“Are you interested in changing your flight from a 3 hour layover in Dallas to a Westjet direct flight, arriving in San Jose del Cabo four hours earlier?” said the American Airlines check-in clerk.
“Um, yes, please!” I said.
As my long-time travel friend, Heather, and I settled into our Westjet seats, my thoughts drifted over the past year.
In May 2012, Heather and I bought tickets to El Salvador for a two-week biking/camping trip departing January 29, 2013. My rottweiler, Monty, was 10 years old, and it was going to be my final trip in order to share every minute of his senior years together.
On November 27, 2012, Monty was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and I cancelled the trip. I temporarily closed my business while I cared for and hung out 24/7 with Monty until he passed away January 30, 2013. (In Celebration of Monty video)
February was a mourning blur which continued into March. And April. We had to use our American Airlines credit before May 1, and after contemplating a weekend in San Francisco or Portland, Heather called one day, “hey, did you know American Airlines flies to San Jose del Cabo?”
That's the one.
I was jostled back to the present as the lady across the aisle stood up. I noticed her gold thumbnail-sized square pendant with an embossed dog.
“I like your necklace,” I said, “have you got a dog?”
“Yes, he’s waiting for us at home,” she said.
We talked about our dogs – her Labrador, my rottweiler, hers rambunctious, mine recently gone – as she sat on her armrest. After a few minutes, she stood up to walk towards the bathroom line-up.
“Nice chatting with you,” I said. “Oh, and what is your dog’s name?”
My right hand slapped across my mouth as I looked left at Heather.
“Whaaaaaat?” said Heather.
“Oh,” I inhaled as I brought my snack napkin up to my lower eye lids. The woman had already walked away.
“Whoa-whoa-whoa,” said Heather.
Stuff like that happens to me a lot -- it’s new to Heather – but that was a good one, even for me.
Monty's so right here.
We had a soul-restoring week in San Jose. We read. We tanned. We sipped iced sangrias. We power-walked the beach for two hours every morning. We chatted with the couple who still called each other “baby cakes” after twenty years of marriage. And the young woman with a new memorial tattoo – a red maple tree growing across her right upper thigh – where her dog is buried at home.
Mostly, we laughed. Wrinkle-causing belly laughs. With each other. With hotel staff. With Mexican travellers. And with surfer JD and his 70-something dad and travel buddy, Keith.
And welcomed the morning sun on our top-floor, garden-view balcony -- upgraded from a ground-floor back room.
A week later, we were waiting at the airport for our flight home. The Boston Marathon bombing that morning had caused no-fly zones and massive re-routing. Young kids sat on suitcases. Women ducked out for bathroom breaks. Men twisted and double-checked their watches.
“Let’s see, well, I can reroute you but it would be a tight 2-hour transfer in LAX,” said the American Airlines check-in clerk.
“Okay, we’ll take it,” I said.
“Are we going to have time?” asked Heather.
“We'll be good, it only means that we weren’t supposed to be in Dallas and something really cool is going to happen at LAX,” I said.
The 90-minute flight from San Jose del Cabo to Los Angeles was relaxing except for the occasional how-are-we-going-to-claim-our-bags-and-get-from-Terminal-5-to-Terminal-2-in-under-two-hours thoughts that would creep up from each of us.
Once the plane landed, we race-walked around people and up the first ramp.
“Vancouver connections? Vancouver connections?” an elderly Asian man called out.
“Uh, yeah, we’re flying to Vancouver?” I said.
“Are you Heather and Michelle?” he asked.
“Um, yeah?” said Heather.
“Here, take these and make sure you have them displayed at all times, you’ll be guided through,” he said, “it’s 4:25 now, boarding starts at 5:45.”
Hundreds of cartoon question marks popped up around our heads as we stared at our orange fluorescent “Express Connections” passes. "Thank youuuu!"
Up two ramps. Down three flights of stairs. Along a corridor -- Strollers! Cleaning ladies! Dudes with headphones! As we approached the customs area we were waved over by a woman – who ARE these people? – who lifted up the retractable belt from a post and walked us to third in line. We cleared in four minutes. We grabbed our first-off-the-plane bags from carousel #3 just as our elderly Asian guide appeared.
“This way, this way,” he said and bypassed a line longer than a city block, to a line reserved for flight crew.
“Who is that guy and how did he get here so fast,” said Heather, “he was three floors up.”
“Ha, no idea, just say thank you!” I said as our customs cards were collected and we burst out into LA sunshine.
“Which way to Terminal twoooo?” I asked a crowd.
“That way!” said somebody.
Off a curb, up a curb — watch out for taxis! Luggage carts! A drunk woman in stilettos!
In through a mirrored glass door – left or right? left! – up two escalators, emptied pockets, stripped off jackets and runners. Phew! A silent metal detector!
We ran down the last corridor with shoelaces flapping. Toddlers! Passenger transport carts! Groups of teenaged girls!
“There it is! Flight 557 Vancouver! ” I said. “Time?”
“5:20!” said Heather, “Right here, right here, we got time!”
We ducked into a restaurant and -- no time for dinner -- ordered two Samuel Adams lagers as per our long-standing tradition.
“Cheers to winning the Amazing Race,” said Heather.
“Cheers, and to Monty, you rock!” I said.
Soon, seats 30D and 30E shook with laughter as we relayed the events. We could search for rational explanations – overbooked planes got you bumped up, lots of dogs are named Monty, room upgrades happen all the time, the LAX guides perhaps a frequent flyer club benefit of which we were mistakenly given temporary membership.
But believing it's Monty makes me glow with an inner secret so fun that strangers stop and ask me, "and what are you smiling at?"
A flight attendant walked down the aisle and stopped at our row.
“And, you are, Heather and Michelle?” she asked as she looked from per papers to the seat numbers above us.
“Uh, yup,” I said.
“You are both listed here for a complimentary meal and glass of wine,” she said. “So, what would you like?”
Copyright © 2013 Michelle Sevigny. www.michellesevigny.com. Reprint permission granted with full copyright intact.. Photo by Michelle Sevigny