What you're about to read is a truthful account of a real event. Names and specific details of persons identities have been changed to protect those involved in this sad sad story).
The Alaska gate agent berated us via the muffled intercom in gate C-0 of the Anchorage airport warning of the impending doom that lay before us in Seattle airport.
"Wa Wa Wa...If you are traveling to Seattle on tonight's Alaska Airlines Flight 43 you should know that no flights are taking off from Seattle due to snow...Wa wa wa...All the hotel and lodging is filled up...Wa Wa Wa...You have two options, stay in Anchorage for the night or take your chances in Seattle...Wa wa wa..."
This was just a ploy by the agents to get some of the delayed holiday problem passengers down the line so that they could become someone else's frantic pain in the ass. The mass exodus of bush Alaska educators and service workers back to the lower forty-eight for the holidays was in full swing. Throngs of grizzled, overworked, bloodshot, cranky teachers and workers roamed about the terminal with looks of desperation or downright forlornness at their chances of making it home in time for another Christmas.
I was checking www.kusko.net and various other weather websites for the real story of my fate. By all accounts wind and visibility seemed fine in both Anchorage and Seattle and I assured a worried looking father of two rambunctious girls and husband of a horse faced cranky pants wife that everything was going to be fine. In fact things would get a whole lot worse before they got better.
"Now Boarding all passengers seats 15 and higher." The intercom lady said finally.
Disregarding order and knowing the over bookedness of the flight I got up and shuffled down the corridor with other exasperated and weary travelers. I've always noticed the general overall change in percentages of types of travelers as you get closer to the lower forty-eight. This particular crowd was mostly filled with scrunchy faced over weight white people and a few native people sprinkled in with a dash of Seattle hipster flair to boot, a drastically different crew than the motley haggard one with whom I rode into Anchorage from Bethel.
As a prologue to the upcoming unfortunate and seriously messed up series of events I will tell you that I always get the isle seat. I pick it purposefully. I hate having to ask people to let me out. When you sit in the isle seat you can come and go as you please and since I usually enjoy my fair share of beverages I often need frequent relief. If you sit at the window you get a great view, but what if the person is sleeping in the isle seat? You have to rudely wake them and then you're screwed. So there I sat in the isle seat D row 19, ukulele safely stowed above, iPod snuggly bopping away some Tegan and Sara in my ears, trying to stay positive about the chances of us making it to Seattle safely.
"Attention passengers, we will be making the trip to Seattle tonight and won't know if we will be landing until we get nearer to the area, we may be diverted to Boise, Idaho as an alternative." The flight attendant announced over the intercom.
Great, Boise. What the hell am I gonna do in Boise. Thats closer than Alaska though.
Just as I was wearing a nice groove in the seat with my ass cheeks, a tentative overweight mid western couple started stowing their over sized luggage above feebly with their elderly arms. I cringed as she smashed her carry on in wondering if my ukulele was cracking under the attack. I waited till they looked ready to sit down and cordially got up and let them settle in. As not to be rude I removed my headphones and put them in my pocket in preparation for the inevitable single serving friend conversation that would follow:
"Hey hows it going. Fine thanks. Hope we make it home. We will think positive! I checked the weather on the internet and its looking fine, they can land these things electronically anyway. Thats a relief. Where you from. Oh you're a teacher too, gee willickers,Blah Blah Blah."
It turns out the couple actually fit into a rather typical Alaska story. They were Bob and Martha Henderson from Washtucna, Washington, and after teaching respectfully and earnestly for twenty plus years in the same small wheat farming town school they attempted retirement and couldn't make ends meet with their meager monthly retribution for a life's dedication to the betterment of good American boys and girls.
So they did what any rational married retired couple would do (not really) they packed up their wholesome Christian values and moved to the great untamed white north to teach in a remote bush native village and "make a difference." Their adventure took them to a hard edged and difficult little village outside of Barrow on the north slope and just like many of us, most of the promises and pictures that the recruiter painted for them didn't really come true. In fact they were so beat down from the cold, stark, hard reality of their first 5 months in the bush that they had fallen into the age old pit of referring to natives as "THESE PEOPLE," a term I tend to judge other people on pretty harshly.
