Or, weird things that happen when I travel.
Okay, if you haven’t seen the last post, go read it. Trust me. It’s fine. I’ll wait…
Great! Now that you’ve read it, you have the back-story that you probably didn’t actually need in order to appreciate (read) this one. It was worth the wait. I’m so glad you practiced self-care. Give yourself a hug. Of course, that also means you now know that when I say things like I’m committing to posting three times in a week, I mean in me time, and in me time that means I might make three posts in a month or two. So now that I’m spiraling into shame, I’m giving myself a hug and let’s move on from this, shall we? Great!
Based on my recent goal for myself of actually taking my PTO time and doing something I enjoy with it (not just visiting another doctor who will stare at me and ignore what I say or sitting on my couch and binge-watching baking/cooking shows, which is fine once in a while, too), I booked my ticket to Cali to see my childhood bestie, Emma, and spend her days off with her. Aside from her 100proofEmma channel, her full-time gig is as a restaurant GM and she is great at it. That means she gets a couple days off each week to serve as her weekend – if you’ve ever worked in any type of service or hospitality industry you know how that works – and even though it was a short trip, I was going to be there to fill them.
I packed a backpack and a small carry-on with WAY too many clothing options for just a two-day trip. To add perspective, for a business trip of the same duration I can get everything I need into just the Swiss Gear backback and still have room to buy a couple books to bring back home. For a low-key, two-day mini-vacation where I already knew the agenda, there was no reason for me to pack said backpack and carry-on with six packing cubes containing four dresses (from casual to dressy), two pairs of pants, four hiking/workout outfits (for two days), different pajamas for every single night (half of which I didn’t wear, of course), at least five other casual outfits including the one I wore on the flight over, and five pairs of shoes (not including the ones I wore over). And of course that doesn’t count underwear and socks, of which I had enough for at least two weeks because I read another blog somewhere about how, for California, my packing list should include enough socks to wear plus dole out to the whole of Los Angeles County. Oh, and four bathing suits.
I didn’t need the backpack, okay? Or five to ten of those pairs of socks.
There, I said it.
I told Emma when I left that next time I’m checking a larger bag. Just because I know doesn’t mean I care, people.
Because sometimes I lose my mind and can’t find it, I decided that, in the middle of summer in humid, land-locked Kentucky/Tennessee and with a plan to travel across the country to a more southern, desert clime, a beach sweater, long jeans, and boots was the best possible travel wardrobe – loose and comfortable enough for a 4+ hour plane ride, cool enough for a relatively hot day, and warm enough for frigid airplane temps at over 30,000 feet as well as breezy desert nights.
No. Just no.
None of that logic is real.
At one point, sitting in the Nashville airport while I was melting in the midst of what felt like a crowd of Woodstock ’94 proportions (I assume – I was only 11 then so it’s purely conjecture), I contemplated and also threatened Emma with changing into cutoff jean shorts but leaving the beach sweater and boots. It doesn’t sound weird at all, but trust me – if you saw it, you ‘d have quesitons. It was hot, it was humid from the gate doors opening and closing all the time, and people tend to suck all the oxygen out of a room and replace it with BO and body heat.
It was a slumgullion of mysery. But at least I was relatively un-awkward. (I know that’s not a word, but you just have to know me.) Well, I was relatively un-awkward except I had buried my inhaler in my backpack under at least two packing cubes filled with clothes I absolutely wasn’t going to wear and there was no good way to get to it without either losing something vital in a bathroom stall by accidentally dropping it in a toilet (trust me, it would’ve happened), hopelessly embarrassing myself by inadvertantly slinging underwear all over the place (also more than likely), or elbowing an innocent bystander or ten in the face (inevitable). While sitting in a chair on the wall (because introvert with trauma issues), I felt my chest tighten and thought, “Oh, no. I’m struggling to breathe and these people are going to think it’s COVID-19 and they’ll treat me like a rabid outbreak monkey.” I tried to open my backpack and find the inhaler, which was a terrible idea. Why? Because I had to remove the backpack from the seat it was saving for my imaginary travel companion and when I did, a very sweet octogenarian lady (I assume she was at least 80 and sweet – it’s the South, after all) sat in that seat my imaginary travel companion now could not occupy… and she started breathing all my oxygen.
