentioned this in earlier posts, but I feel the need to reiterate this. When Emily and I are together we have fun. Sometimes, too much fun. Our intelligence is often questioned, as is our sobriety, by the people we encounter. But I assure you, we are not f-ing with these individuals. Here are a few snippets of conversations and situations we encountered prior to the flight.
ME: [to the Jetblue clerk] “Do we check in here too?”
EM and CLERK: [Frown. Em continues.] “What do you think we are doing here?”
ME: I just wanted to make sure.
Neither of us paid attention to the directions he gave us to the gate because we were trying to figure out how he wrote on our boarding passes without a writing implement. As he circled the gate number both of us just stared at his fingers looking to see where the pencil was hiding.
ME: “It’s magic!” I pronounced.
CLERK: “No, actually it’s just carbon paper.”
He seemed happy to be rid of us as we headed off to security. Chris then texted Em saying that he made his flight, but was now bored without our company.
“Try not to cause too much trouble,” he warned.
Satisfied that we didn’t ruin Chris’ day we were ready to eat breakfast. We bypassed the first open cafe because the line was out the door. Instead of waiting in line for five minutes, we opted for the restaurant at the end of the hall. We blew $18.02 for a small coffee, bottle of water and omelette and left feeling both full and ripped off. In the meantime we had managed to squander the full 90 minutes and almost missed our flight.
After hearing last call for Long Beach we raced through the airport, splashing what was left of our coffees and screaming “Wait! We’re coming!” to the attendants closing the doors at the gate.
ME: I’m so sorry! We were actually early too!
ATTENDANT: [half smiles, takes our tickets, says nothing.]
EM: “I hate being the last person on the plane. Everyone hates you.”
ATTENDANT: [stops smiling, nods ever so slightly in agreement.] “Have a nice trip.”