The trip to the U.K. was amazing and I have so much to share that I'm going to go backwards. Today I'm focusing only on the flight home.
It started with a flight from Manchester to Philadelphia. I had a window seat next to Joyce, an elderly British lady on her way to America for the first time. She was heading to Miami to take a Caribbean cruise and was nervous about the change in Philly. I talked her through the procedures and helped her fill out her Immigration card. I noticed her birth year as 1937 and calculated that she was 73 years old. Wow! That's some pluck, huh? Going on a cruise, by yourself, leaving from a country you've never visited. Have fun, Joyce!
At the Philly airport I managed to fall down collecting my baggage at Customs, in front of about a hundred people and the security cameras. I jumped up and said "I'm OK!" as though anyone cared, and then slunk off with my red face and heavy bags. *sigh*
A pretzel dog helped ease the pain.
And finally it was time to board the Denver flight.
I used to be somebody. I've been a United Premier or Premier Executive member for four years, meaning I get to sit up front, upgrade myself, never pay for bags, board first, use the short security line . . . basically a cushy life in the air.
But that was then, and this is now. I didn't go to Europe in 2009. At all. I barely went anywhere in 2009, choosing to stay home and focus on the pop-up dies. Consequently, at the end of January 2010, I no longer had any status. None. I have to sit in the back of the plane with the dirty people. (Heh)
So there I was, settled into seat 26F (one row away from the bathroom) and waiting to see if I'd have two other people crammed into the row. As luck would have it, nobody came, and I was brightening at the idea of having the whole row to stretch out in when I looked up and saw an old guy hobbling toward me, using a cane. He had gray hair and neat gray goatee. He managed to struggle into the aisle seat, storing the cane in the seat between us. I heard him say something to the Flight Attendant in a thick country accent and so, by way of conversation, since we would be spending 4 hours together, I said "You don't sound like you're from Denver?" and the ice was broken.
OLD GUY: North Carolina, actually. I'm heading out to visit my daughter in Denver.
OG's daughter is a branch manager at a bank, by the way. I was about to ask if he had grandchildren when he said:
OLD GUY: Do you have kids?
ME: Yes, I have 11-year-old twins.
OG: I have four more kids at home - three girls, ages 5, 4 and 3, and then a little boy.
Now here my mind started to wander, as I tried to figure out how this guy had so many little kids. Thoughts of Tony Randall and a much-younger wife sprung to mind, but I awakened from my musings just in time to hear him say:
OG: We're just not the type to give foster kids back after a year. We've got to adopt them.
Ah! Now it makes sense. They're foster parents, taking in children and giving them a better life. What a nice thing. Boy, they must tire the old guy out, all those little kids. Well, it goes to show that you really can be young at heart! Well done, OG, well done!
OG: I used to work in construction after I got out of the military. But then I hurt my back and couldn't do that anymore. The VA said they'd send me back to school so now I'm a full time college student.
ME: Wow! That's impressive. What are you studying?
OG: Social work.
ME: Of course! That's a great fit, with your history with foster parenting.
And here my mind started to wander again. What an inspiration this old guy is! How does he manage it all? Wife, four young kids, bad back, visiting grown daughter in Colorado . . . still need to ask him about those grandkids . . . and now going back to college . . . truly amazing . . .
OG: Yep. But I'll tell you . . . going back to college at age 43 isn't easy!
BZZZRRRRRRPPPPPT! HOLD ON A SECOND!
What did he just say? Did he just say 43?! That's ME! I'm only four years younger than him! (Three and change if you're being technical)
And suddenly it was cold in the plane. Some breath was visible from OG's mouth and Haley Joel Osment popped into my head and whispered; "I see old people. They don't know they're old. They only see what they want to see!"
My mind flashed to OG's words: "I have four kids under the age of 5" "I'm a veteran of Desert Storm" "I had a real thing for Duran Duran" (OK, so he didn't say that last part, but he could have!)
And then I was imagining Joyce's birth year on the Immigration form. Floating up in front of me: 1937. Fluffy white hair and orthopedic socks. What if those numbers were reversed? What if she really wrote "1973" and is actually three years younger than me?! Oh the horror!
I see old people.
Flash to the liquor store last month. Paying by credit card. The man asks for my ID. I smile and say "sure!" and hand it to him, feeling very flattered. He compares the signatures and hands it back to me. Oh.
They don't know they're old.
Flash to my Snuggie. Me in my Snuggie. Good gracious . . . I have a Snuggie!!!!!
They only see what they want to see.
Flash to the mirror. Look at those deep creases in my forehead. I could hide a snack in there. Need my eye cream. Where's my eye cream? When did I start using eye cream?
(RKQOTD during American Idol last night EMMA: I don't like that Lilly girl. ME: Really? Why not? She's from Denver. Go Colorado! EMMA: She's creepy. ME: What? How can you say that? She has an indie look. White-blonde hair, funky earrings. She's an artist. EMMA: Odd. Crazy. Choose your word.)