I froze, mildly panicking because my social anxiety is real, y’all, and social anxiety mixed with an asthma attack is a paralyzing molotov coctail of embarrassment and terror. I had earbuds in so when I heard mumbling from her vicinity I glanced over and gave her a Mona Lisa grimace, taking in her cream 3/4 sleeve shirt with rainbow stripes and her chic harem pants with ballet flats. She seemed posh and I was out of my depth and oxygen-deprived with no desire to converse, so I went back to digging for my inhaler and after accidentally brushing her arm (which was hanging over the arm rest into my seat’s territory) twice, I gave up and decided it was better to die of slow asphyxiation than make small talk or cause a scene. So I pulled my mask away from my face to get a little cool air and see if it would help with the breathing thing, and to my delight, the sweet old lady was appalled and immediately moved several seats away where my germs couldn’t reach her.
One problem solved. I still wasn’t going for the inhaler again.
Two hours later, I was on a plane trying to absorb body heat from the stranger next to me without speaking or touching them in any way and while taking up as little space as possible in my window seat staring out at the waning sunlight. When the flight attendants came by with the modified drink order options – for which you order by holding up the appropriate number of digits – I had a near miss and almost got water because I waved with my palm out in what I thought was a “no, thanks” kind of motion but was instead interpreted as a “five,” which means water, which I did not need as with two hours to go I would then need to pee. Most people would not think that was an issue, but again, I have issues, I was in a window seat, and while in a window seat I feel it may be rude to ask the two people in the middle and aisle seats to get out of my way as I make my way to a lavatory that may or may not be occupied (which I cannot see from my window seat). And it’s worse if the lavatory is occupied and I have to make them move again to get back to my seat and wait and then move again so I can get back up when it’s my turn before some punk kid jumps up and cuts line, which is impossible since we’re not allowed to form a line on an airplane and we all end up looking like a giant game of whack-a-mole sans mallet for the duration of the flight.
(Told you I was a little messed up. And yes, I get to say things like, “punk kid,” because I’m almost to my fifth decade of life and it’s time to live a little.)
Thankfully, I read lips well enough to know she said, “Water?” while nodding her head “yes” that she understood, which gave me the chance to frantically and manically shake my head “no” like a dog trying to get water out of its ears. The flight attendant seemed mildly alarmed but she pressed on with her responsibilities. Crisis averted. I made sure of it by pretending to be asleep when she came back through, taking a chance that the person next to me wanted to interact as little as I did.
Two more hours and I was deplaning in the desert while my hair was expanding trying to find the lost moisture it has come to rely on in the southern summers. My feet were sweating, I was contemplating putting tissues in my armpits, and the musky tannins of jet fuel and baked tar surrounded me in welcome.
What was so wrong with yoga pants and a t-shirt? Nothing. I had made a terrible decision never to be repeated.
So here’s the thing: while I did not repeat the mistake of wearing the worst possible thing I could find on the return trip (you’ll have to wait for the recap of the actual vacation days), my social awkwardness decided to make an appearance in the airport on the way back home.
See, people tend to act shocked when I talk about being an introvert because I’m not shy or quiet. Quite the opposite, actually. I’m overly loud (nerves), only slightly less direct than a 4-year-old or your 99-year-old grandmother, and on a good day I can even pass for bubbly.
It’s all just inappropriate responses to social stimuli.
The volume is because I’m out of my element with more than one or two people around me and my brain’s ability to self-regulate malfunctions completely. The point-blank observations are a combination of my natural tendencies (shout-out to all my INTP folks out there, woot woot!) of being curious but very literal with no interest in fitting in or blindly following the crowd, to a smidge of social anxiety, and sometimes to the medicines I take for GI symptoms due to other health issues that not only relax gut muscles – I don’t know how else to say that – but that do so by altering brain chemicals. (They remove my filters completely, y’all – it’s dangerous and usually only entertaining for me.) And the bubbly part is genetic as my daddy is charismatic and can talk about anything and I’ve been a coach’s wife and pastor’s grandkid long enough to know how to chat, whether I like it or not. (I do not.) Also, upon the suggestion of my older brother, I joined a sorority in college because I didn’t know how to person in social situations. (I loved it.)
*Side note: I just got caught up in reliving some of my social anxiety memories and – no kidding – grabbed the Snickers I had just gotten out of my purse to set aside for tomorrow’s snack hour and had it half eaten before I realized that now I don’t have a snack for tomorrow. <sob> And I can’t just leave it half eaten. I’m not a quitter…unless I didn’t want to start something in the first place.