Their complaints were typical first year teacher complaints. Weather was bad, planes were scary, food was expensive, living arrangements were awful, the kids didn't respect anything, they didn't want to learn and these people this, and these people that. These kids. These parents. I started to wander off into my own thoughts of judgment.
I didn't really pick it up at the time but now in retrospect I should have noticed that they were both buzzing pretty hard. I can remember now that Bob's flushed rosy cheeks were flapping away as he rolled complaint after complaint out of his battered face and ego.
"Why back in the day...They really oughtta...I just can't believe these people..." He just kept on.
This little native village had done quite a number on old Bob and Martha. Their great adventure had turned on them, it was now becoming a nightmare, they had strayed too far from the great American heartland they once knew and loved. I could tell that Martha was still clinging to the last strings of her faith as she gripped a copy of some Christian propaganda book entitled something along the lines of "Faith in the Face of Crisis." A Typical bewildered retired couple to a tee, so classic.
I humbly shared my situation in Mekoryuk, after hearing their debacle I made an extra effort to be super positive about the plight of the native population as they struggle towards an evolving existence in the techno-centered society of today. I talked about how great the kids were and how hard we were working and how I am really just hear to learn and do my best. I tooted my own horn a lot and tried to make them feel badly about all the shit talking they just did. But in fact, my situation was probably better than theirs and I am a little bit better equipped to deal with it being young and full of idealistic dreams and goals. Still, ignorant "these people" hypocritical right wingers really didn't make me want to give them solace from their woes, rather, a stiff reality check about how their attitudes contribute to their own horror show.
Meanwhile the flight attendants started to take their seats. We had talked right through the little stage show that informed us of how and what we should do in the small minute possibility that our plane would crash land and not erupt into a ball of flames and just exactly where we were to exit into the icy unknown hell below.
During the conversation Martha started to nod off. A long day indeed for a withered raisin of a lady. She rested her modest farm wife hairdo head on the shoulder of her still bolstering and guffawing husband. He just kept talking though. I had opened a Pandora's Bob box that may never be shut. Glassy eyed bastard.
"We will be taking off shortly, please remain seated with your safety belts fastened," a tall attractive African American flight attendant announced over the speaker from the front (I mention this detail because I imagine the Anchorage-Seattle route on Alaska Airlines must be wear they send the dried out alcoholic hag attendants for punishments, and insight I base on my observations of the previous carcasses they usually staff the flights with).
Just as she said that I noticed Martha shudder and convulse on her husband's shoulder. In the deepest parts of my mind I knew what would happen next. I knew what was taking place, I understood it, accepted it, acknowledged it in my deepest cerebrum, but I didn't want to believe it. I didn't want to believe that the sleeping mid western teacher grandma lady next to me was about to throw up in her sleep, but she did, right before my very eyes.
She awoke just in time to cover her mouth with her hands. Like watching a car accident or a train wreck I just sat eyes agape at the horror show before me, her convulsing body, pulsating next to me, retching and spewing forth in slow motion. Before I could blink or grab some sort of receptacle she let forth the violet demon inside her.
You see, she had pressed her hands so firmly against her face that she created a tight seal around her mouth minus the tiny holes that formed between her pointer fingers and her thumbs. The blast force of the upheaval caused the acidic regurgitated matter to shoot out the side holes of her cupped hands just like play-doe squirts out of those pasta maker type accessories. The color of the matter was in fact very play-do fuschia in color and consistency as well, a deep berry purple pasty creation that bubbled and shot out the sides of her hands down onto the floor and onto the right leg of my green Carhart overalls.
"Oh Jesus!" Slipped out of my mouth with out warning. I started rifling through the flap in front of me frantically searching for the standard complimentary white paper barf bag that usually goes unused. All this and we hadn't even taken off yet. Martha was in trouble.
The tall attractive African American first class flight attendant walked by making her final check before giving the captain the go ahead.
"Um...uh...okay... we have a situation here lady." I blurted out obviously as a result of the seriousness of the situation.
