Bicycling in Kilkenny

Bicycling in Kilkenny

Flying for Free: Part VII

One of the philosophies of the space-a traveler is to make the most of every time and place they are in. There is no need to waste the mone...

Friday, July 21, 2017

Flying for Free: Part IV

The air in and around a military air terminal has its own feel to it. It’s like this mini-society where people often behave quite differently than they would out in the real world. For one, people are generally a lot less put together. Veteran space-a flyers know better than to try to look beautiful aboard a military aircraft, much less arrive to another terminal feeling clean and looking great. There is just no point in trying. That’s why my typical dress for any space-a flight is a pair of old and comfy blue jeans, a bandanna keeping my messy hair back and out of my face, and one of my husband’s t-shirts; and while my preferred style of footwear would be something in the line of sandals or flip flops, I actually wear support stockings and sneakers. I wear the support stockings to prevent the change in altitude from causing my 44-year-old ankles to swell up like watermelons, and the sneakers to comply with the military’s no open toed or high heeled footwear guidelines.

The differences related to hanging out at a military air terminal as opposed to places associated with our everyday lives are not just about appearances. Behaviors often veer from the norm quite a bit as well. For example, people tend to trust one another more than they would on the outside. It’s not uncommon to share cabs or get rides from other space-a hopefuls, and I’ve even been known to let a stranger look after my family’s bags a time or two. I know that may seem like a crazy thing to do, but when it’s 98+ degrees outside with 100% humidity, we are not about to drag our bags across the base just to get a halfway decent bite to eat, and we don’t mind occasionally trusting someone who is struggling with the same goal as we are. We are all trying to get somewhere, and we all understand how hard and difficult that journey can be.

But I guess the most prominent difference in behavior stems from the competition. Everyone waiting for a flight is competing for a seat on the plane, and the combination of more hopeful passengers to fewer seats and the typical one-upmanship attitude often found in military and their dependents can sometimes lead to some attitudes that aren’t always the kindest in nature. People try to be cool about it, but they can’t help but be obvious, and I must admit, I have been guilty of it as well.For example, as soon as I know how many seats are available, I start counting heads. First, I try to decipher how many people are in the bathrooms before adding that number to those sitting in the main terminal and then every nook and cranny of the USO and family/nursery/play rooms.

It wasn’t long before we had heard the news about seats on that afternoon’s flight to Spangdahlem, Germany. A fellow passenger was very quick to let us know that the number of seatsd been determined and that there would only be 19 available. “At Cat 6, that really puts you at a disadvantage,” she confidently stated, clearly  proud of her status as a Cat 3.  

Still, I thought at 19, maybe we would have a chance. John peered at my hopeful, smiling face through the small slits between the puffiness that took over his eyes. “I’m tired,” he said, “I can’t go any further.”

I encouraged him to press on, “But if we get to Germany, we can be in Spain by Wednesday night.” His silent response told me we still might have a chance, and he had plenty of time to consider it. It was only 6:30am, and that plane wasn’t scheduled to leave until after 4:30pm.

That was a long time to wait, and I was getting to the point where I couldn't sit around anymore. I knew I needed some coffee, so I asked the very friendly and helpful, Airman Welsh where I could score my family some breakfast. I had been watching him happily answer other weary travelers’ questions,so I knew that he would be more than willing to answer mine.

He pulled out a map of the base and highlighted my course as he explained to me the different offerings we could obtain at the base’s chow hall, and when he said I could get a made-to-order omelette for just $3, I was ready to hit the road. I thanked him for his advice and asked Darren to accompany me on my quest for coffee and food.

At first, Darren wanted to go out into the July heat of Dover, Delaware, with his flying clothes on, but John and  I insisted he change out of his warm sweats into something much cooler. “You don’t understand, Darren. This heat is different from the west coast. It’s muggy and gross. You do not want to wear sweats,” I told him as I remembered my younger summers spent in southeastern Virginia doing anything and everything I could to get cool.

We finally convinced him to change, and we were on our way through the blaring sun to the chow hall just on the other side of the main gate. After we passed a mini mart with a Subway and a Tim Horton’s, we continued following the map’s highlighted road until all we could see behind the mini mart was the base chapel and the chapel’s office across the street. We checked the map against our surroundings several times but could never figure out where the chow hall actually was. We gave in and went to Tim Horton’s. At least I knew we could get coffee there.

We made it back to the terminal to find John nearly asleep but still happy to see the hot coffee and warm food. I doled out the food and drinks while carefully saving a meal for Mikey who was still sleeping on a tiny, toddler sized couch in the family room. I still wasn’t sure how long we’d be going before getting sleep again, so interrupting his sleep would probably not be a good idea. Instead, I decided to broach the subject of taking that afternoon’s flight again, but John wasn’t having it. “We need sleep,” he said, “I just can’t do it.”

But I couldn’t understand his logic. In my mind, we needed to jump on the opportunity while it was still there, no matter how difficult that might be. I continued pleading with him as we ate our breakfast.

I was about halfway through my cream cheese everything bagel and slightly close to convincing John to see things my way when our friendly travel companion approached us with another seat allocation update. “They have cut the seats down to 7 now because there are several military dog handlers catching a ride with us. They are bringing their dogs, too. No offense, but our family of four will definitely be called before you, and I think there is another family of four with a higher priority, so you with a Cat 6; it’s just not going to happen for you.”

John and I looked at each other while simultaneously saying, “Well I guess that answers our question!”

I immediately made car reservations and plans to find a hotel room to get some rest before deciding exactly what our next move after that would be.

1 comment:

  1. I wonder if those big military planes could fit more of you people if they tied all that luggage up on top of the plane instead of putting it all inside! Lovely piece-keep your faith up!