Here’s the thing: introversion has nothing to do with whether or not you are good with people. It gets a bad rap a lot, with people thinking it’s the same as being backwards shy (which is not the same as regular shy – can we call that forward shy? Who comes up with these things and why don’t they have symmetry, darn it?!). Introversion/extroversion is simply how we become energized. Extroverts are energized by being around people, talking with them, interacting, and I guess doing things other psychopaths love doing (kidding! kidding!). Introverts are energized by being alone. In fact, it’s not just energizing; it is necessary.
People literally suck the life right out of us.
On the MBTI scale (Meyers-Briggs … Google it) I am 100% Introverted. No joke; I thought the free tests were all broken when I took them so I dug out my old college career readiness assessments where the MBTI was one we completed, then I up and paid for the real one in my 30s because I thought, “People change, right?”
I know how to answer things to manipulate the results, so I spent time deliberating on the real assessment and on hundreds of questions really went soul-searching so I could get the most accurate possible reading.
It didn’t change a bit.
I guess some would be comforted by knowing how steady they are as themselves regardless of age, experience, and situation. But I know me. I know me really, really well. I’ve hung out with me for a long time and everywhere I go, there I am, like some creeper. So while on one hand it’s comforting to know how intrinsically me I am, on the other hand, I have questions and possibly a few concerns.
What was I talking about?
Right. Social awkwardness. Then I need to get back to airports.
Although I’m not shy and my introversion on its own is not a problem, Social Anxiety likes to tag along with Introversion, occasionally, when Introversion hasn’t had much time to itself or has been a little sleep deprived because Insomnia moved in with us about the time Auto-Immune issues started popping by to make vague threats that aren’t really death threats but aren’t nice, either. And when Social Anxiety rudely invites itself along like a squatting roommate endearing enough to tolerate but not nearly enough to respect or provide clean sheets for, things get weird.
For example, when huggers move in – arms out wide and big grins on their adorable faces – Social Anxiety tells my brain to panic, then Shame talks it into making my body hurriedly reciprocate the hug, whether wanted or not. (I have done enough work to turn down an unwanted hug, so no worries. #boundaries) But what Social Anxiety also does is tell Depth Perception to relax and not worry about how far to lean in or how many steps it will take to meet in the middle of the distance we need to span to hug it out. The result is that 100% of the time when someone leans in to hug me who is not family or close friend (we’re talking thisclose – so maybe four people on the planet, but only two at a time, max), and I mean every. single. time. … I manage to accidentally step on their foot because I’ve overestimated the distance, the number of steps needed, my smallness, or any combination of the three.
Half the people don’t notice it because they’re extroverts and their brains are too busy basking in the warm fuzzies of having given a hug (not sure if they really need to receive it – I think it’s just the giving when it comes to huggers – it’s very strange), but some do. No one ever says anything, but I can tell they notice. So then Social Anxiety laughs uproariously with Shame before looping the negative self-talk ticker tape into the projector along with the memory so they can replay it in a dozen years at around 3 AM when Insomnia comes over to party one night.
But seriously, where was I going with this? Y’all need to get better at stopping me when I ramble.
So on the return trip, I’m in the Burbank airport – this time appropriately attired in stretch yoga/running leggings and a loose t-shirt – minding my business and awaiting our plane to arrive, get refueled, and take us all back to Nashville. Emma and I had rushed through the lunch we had planned to have with each other because traffic was a little heavier than expected and security wait times were reported to be longer than usual by about 30 minutes, so I was sweaty by the time I figured out which way to go to get to security, it was crowded, and the people behind me had clearly failed to look up TSA wait times for their flight, showed up 20 minutes prior to takeoff, and commenced complaining VERY LOUDLY about how inconvenient it was that other people had the audacity to plan a trip at the same time they had.
I wish I was exaggerating. I’m not. It was a young couple or a brother/sister (who can ever tell, really?) and the young woman started with, “Of course! The ONE time…” and it went from there.
She did this for 15 minutes as we snaked our way through the line waiting to get our IDs and boarding passes checked so we could get to the security gates. I tried to ignore her and tune into my other surroundings, but when I’m tense I become hyper aware of all sounds and conversations around me and the people in front of me were slow. As in, “this is our first time flying in at least a decade and I can’t remember where I put our boarding passes,” slow. As in, the lady had three teenage-to-adult-aged kids with her and they were all trying to tell her how not to be slow and she pretended not to hear them while proceeding to unpack her bags, one by one, to look for her IDs.
