One Airport of Many
The first few days in the San Francisco International Airport we actually believed we would someday catch a flight. We did not get very comfortable. We went outside a lot to smoke, always rushing back in halfway through our cigarette. We acted like our names would be called at any hour even though no one knew our names and the only flight that we could catch was once a day at 7:30 am.
On Sunday there was no 7:30 flight. We found out about that on Saturday after not getting seats on that mornings’ flight. We took a bus to the city. We went to the Haight, we drank some beers, we got very cold. We realized that we had packed like the beach bums we were aspiring to be. We had two blankets between three of us.
I was the youngest, still a minor, so I went to the shelter off Ashbury where they give you dinner and a bunk and ask casually if you would like any other assistance and leave you alone when you say no. My friends each got one blanket and though they denied it the next day, I had heard the wind on my borrowed window and I was sure they were spooning.
We made it back to the airport by Monday morning. In retrospect this was impressive. I have many stories of popping off my main plan for what I think is a day or two and not making it back for a decade or ever.
Monday there were soldiers waiting for the plane that had standby seniority, so they took the available seats. Tuesday there were people who had purchased standby from a company that held a higher priority with the airline, so they got on.
I tried to be chummy with the ticket guy, after all we were practically family at this point… he was very well dressed with lovely lip gloss but he was not preferring to become any more familiar with us than he had to be.
Tuesday afternoon one of my companions had an allergic reaction to something she ate out of the trashcan that probably had peanut oil hidden in it. She almost asphyxiated as the drugstore in the airport mall insisted that I count pennies for Benadryl.
On Wednesday morning we were given seats! We even got a smile from the ticket guy. It was as I turned away from the counter with my ticket in hand that I saw them, three elderly women who were actually from where we were going. Two of them were in their sixties and the third, their mother, was in her eighties.
I stood back and watched them. My friends were anxious to get to our flight. They were so excited. I grabbed them by their packs and made them wait with me. The women walked up to the counter with an envelope of standby tickets that looked very familiar. It was our same, no priority what-so-ever company.
They were told there was no room for them. On a flight of people who were tourists and bums and businessmen there was no room for the three women in line who belonged on Oahu.
I took the tickets from my two astounded friends and I went back to the nice lip gloss. I told him to give those three our seats. His jaw hit the floor. He asked me why I would do such a thing, he had seen me every morning for a week and he was pretty sure I lived in a blanket fort between two Chinese restaurants in the food court.
I told him I had grown rather fond of the airport and that those three looked like they would be more cozy at home than in a blanket fort. He promised he would get us on the next mornings’ flight and he did.
We tried to sneak away from the counter but the youngest of the three women stopped me. She handed me half a pack of tailor made cigarettes with a twenty-dollar bill stuffed in the cellophane. I told her good luck and she told me it isn’t luck it’s blessings.