I jumped on the early morning flight to New England with visions of an AFC Championship and the sweet sounds of “DUUUUVAAAAL” dancing in my head.
Though disappointed by the lack of Jaguars hats bobbing atop rows and rows of Southwest passengers, I’m holding out faith the Davis brothers – we met at check-in – and I will be joined by more fans headed to our Boston Teal Party on the connecting flight.
I find a window seat vacant in row 22 and snuggle in for the all-too-familiar 75-minute flight to Nashville. My heart hurts knowing my feet will stand in the same town as Robb for a brief layover. Actually, it’s more of a dull throbbing. I’ve grown fond it since my last drink. I’ll probably feel different when I see the Tootsie’s sign and tiger lily logo in the airport bar that once owned part of my paycheck waiting on departing flights every couple of weeks. This too shall pass. In about 15 minutes. Like any good craving.
“Would you like something to drink?” The flight attendant passes honey roasted peanuts over the empty middle seat and I order orange juice. Normally, it’s water or coffee, but I’m feeling especially festive.
A few minutes later, she passes by to retrace her steps with deliveries. Non-descript colored liquids line her serving tray. But it’s the two champagne split bottles that catch my attention.
Whoa. I glance at the time on my phone. 6:58 a.m. That is just … wow.
I crane my nosy neck. Who is drinking this early? Realization sets in. With a shake of the head, I settle back in my seat. I ain’t mad atcha. That used to be me.
Heck, by now, my belly would be lined with three shots for breakfast before leaving the house. The airport bar doesn’t serve until 8 a.m. I know this because I have sat on a stool, impatiently checking the time for 10 minutes straight, calling out my order three minutes early, asking “can you go ahead and make it and give it to me right at 8?” So, this morning I would have stuck a couple of minis in with my liquids hoping to get through TSA Precheck since I’m not required to pull them out. One would go down en route. The second in the airport bathroom. The third in my seat under the cover of a blanket because “that stewardess is taking an awful long time with those drinks. Did she go to Finland to distill the vodka?”
By the time she makes it to our row, I’ve lost track of which lucky ducks get to exert their right to public displays of early morning bottle poppin’. But I do notice the lady in the aisle seat is one of them.
I barely have time to imagine how good her cranberry mixture would salivate the taste buds before flight attendant lady reaches for a vodka mini, scans her courier notes, and begins another arm extension in our direction.
Oh, wow. Aisle lady looks so innocent. But here she is. Obviously about to chug one straight from the bottle. Or sip on it. Or dump it in her poinsettia. Yeah. That’s what I liked to do. Order the innocence of champagne with a juice and then dirty it up with the clear stuff.
I shoot quick glances all around the circle of movement. Aisle lady. Her drink. Flight attendant lady. Her extended arm. Why is that arm is not stopping? She pushes the no-name vodka past the empty middle seat.
I stare at it. Eye level. Furrowed brow in comical disbelief. Does she think this is for me?
It’s what happens when you’re looking at your neighbor with those judgey, self-righteous eyes. God throws up a mirror.
“Vodka orange juice, right?” She shakes the bottle in my direction to take it from her.
“No. Just orange juice.”
She keeps her arm out and looks back at the list. Her shoulders drop and she retreats the bottle to her tray.
“Oh. For some reason, I had vodka and orange juice.” She passes the cup of orange liquid across the same path.
“I probably look like a screwdriver kinda gal.” I laugh and then lean in to make sure she hears me correctly this time.
“In full disclosure, I need to tell you I’m an alcoholic. So, I have to make sure, there’s no liquor in here?” I point inside the cup.
“No. No.” Her long blonde locks sway back and forth with her shaking head. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”
I giggle at her exuberance since she kind of, almost, did. “Don’t make me go and blow my 9-months of sobriety now.” Everyone in earshot laughs with us as she walks away with the lone mini soldier standing proudly unopened on her tray.
“Wow. You’re so brave.” My row 22 neighbor is a beautiful 40-something with shiny reddish hair. If I didn’t know she had to be at the airport by at least 6 a.m., I would have sworn she went for a professional blowout prior to boarding.
“Oh, I don’t know if I would call it brave.” Without eye contact, I grab the signature SWA heart on the end of the red stirrer and swirl it out of habit.
“More like self-preservation.” I lick the lonely OJ off the end and set it down on a napkin. A look over. A shrug the shoulders. And I decry. “Sometimes. You gotta fight. For your right. To not paaaaawtay.”
I give her a sideways glance and grin. Her chuckle says she gets the twisted Beastie Boys reference and relieves my potential for social awkwardness, and I’m able to take a sip and verify the juice is, in fact, not spiked.
“I think I’ll just stick to water and coffee from now on.” I laugh and take another gulp. “It’s safer.”