Then, two turns into the line, one of those teenage-to-adult-aged kids asked, “Oh, no; do we have to have REAL IDs to get on a plane or are we still good with the old state IDs?!”
And Impatience is dangerous when she hangs out with Social Anxiety, because she turns helpful in a weird, eaves-droppy, snarky way that just feels squeamy. She does things like whip out her own REAL ID, plaster a fake smile on her face, and say, “NO! You don’t have to have it, yet, because they extended it due to COVID.” Then the mother, with one bag still opened and half unpacked on the floor while she stands and pretends she doesn’t see how far ahead the line is moving, says, “I wouldn’t even know what one of those IDs looks like. I bet they don’t know, either,” as she shrugs and indicates the security personnel with a toss of her head in their general direction. Impatience wants to educate this woman on the fact that TSA employees have, in fact, been trained for more than a year to know what REAL IDs look like, but she refrains for once.
Impatience does, however, notice the line moving ahead while the family in front of her is decidedly not moving, takes Social Anxiety by the throat to use as a stress ball and squeezes, then smiles with the self-satisfaction of a debutante who’s about to get snotty in public, and says – while brandishing the REAL ID like a shield – to the family, “They look like this.”
Then the mom – her bag STILL unpacked on the floor – blinks, glances, and then shrugs and says, “But that’s Kentucky. We’re from California so ours would look different.” Then she smirks.
Impatience talks over the lady and says, “Actually, once your bag is packed back up and we move FORWARD, you’ll be able to see the sign posted in front of the security gates. It has an example from Oregon and it will show you that all the REAL IDs are the same, which is actually a good idea, if you think about it, for traveling, anyway, because with just those and passports accepted, it will be a lot easier and faster for security personnel to be able to get people through so these lines won’t take as long and we can all just zip right up to the actual conveyor belts and get on a plane without having to stand here so long with each other and wait.” *Impatience doesn’t read situations well or doesn’t give a flying flip in space if things are awkward at this point and, smiling like a lunatic, stares pointedly at the woman who needs to pack up her crap and get the lead out.
Meanwhile, the Complainer behind me has had a running diatribe of her woes and her entitlement is starting to wear on me.
And another pertinent fact about me is that my mouth is always moving while I’m still thinking. It gets me into trouble, sometimes.
At this point, Impatience was disgusted but feeling proud of herself for helping me and those behind me catch up on about 20 steps and it made Social Anxiety brave enough to throw a towel around its neck, call it a cape, and say WAY too loudly over my shoulder, “DO YOU NEED TO GO IN FRONT OF ME? It’s fine. REALLY. You seem like you might be in a hurry. And quite frankly it’s making me a bit nervous… FOR YOU, I mean. Nervous for you.” Blink.
What I’ve learned in my life is that if Impatience and/or Social Anxiety get me in a bind, there’s nothing for it but to either call out the stupid and laugh it off or brazen it out, depending on the situation. In this case, I decided to brazen it out and pretend like I was being polite and helpful.
The Complainer, thank God, decided to cooperate and be grateful, so I let her and her companion go in front of me.
I get to the conveyor belt, blithely fill up all the totes I needed because I’ve flown enough to know how to pack so I get through security quickly, and went to take off my shoes to fill the final space in the final tote I needed.
I nearly face planted because I tried ripping a shoe off a foot that was still half planted on the ground.
Sometimes, I impress even me.
The lady whose bags had been strewn all over the floor and holding up the line a few minutes ago snickered.
I dead-eyed her and raised my unsanctified eyebrow, my subtle way of communicating that she had no room to judge and should worry about the fact that she hadn’t even taken her shoes off and the guard was yelling at her to get her attention to do so before she tried walking through the metal detector.
She didn’t. Two TSA guards rolled their eyes and visibly sighed as they pulled her aside for a manual security check with the wand. I may or may not have snickered back.
Turnabout is fair play.
Fast forward to the gate where I sat waiting to board. Burbank’s airport is very small, and unlike larger airports, the only restaurants and gift shops I saw were on the way in before I ever got to the ticketing area. Even that sentence is misleading; I should have said that the only restaurant and gift shop, singular, were prior to the ticketing area. There were none past the security gate, unlike most other airports I go through when I travel. But I was thirsty, and there was a little miniature kiosk with chips and bottled drinks a few feet away from my gate. I had about 15 minutes before boarding since once I got through security I received an update that the flight was slightly delayed, so I decided to get up, move around a bit, and grab some tea or something.
