Planes, Pinheads, and People Watching

At 3:15 am, I hear the annoying harp song on my phone, which might as well be screaming, “Get up! Get up! Get up!” I tap the snooze button. Seven minutes later, the song chimes again. I swipe the cover to quiet the annoying ding ding ding and stumble into my bathroom.

An hour later, I’m driving South on the Dallas North Tollway listening to a fascinating discussion about paranormal activity.

I arrive at the airport, pass through the very slow moving security line, and head straight for the Starbucks line which closely resembles the line I waited in for New Kids on the Block tickets when I was twelve…but coffee and NKOTB are totally worth my time. The rich familiar scent keeps me focused on my goal, and though the line is long, I will persevere.

As I wait, I scan the room, observing the other travelers. I watch the business men and women in their pressed suits, hurriedly strolling through their smart phones. I recognize the families with young children obviously on vacation. When I see a dad and his two daughters, both with ratty uncombed hair and mismatched clothes, I wonder if it’s a long distance joint custody situation and if he has to say goodbye to them. My heart tugs a little when I imagine that goodbye and then replace those little girls’ faces with my own children’s. I offer him a small smile and a cock of the head. I wordlessly say, “I understand. Today will suck.” I could be wrong. They could be going to Disney World, but my melancholy mood says otherwise.

I think about last month when my dear friend lost her son in a car accident. His father flew out on the red eye, just as I’m doing, and I wonder how horribly long that morning was for him. I wonder what the other passengers must have felt as they sat near a man who had just received the worst news of his life.

I see the dad and his daughters again and share another smile. “Cherish them,” my smile says.

I check my watch every so often shocked at how quickly the time passes, and internally growl that  I still am not enjoying my delicious Grande Cinnamon Dulce Latte. I’m at the airport, so calories don’t count.  (My trip. My rules.) I watch as they start boarding my flight. What once was a very crowded terminal  now resembles more of a ghost town. I’m next in line. I look at my watch one more time, fifteen minutes to takeoff. There is no way that I can order, sign my credit card slip, get my coffee, and still make my flight, and I must make this flight. I sigh with defeat, duck out of the line, and run to catch my plane. Last one on, but I make it…sans coffee.

I settle into my window seat, and right on schedule, at 6:00 am, the wheels pull up, and the plane begins its ascension into the sky. I watch the pillow soft clouds build below me and take out my book to distract me for the next hour of my flight. The flight attendant brings me a coffee. I sip it, and before long, I hardly notice its bitterness.

An hour later, the flight lands. I have a front row seat, so I’m first off the plane. I dash through the airport in search of a Starbucks or anything at this point that serves caffeine.  I find a little cafe and stand behind a man who immediately annoys me. I can blame my irritation on my caffeine withdrawal, but no. This guy. He wears his sunglasses inside, walks with a hipster stagger, and looks me up and down. He might be attractive if he would take off his sunglasses and stop trying so hard.  I just glare at him. He nods, give me a crooked grin and turns around to order his somethingstupidandannoying iced coffee. Then he says to the barista as he signs his credit card slip, (and I swear to God this is true) “I wrote a little somethin-somethin in there for you, girl.” I’m pretty sure he hears my eyes roll because he turns around and looks at me again. I watch him for a minute trying to make eye contact from behind his shades. My mind goes somewhere between a good toe-punch and a hot coffee bath, which makes me smile. I curse my tell all face because when I smile, he takes it as an invitation for conversation. “You flyin’ in or out?” He asks.

“In,” I say expressionless.

I order my coffee which forces me to stand next to him.

“You don’t have any luggage. Day trip?”

“Yes,” I say expressionless. Of course the coffee pot decides now to be empty.

We stand there for a minute. Apparently he dares to disturb the sound of silence.

“Whatchoo in town for, girl?”

I shake my head. I’ll be damned if I tell this asshat why I’m travelling.

“Your coffee, ma’am.” The sweet timid barista saves the day.

I grab my coffee and practically sprint away from the cafe toward the exit.

But why am I travelling?

Because The Cycle has begun again, and this time it’s worse than ever. My mother sits in a psychiatric hospital where she isn’t getting better, and her doctors have called a family meeting to discuss her case and told my dad that they need as many of her children there as possible.




66 thoughts on “Planes, Pinheads, and People Watching

  1. Awww. I didn’t expect that ending. I am sorry about the news about your mom, but I thoroughly enjoyed the tale of the trip. That guy also seems like the type that would have too much cologne on but you didn’t mention that. 😉


    • You know, I’m super sensitive to cologne, and I didn’t smell a thing. He must have forgotten to bathe in it before leaving for the airport. It was pretty early. Too bad he didn’t forget his personality and those ridiculous sunglasses.