"For Fuck's sake Martha," Bob said gruffly. Apparently he wasn't going to be much of a help in this most dire of circumstances.
"Is she okay? Does she need medical assistance? STOP THE PLANE! We have a medical emergency!" The flight attendant shouted down the isle.
"Oh no," Martha said miserably through her hands.
"Can we get some towels and some club soda?" I asked the flight attendant spastically. I thought in my head that this was the first time outside the movies I'd ever thought to use club soda for a spill, who says you don't learn from TV?
"Ma am are you ok?" The attendant asked seriously, towering above us.
"I think she drank too much wine at THE Chile's," Bob said insensitively.
I tried to console Martha in the heat of the moment,"Its gonna be okay, no one saw, it'll be alright just hang in there."
Martha was crying and cowering and trying to figure out what to do with her hands full of Cabernet and cheese fries throw up. Bob had recoiled and was being of no help. I thought momentarily that this is how you really know if someone loves you, by the way they act when you need them the most, how they care for you when you are at your worst. Then I thought, what if Bob's entire life was dealing with shit like this and maybe he had developed a hard exterior shell to this sort of ordeal, maybe his purple pasta-like vomit shooting wife had pulled this shit before and he just didn't care anymore, in fact this was the last straw and he would divorce her over it. Either way I felt like I was caught in the middle of a hurricane.
The smell was overpowering, cheap wine and starchy appetizers, unmistakable. Selfishly I thought of the fact that I would have to smell this stench the whole ride home. I suddenly became aware of the other passengers in the blast radius. They were all wrinkling their noses up and trying not to stare. The flight attendant came back as I was gathering up napkins from near by people to aide in her plight. Martha started wiping the muck from her face.
"Why don't you go up to 8-C sir. We have an extra seat and that will give her some room to get better, we're bringing club soda and napkins," The tall young attractive attendant said to me with a look that said 'holy shit man did that just happen let's get you outta this mess dude.'
"Don't worry Martha, everything's gonna be fine you'll be okay they're taking care of you," I said as I got up to move. I felt bad leaving her with her assfaced husband. But its Alaska, sometimes you have to make hard decisions as you know, its survival up here.
As I grabbed my bags from the overhead and turned to walk up the isle, the last thing I saw was Martha beginning to wipe the purple mash out of her dyed sandy blond bangs and Bob started to stroke her back. This caused her to convulse again and I just had to walk away from the entire affair.
I plopped down in 8 C next to a sleeping black guy about my age listening to headphones. He could tell something life changing had just happened to me, I must have been wearing the shock on my face.
"Dude you okay?" He asked half assedly.
"Yeah an old lady just threw up wine and cheese fries on me." I said as I pointed to a neat little globule now drying on my knee.
"That's sick bro," he said and then he put his headphones back in nonchalantly and went to sleep.
I tried to get up to go wash off the vomit chunks on my jeans and hand and was promptly yelled at over the intercom by another flight attendant lady (much older and broken looking than the hot one that saved me from the vomit onslaught),
"THE CAPTAIN HAS ILLUMINATED THE SEATBELT SIGN PLEASE REMAIN SEATED FOR THE TIME BEING, THANK YOU."
I sat down, degraded, shaken, bewildered and embarrassed. Here I was just trying to get chunk free in two thousand three and getting yelled at for it.
And the plane hadn't even taken off yet.
The story ends rather well though. I got a twenty-five dollar gift certificate for being a "Good Samaritan" and helping Martha through her trials. I also got complimentary beverages the whole way home and the hot knight-ess in shining armor flirted with me a little.
The moral of the story is two fold: ALWAYS sit in the isle and, and this is a big AND, just because you just had the worst five months of your life teaching in bush Alaska doesn't give you the right to get heinously drunk on cheap CabSav at a Chile's, mow down some cheese fries, and barf all over creation... its hard for all of us and that little delay could've cost us Christmas, get your act together okay?
I've been waiting a long time till I had enough time to properly record this very real and very frightening event from December 22nd of 2008.
I'm sorry it was so long and so disgusting but this had to be given proper justice.