Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Up, Up and Away!

Checking in was easy.

I arrived at RDU Airport two hours early, fought no traffic on I-40, got a spot close to the elevators in the parking garage, and managed to switch from back-of-the-plane seats to 1C and 4C on my first and second flights, respectively. Security found no reason to detain me. I even had time to walk the terminal to compensate for the exercise I won't be getting over the next few days.

Then everything slipped sideways.

The diminutive woman working Gate D12 for US Airways announced all passengers connecting through Reagan International Airport in DC needed to rebook to different flights. Apparently, President Obama's State of the Union Address was expected to cause all kinds of delays. I don't pretend to understand why that should be the case. It's not as though the entire Congress intended to gather on Runway Three to watch the speech on a makeshift jumbotron at the airport. Still, we had to rebook our flights to connect through other cities, and I was lucky enough to be the first one in line.

Halfway through rebooking my flights, the phone rang at Gate D12. Turns out the State of the Union would not, in fact, cause any airport delays and we no longer needed to make any changes. Trouble was, both my flights had already been cancelled.

Instead of immediately reinstating my original itinerary, the vertically challenged gate attendant told me to stand aside while she boarded the rest of the passengers. When she called for Zone One to board, I approached and pointed out that I had been in Zone One before she cancelled my reservation. She huffed and begrudgingly made a half-hearted attempt to address the problem. After thirty seconds of not trying very hard, she handed me the now-defunct boarding pass for the connecting flight out of DC.

"Take this and get on the plane," she instructed. "I'll rebook your flight after everyone has boarded."

"What about my boarding pass for this flight?" I asked.

"You won't need that," she said.

With no ticket for the flight I was boarding and only a cancelled ticket for my connecting flight, I nestled uneasily into seat 1C on the flight from Raleigh to DC.

As I watched my fellow travelers make their way past me to their seats, I couldn't shake the nagging feeling I was destined to end up in a DC security holding room trying to explain how I'd managed to get on a flight without a ticket while TSA officials ran a background check and performed a cavity search. So, I asked for and received permission to return to the gate.

Good thing, too. Not only had the gate attendant not rebooked my flights, my checked bag was in the process of being rerouted to Charlotte. She tried to assure me she hadn't forgotten about me, in spite of the fact she was ready to close the gate and send us on our way. I should get back in my seat, she told me, and she would bring me my new boarding passes.

"No," I said. "I'll feel a lot more comfortable standing right here while you get me and my bag back on our original itinerary."

After some grumbling and a few forceful keystrokes, she had me rebooked. Her disgust with me turned to hatred when I pointed out that she had booked me for seat 16D instead of 4C on the connecting flight, but she quickly realized I wasn't budging until she made it right.

As I write this, I am comfortably reclined in seat 4C on my way from Reagan International Airport to Columbus, intently staring at the rolling sea of clouds washing over eastern Ohio below me. Let's just hope my bag isn't waiting for me in Charlotte.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

Friday, January 20, 2012

Creepy Kid

Our Daughter was only a little thing at the time, maybe two years old at most.

I had picked her up from daycare and brought her home to start the evening routine of bath and dinner before My Lovely Wife returned from her long day at work. Picking her up out of our four-door sedan, I balanced Our Daughter in the crook of one arm and grabbed her dirty daycare clothes with my right hand. Our Dalmation, Pepper, barked happily in the backyard.

"Pepper," Our Daughter said in a sing-song voice.

"Is that Pepper? Do you hear Pepper?" I asked.

"Pepper," she said. "Pepper, Pepper, Pepper, Pepper, Pepper..."

As dusk turned slowly to night, the interior of our small home was cast in shadows not thick enough to leave one groping for the walls but just enough to obscure details in hazy darkness. I passed through the garage, through the kitchen, and into the center of the house where I could unload the dirty clothes in the laundry closet without switching on any lights for fear of losing my grip on the little girl who continued to sing the name of her much adored dog as we advanced.

"Pepper, Pepper, Pepper, Pepper, Pepper," she chimed.

Somewhere in the kitchen, as the ambient light diminished, Our Daughter's soft tones began to morph into something cartoonishly frog-like. A croakiness crept into her throat and her voice dropped an octave. She continued to repeat "Pepper, Pepper, Pepper." By the time we reached the dark, windowless hallway that housed our laundry closet, she no longer sounded anything like my sweet little girl. It sounded instead as if I were carrying a thing possessed, a demon child maniacally calling out for its pet hellhound.

Many thoughts went through my head at that moment -- like how much does an exorcism cost and who do you call to book one. The hair on the back of my neck stood stick straight out over my collar, a tingling sense of panic crept up my spine, and I half expected to see Our Daughter levitate out of my arms with her eyes glowing red. All the while she continued to croak for her dog, "Pepper, Pepper, Pepper..."

I did the only thing any rational adult would do under the circumstances. I dropped the laundry on the floor where I stood, walked through the house turning on every light I could find, and brought Our Daughter into the kitchen to feed her dinner. Thankfully, whatever demon had temporarily possessed her vanished under the glare of the bright lights. That, or demons don't like rice cereal mixed with pureed apples.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hymn 128

"Hey, Dad?"

The Italian, as I might have mentioned previously, never stops talking, so it always astounds me when he finds it necessary to announce the fact he has something to say.

"Yes, buddy?" I asked, my mind distracted by other things.

"I like hymn one-twenty-eight," he said.

Not only didn't this statement hold any relevance to any conversation we'd had the entire day -- absolutely no reference to Star Wars, Legos, school or salami -- it held no discernable meaning for me whatsoever, and therefore commanded my attention.

"What?" I asked.

"I like hymn one-twenty-eight. From church," he added, as though this clarification should irradicate my confusion.

"What is hymn one-twenty-eight?" I asked.

He screwed up his face and thought hard. "I don't remember the name of it, but I know it's hymn one-twenty-eight."

"Do you remember the words?"


"Can you hum the tune?"

At this suggestion, he opened his mouth and cautiously allowed an "Ah, ah" to escape that sounded like the ending "Amen" of every prayer and hymn I'd ever heard in the course of my 43-and-a-half years. I gave him a dubious stare.

"Do you know more than two notes?" I asked.

Again, he let loose with an "Ah, ah," only this time the second "Ah" went a little higher and lasted a little longer. To my astonishment, I thought I recognized the melody. I repeated his notes back to him and added a few more that seemed to flow naturally.

"That's the one," he said.

Now I just had to work my way methodically through the rest of it until I came to the hook. "Ah, aaaaah... [Long pause.] Aah, ah aaah, ah aaah, ah aaaaaah... La, da di, da da, di daaaaah... Daaaah, dee dum, da deee, dee dum... La, da di, di daaaah, dah dum...

"We Three Kings!" I shouted and burst into the first verse of the song.

The Italian looked at me like I was a simpleton. "Yeah, hymn one-twenty-eight," he said.

© 2011 Mark Feggeler