Volume 47, Issue 10 - October 2012


And I Had to Wonder …
by Lyle R. Hill

Winter storms across the West and Midwest had caused hundreds of flight cancellations and the situation at BWI International Airport on this particular Friday evening was somber, bordering on depressing. Most travelers had already given up and headed to the local hotels but I wasn’t ready to abandon hope just yet.

The weary agent working the United counter had told me there was still a chance, however slim it might be, that I could get back to Chicago by way of Cleveland on what would be the last flight out. But I had also been warned that while I might make Cleveland, I may not get any farther.

And I had to wonder … was I better off trying to get halfway home or calling it quits and trying to get a meal and some rest?

I heard his voice long before I actually saw him. His language was coarse as he screamed into his cell phone. “Someone is going to pay for this,” he yelled. “United Airlines has no idea who they’re dealing with.”

And I had to wonder … was this guy simply having a really bad day, or had he been genetically programmed at birth to be obnoxious?

The annoying man, who was now standing directly behind me in line, continued on with his cell phone conversation, and it didn’t take long to learn that he was a personal injury attorney who was on his way to Chicago for a very important meeting the next morning. He was also quite clear in stating that “if United knows what’s good for them, they’ll get me to Chicago tonight, or else.”

And I had to wonder … or else what? Would he file a suit against them because the weather prevented the airline from taking him to where he wanted to be? Would he name Mother Nature as a co-defendant?

With the exception of the loud and obnoxious lawyer, it was unusually quiet in the terminal, but, because there was only one agent, the line moved slowly. After a prolonged period of inactivity, the obnoxious one tapped me on the shoulder and as I turned to see what he wanted, he barked at me. “No cutting in line, pal. You gotta wait your turn just like the rest of us.”

And I had to wonder … does he really think I cut in line ahead of him, or had he been so engrossed in his cell phone conversation that he didn’t notice anyone around him?

Before I could answer, the gentleman in front of me, with whom I had made small talk when I first got in line, informed Mr. Obnoxious that I had not cut in line but had indeed been there for some time before he had arrived. Mr. “O” grunted and mumbled something about the two of us being in a line-cutting scheme together. The line moved along and ultimately, the soft-spoken ticket agent announced that we were going to board and head to Cleveland.

And I had to wonder … will the night be spent in a rented bed in Ohio, or at home in my own?

Because the plane was a small commuter type, the boarding process didn’t take long at all. We pushed back as soon as everyone was in their assigned seats but to my complete chagrin, I now found myself seated next to the obnoxious one. I had the window seat. He had the aisle. And immediately, there were two things that struck me about him. First, he was sorely underdressed for a trip to Chicago in the winter. He had on a short-sleeved shirt with lightweight linen trousers. His shoes were low-cut tan loafers and he was wearing no socks. Secondly, he had an offensive odor about him.

And I had to wonder … has this guy never experienced a Chicago winter before? And did they not have hot water and soap wherever he was before coming to the airport?

Just a few minutes after being seated, my mouthy back-of-the-plane flying partner removed his shoes and the odor intensified immediately. As the flight began, so did his complaints. The pretzels were stale, the drinks were bad, and the service was too slow. Nothing seemed to please him. When a lady across the aisle glanced at him as he was mouthing off to an attendant he snarled and told her “to mind her own business.” As he finished his third drink, which he claimed was as watered down as the first, he unbuckled his seatbelt and headed to the washroom … in his bare feet!

And I had to wonder … what kind of a person walks around an airplane in his bare feet?

The flight landed in Cleveland where we picked up a few more passengers and to my pleasant surprise, we were released to take off for Chicago. Mr. Obnoxious was even more disagreeable on the second phase of the trip. Fortunately, however, he made several barefoot trips to the washroom during the second leg which gave me some complaint-free and odor free moments. Unfortunately, though, he always came back.

And I had to wonder … how do his coworkers stand him? How does he stand himself?

Finally, mercifully, the plane landed and we were allowed to get off. But Mr. Obnoxious seemed to have lost one of his shoes during the flight and started complaining to the flight attendants. They assumed that it had slid forward during landing and assured him he would find it once everyone was out of the way. As I left the plane, I saw him crawling around the floor looking for the missing footwear while muttering something about not having an extra pair in his luggage.

And I had to wonder … does this airport have a shoe store? Open at this hour of the night?

I found my car, headed for home and pulled into my garage about 40 minutes after leaving the airport. I got out of the car, opened my briefcase, removed one low-cut tan loafer from inside it, opened the garbage can and deposited the smelly shoe therein.

And I had to wonder … would it be better to let my briefcase air out overnight in the garage, or should I put it on the back porch?

Lyle R. Hill is the managing director of Keytech North America, a company providing research and technical services for the glass and metal industry. Hill has more than 40 years experience in the glass and metal industry and can be reached at lhill@glass.com. You can read his blog on Wednesdays at lyleblog.usglassmag.com.

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