  2. I wish I could write like you. I think like you I just cant get that into words. Sorry about your Mom. I knew the ending already so reading that was like a Quentin Tarentino story for me. Hearts


  3. I ‘like’d this. But I don’t.

    I love your storytelling and especially the douchebag with his “somethingstupidandannoying iced coffee”, and the way you’ve created a wonderful, entertaining post out of even this trip. But I vehemently, extremely, verymuch HATE the reason you had to make the trip.




      • Wow, thanks! I thought I was already following you then I saw this linked on FB. Glad I fixed that technical glitch.

        I know the management game, just make sure you are taking care of yourself as best as you can through all of this.


  4. OH Mandi. EEEK. I’m so sorry. I hope peace is eventually on it’s way to your family after this groin punch of a trip. No matter WHAT you have to make a decision on, it’s not going to be easy, or you could have made it over the phone. I have had that phone call. My sisters & I headed down on an 8-hour drive in the car starting at 10:00p.m. to “make some decisions” about our father. Crotch-Punch. I hope your siblings are some comfort to you, I’m sure you will be to them. I have no words of wisdom, as usual 🙂 except that you have built a great community in the computal world who is here for support, so there’s that. PEACE e-hugs and e-booze to you!


  5. I’m going to comment on the great writing rather than the unhappy circumstance. I especially enjoyed the longest paragraph, which contained the true-to-life description of the annoying guy. Also, my phone has the infuriating harp music too! I keep meaning to change it, but they have yet to come up with an alarm that isn’t either ineffective or psychotic-break causing.


  6. Wow. You took me on your journey with every detail written so beautifully- I was right there with you! I hate the reason for your trip. My heart just breaks for you and this situation you are in with your mother. I will go click on that link to learn more. SO sorry…


  7. NKOTB, my sister loved them, yes, the lines and screaming girls where crazy! And now the “mature” women still scream for them! 😱

    Hopefully this link shows up!!

    I love your creative story telling abilities, it’s as if I can truly see the movie playing in my head!! 😊!

    I wish you were going home under different circumstances! Will be thinking of you, and your family.

    NIBSIH. 💗


    • Hey, NIBSIH, long time no see. Glad to see you’re still around. I saw the link. Jordan wasn’t my favorite, but my BFF melted every time she heard that song in his falsetto. Love those guys. I liked Donnie…a lot. Especially when he rapped.


  8. There are so many things to say here. First, I read your post about your Mom, The Cycle, a while ago. I “Liked” but didn’t comment. I am so mad at myself for not commenting because it is one of those that has stuck with me. I’ve thought about it often and was so moved by your writing. I should have told you then. I am so deeply sorry that you are having to go through this again right now. I will be actively sending thoughts your way of peace and strength and comfort. I wish there was more I could do.

    As for your story and your writing, I love how you tell a story! I felt like I was with you waiting in line at the Starbucks. I love to people watch and do a lot of speculating about their circumstances and their stories. And your friend’s husband, sitting in the airport, after learning that he’d lost his son… that takes my breath away. I can’t even imagine the torture that must have been. And I love that you look at these people passing you by and want to offer an encouraging smile. Oh, I make up my own rules about food and calories. Alcohol definitely doesn’t count towards calories. It helps us relax and that’s important, right? And cheese doesn’t count either, because we all need more calcium. Yay! More cheese and wine, please!

    But, seriously, you are so brave to share this part of your story with the rest of us. I know it must be a scary thing to do. And you do it beautifully.


    • Thank you so much, Gretchen. Don’t be mad about not commenting. I often read posts and intend to go back and comment only to forget 5 minutes later.

      I love to tell stories. I enjoy giving the little details that some people might notice, so it’s refreshing to hear that it comes out in my writing. As far as wine, it’s healthy for my heart, so the calories in it don’t count, and cheese is calcium, and we’re clearly just trying to beat that wicked beast: osteoporosis, so what if it’s delicious, too.


  9. oh shit. I’m so sorry. I knew you took a quick trip there, but hoped it was just to check in on things. (This is an amazing post, btw). I can’t beat Lizzi’s poem, or Jennie’s song….but my heart is with you, my friend. I’m here always if you need an ear, or shoulder, or wine……or a henna tattoo…..or more wine……*hugs with side boob*


  10. I. Love. You. I waited that day for your call or text (so did my mom) to learn the details of the meeting. I’m glad it wasn’t horrible. Not awesome, but not horrible. You are a dear friend, the sister I got to choose, and I am so grateful that your mom was well just a month ago to be there when we all needed her strength more than we ever thought we would. I melted when she hugged me. She’ll pull through- again- because she’s “stubborn as a mule” a west Texas mule.


