Now calling all Evil Squirrel’s Nest readers! This week’s installment of my Millionaire Journey is now boarding at Gate 13! Please be sure you have read last week’s installment before proceeding through the security checkpoint. Readers who have caught up with every episode in the series so far will be allowed to preboard at this time. Those who have not will have to ride in the cargo bay while they catch up and will be served an in-flight meal of Twindaddy’s chileh without restroom privileges.
Wednesday January 17, 2001. It had been three months since I took a chance at calling the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire hotline to attempt to get an audition spot. Two months since I sweated out a grueling and painful audition for the remote chance to be chosen as a contestant. And one whole month after I had received the good news that I was indeed ready for prime time. The morning had finally come for me to board that flight and head off halfway across the country to the Big City for my chance to become filthy rich on a game show.
My Dad was going to travel along with me as my companion. It was either going to be him or my Mom, and the deciding factor was my Dad was utterly useless as a Phone a Friend, so he may as well go along to cheer me on and unwittingly sabotage the competition (Remember this! I will come back to it in a future post). I’d never flown on a plane in my life, and my Dad hadn’t been in the air in almost three decades… so it was going to be a fun experience for both of us…. even before the flight got slightly delayed for “mechanical issues” with one of the doors…
Of course, this news totally freaked out my Mom… who was already bawling like a baby since any silly little thing can make her cry (Hi Mom! I know you’re reading this). I really don’t know how we can be related… my neighborhood could be devastated by an atomic bomb, and I’d probably just look out the window and grumble about the carnage before going back to bed and finishing my nap. She’s probably crying right now while reading this post because it reminds her of a time in her life when she was crying.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard TWA Flight 402, scheduled to depart Lambert International Airport in St. Louis at 10:07 AM. Me and Dad left the blubbering mess behind at the gate, and strolled aboard with all the luggage we needed for two nights in New York City… just a pair of carry on bags. You gotta give it up for us guys, we know how to travel light. Since we had nothing to check, there was absolutely no risk of my bags making a detour to Bumfuck Egypt to have its contents sold at midnight on the oasis in some traveling camel show.
I was advised by people who had flown before that it might be wise to chew on some gum while in the air to help compensate for some of the changes in air pressure and help keep my tender eardrums from blowing the sides of my head out. I wouldn’t want to make the show’s makeup artist work any harder than they were going to have to already. Lacking gum, I decided to instead partake in one of my nastier habits I picked up somewhere along the line in my life…. I chewed on one of these:
I had gotten a soda from the concession stand at the airport, so I folded up the straw into 2 inch long segments and proceeded to treat it like a piece of Trident. I have no idea how I had started doing this sometime during the 90’s, but I am proud to say that I broke the straw chewing habit cold turkey after I thought it might be related to the stomach problems I was having a few years ago (which turned out to just be a stupid kidney stone). I haven’t chewed on a straw since August 2008, and the still-recovering inside of my mouth has thanked me ever since.
I had been perusing my Almanac in the time I was waiting for the plane to board, and continued to brush up on its interesting facts when I finally got in my seat. I pulled down the tray table and set the book on it… until it got flipped up in my face by the stewardess as she rushed down the aisle to ensure we were all following pre-flight instructions I had been ignoring. Yeah, rookie mistake… no tray tables while taking off. What’s the worst they could do to me, anyway?
Since this was my first flight ever, my Dad was kind enough to grab the window seat in our row… then proceed to tell me about all the neat stuff he could see out of it as we flew the 900 miles to New York. All I could do from the middle seat was take his word for it…
Oh boy, it’s time for the snack cart to come through. I’d heard all of the wonderful things about airline food before, and knew my picky ass wasn’t going to be eating any of it anyway. But that didn’t stop our friendly tray slamming
stewardesses flight attendants from handing me and Dad one of TWA’s finest little hunks of club sandwiches. I wasn’t about to touch mine, and Dad said it was nasty and hard as a rock. To this day, I can still draw a laugh out of my Dad when I bring up those nasty ass weapons of mass destruction Trans World Airlines tried to pass off as edible sandwiches. Had this not been pre-9/11, that “food” would have never been allowed on the plane by the TSA… and if one got loose, just pray it doesn’t take out a window. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that TWA went out of business just ten months later.
After about three hours of imagining pretty views, dodging expired food, and cleaning out my drawers after each time we hit turbulence, we finally began to descend as we reached our destination. The plane finally got low enough to where even I could see the ground out the window. It was so pretty… the dirty brown landscape dotted by rusting industrial buildings and obscured by the thick smoke and smog…. Ahhhh! It reminded me so much of my hometown!
Welcome to beautiful downtown Newark, New Jersey!
TWA flight 402 has just touched down at Newark International Airport safely and soundly!
Wait, what happened to New York City, you say? Well, the Big Apple is just a hop, skip, and a tunnel or two away. Oh, and one limo ride from hell… but I’ll give you another week to prepare yourself for that! Until we meet again next Friday….