The Amazing Antics of “Amma” in the Air

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“Amma” is what my grandchildren call me. Well, most of them. There is the one two-year-old who is already giving her mom, my daughter, a run for her money. Out of the blue, she decided to call me “Grandma.” No one knows why…or how she even knew what that was, except that she is scary smart.

But I digress. Let me tell you about my latest flying escapade.

A month ago, I spent a week with six of the eight grandchildren, all of whom are under 8 years old and all live in NJ. I am 60 years old. I know why God sends you kids when you’re young. Any of us who have grandchildren know exactly why God sends us kids when we are young. Between trying to keep up with their sometimes chaotic lifestyle, I also had to amble this aging body onto a plane and fly back and forth across the country on two of the seven days I was gone. The first leg involved my getting up at 4:00 a.m. for the flight and the return found me praying for an upgrade to first class on the 5 p.m. “commuter” flight. My prayers were answered but not without the usual OC Active Senior’s embarrassing moments.

Continental automatically wait lists their OnePass Elite members for an upgrade standby. I am the lowest level of elite, Silver, and therefore really don’t get much priority.

I was so tired this trip I was really hoping they’d move me. I was excited when I saw that I was number one on the upgrade standby list, but First Class (all 12 seats) were fully booked. To make a long story short, I was in my original seat when the gate agent came on board to get me; they had a spot for me up front. I was ecstatic. A big wide leather seat, incredible leg room, free wine and booze,  a menu to choose a meal from and the best ice cream sundaes you’ve ever had up in the air. When the agent came, I’d already settled into 9D, putting my book, water bottle, noise-canceling head phones and light wool poncho a/k/a blanket  into the pouch and on the seat. My computer bag was stowed in the overhead. My purse was under the seat in front of me. I do not travel light. I have to entertain myself for the nearly six hours in the air or I will go mad. My iPhone has more apps on it than Steve Jobs’. I grabbed everything as quickly as possible in case they changed their mind.

So began the swim upstream. I had to go 14 rows while 172 people were going the other way to 27 rows. I made it and of course, First Class was filled with business men in suits with laptops out on the trays, working until the last possible moment when they close the hatch. I had drawn the window seat, next to the only other woman in first class. In my hurry to not block the aisle, I started tossing things across her onto my seat. Of course, everything bounced off the cushion and landed on the floor. She juggled her computer to pick up my stuff while I shoved my laptop case into the overhead while tired travelers waited on the gangway for me to get out of the way. When I finally got settled I realized that two of the five or six pieces of cheese I’d pilfered from the President’s club for a mid-flight snack had fallen out of my purse and she’d put them on the seat with my book and water bottle. I was off to a great start.

I chose the grilled chicken with Cajun sauce for my entree. It arrived hot, tasty and slippery: as I was cutting a bite, it flew off the plate onto my tray, splattering my seatmate’s arm. I wasn’t sure what the protocol was but in my hurry to assist her in cleaning up the spots I knocked over my ice water and it spilled on her pants. At least it was just water. Now she was stained and wet. In our small talk before take-off she mentioned that she was only going to California for an overnight. I hoped that she had more than this outfit to wear. Or that she was making a presentation to a bunch of Foodies.

Things were calm for a little while, then I decided to get out my laptop.

You know how they always tell you to be careful because things shift in the overhead bins during flight? They aren’t kidding. I popped open the hatch and out flew some man’s large brown manila envelope, which he hadn’t closed securely and papers went everywhere. Since my laptop case was also gaining air and I was in mid-stage retrieval, I attempted to swing it down quickly so I could help pick up the papers. It narrowly missed my poor companion’s head as it slipped from my panicked hands. If looks could kill, any air marshal on board would have been out of his seat and CO787 would have been diverted and I’d be on the evening news.

In retrospect, I think I would have attracted less attention had I been the one attempting to set my underwear on fire. I’m just hoping that my ill-fated upgrade hasn’t moved me onto the “no-fly list.” I have no doubt that I am already on the “no upgrade” list.

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