    • And now I’m wondering if I remembered to text you. I think I did. It was a whirlwind day. I love you back. She did hold strong for us that weekend. Thank God for that. I don’t know what we would do without having two awesome moms. We’re a lucky lot.


      • You’re welcome! I did a little barista work when I worked for convenience stores, so I have a vague idea. It always puzzled me, the pretense that can surround Italian coffee. When I was young, fancy coffee usually meant International Foods.

        (Myself, I don’t drink coffee at all, partly on account of religious dietary law, and partly… I have a bad sensitivity to caffeine. Giving up Mountain Spew was hard.)


  11. I’m so impressed and thrilled that your coffee choice is a Grande Cinnamon Dulce Latte.


    Sprinkling you with all the cinnamon sweetness to counteract the bitterness that life can bring.


  12. Mandi, I’m so sorry that life has served you yet another helping of this crap casserole. I don’t know what it is, but it seems everyone I know is dealing with the cruel food pusher that is life. I was just telling a friend that I was beginning to think that “hell” is merely an eternity living the life we currently have. However, I am also incredibly hormonal – so I’m having a bit of trouble looking on the bright side just now.

    Know that I’m thinking of you and your family!


    • Oh, Jana. You’re always such a breath of fresh air. I’m sorry you’re feeling hormonal. THAT is no fun at all. I’m offering you a glass half full of sunshine today. I hope it’s better than yesterday for you. I’ve missed you…I need to come by and catch up. I’m heading there this week.


  13. I hit “like.”
    Not for the circumstance. For your writing, which is evocative and perfect.
    This kind of writing: “My mind goes somewhere between a good toe-punch and a hot coffee bath, which makes me smile.”
    Because, it’s such beautiful sentence. Because I don’t quite know what it means, but several different interpretations all work.
    I’m really proud to call you Sisterwife. For your talent, of course. But also for your fortitude, which is inspirational.


    • Samara, a toe punch is when you kick a guy in the balls. A hot coffee bath, well I made that up. I just saw myself tossing my hot coffee on him for being such a tremendous douchecanoe.

      I’m proud to be a Sisterwife, and so proud to call you one. I absolutely adore you and your writing and your red head, and this comment!


  14. I’m sorry for the circumstances that allowed you to write this, but I’m not sorry you wrote it. I would have guessed that writing is cathartic for you, and then I read your comment and see that it is. I’m thinking about you, Mandi.


  15. We are so deeply sorry for the reason that you had to be there, Mandi! I’ve done that cycle three times with three of the closest people in my life. Huh, I just realized Phoenix was there for each one. Anyone, it’s so very difficult but there was a depth of inner growth within myself that would have never occurred otherwise. To the part about Harry Hipsters…I literally laughed out loud at the coffee pot being empty. That second in time when you want the quickest exit and a total roadblock is put up. We send you so much loves and hugs always from us. You mean the world to us…


    • Thanks, Mike. Wasn’t a sick twist of fate that kept me in that little cafe longer than necessary? And it was 7:00 am, how was the pot empty? I wonder if the barista was just playing a trick on me so that I would have to deal with Douchy McDick instead of her.


  16. I love the way you write, Mandi. You can tell that you wrote this to help yourself through something. I find when I’m most vulnerable, it is the time my mind and my eyes are more open and I see that here. You were writing this post in your head, gathering information for it, and probably didn’t even know it. Because you knew you would need to write about this trip. I’m so sorry for all that is on your head and heart but you do a marvelous job of putting it down here. I hope it brought you a tiny bit of peace. Much love to you, my sweet friend. I will keep you and your family in my prayers.


    • Well, I do have to admit that as soon as I saw that Dbag in line, my mind said, “you’re going on my blog.” He was begging for me to write about him. He just fed me too much. I really wasn’t planning to write about it until I saw him though.


  17. Is DFW still a giant construction site? It always seemed to be whenever I was there in my last life. Sorry to hear about momma bear. I like airports, especially airport bars, except for the part where everyone wants to talk to me.


    • DFW is a nightmare, Don, but it’s slowly coming together. Luckily, I took a quick flight out of Love that day, so it was easy in easy out. People only want to talk to you because of your striking good looks and your contagious charm. It’s a curse.


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