That meant I needed to take my carry-on and backpack with me since I was traveling alone, so I attached the backback to the handle of my suitcase like a pro, took two confident steps toward the kiosk, and almost died when the backpack’s weight flipped the carry-on the wrong way and the wheels refused to roll in a direction opposite that for which they were manufactured. It made a scuffing sound like cats scratching a corduroy couch. I caught myself on the handle and pulled myself back to a standing position as if the floor were a ship on turbulent waters.
I did what any normal human would do. I immediately looked around to see how many strangers noticed my graceless tumble so I knew exactly how embarrassed I needed to be.
At final count, it was at least five, but four of them were polite enough to pretend they didn’t notice and one was on a call so he couldn’t react the way he clearly wanted. I decided to dislike him for the duration of the flight home, which is easy to do when flying Southwest since seats aren’t assigned so you’re in more control of your own fate. But not really, because you’re not flying the plane.
I made my way over to the kiosk after my near miss, perusing the various waters, juices, energy drinks whose brands I’d never seen, and Snapple teas. I went for a peach tea, firmly grasping it by the neck and pulling it from its place before realizing I hadn’t grasped it at all and watching it succumb to gravity, first bouncing off the metal lip of the refrigerated machine before belly-flopping on the carpeted walkway.
It’s weird how loud a plastic bottle full of tea sounds when echoing through a carpeted walkway. I would have thought the carpet would have muted the accoustics a bit.
The kiosk worker was either already so dead inside that he didn’t register the percussive event or he was genuinely concerned for my welfare and wondered where my caretaker was, because unlike the customer in front of me, he failed to react other than looking mildly inquisitive when I set the tea on the counter to pay. He said only, “$5.50,” which is exhorbitant for 16 oz. of brown water with sugar in it, but I managed to fumble my bank card only once before completing the payment and telling him that no, I did not need the receipt.
I turned to go back to my seat to wait, overcompensated for the backpack’s weight while underestimating my luggage’s adjusted center of gravity once again, and once again stumbled and almost face planted on the maroon-ish/brown-ish carpeting.
The same guy on the same call made the same stupid face and I renewed my vow to dislike him immensely.
I’m sure he’s destroyed.
I managed to make it onto the plane without further incident, thank goodness, and even managed to deplane in Nashville without any scrapes, though there was a near miss in the restroom when I couldn’t get a stray piece of toilet paper off one of my carry-on’s wheels.
I rode the bus back to my economy lot parking spot with the most trustworthy driver ever. I knew he was trust-worthy because his work snack was Oreos and also becuase we had a nice chat about the last time he visited the town where I live, which is only about 45 minutes north of the airport. Yes, I know those are inconsequential criteria, at best. He parked the bus at the bus stop and made sure I got safely into my car and out of the parking lot before he moved to the next bus stop, which was thoughtful since it was sunset and parking lots with lots of cars but not lots of people can be scary and dangerous around that time. It was kind of him. We waved to each other as I drove to the exit…
…where I turned the wrong way and drove at least four miles before I could turn around and head in the correct direction to get home as if I haven’t exited that same parking lot and taken that same exit several times a year for the past seven years.
And that is what happens when you’ve been flustered for elongated periods of time while surrounded by people you don’t know and to whom you don’t want to speak. A person with a good sense of direction suddenly turns into someone who couldn’t locate the bathroom in their home with a map, a compass, and a bluetooth navigational assistant.
But at that point, the person might find a bag of Caramel Chex Mix their hubby had bought for an in-flight snack but that wouldn’t fit into a backpack or carry-on that are grossly over-packed with absolutely nothing but necessities, and it’s okay, because the good Lord knew you needed sweet and salty snacks for the ride home along with a neon watercolor sunset and no passengers, so you can turn the radio up and enjoy the last leg of the journey.
And friend, if you made it this far, the next time I might actually tell you about the trip itself. Or I’ll finish the story about how Hubby and I met.
Or I’ll forget I was going to do either of those and write something totally different! It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure novel, except you don’t actually get to choose; your fate is in the hands of a possibly unstable and 100% unreliable narrator who makes bad decisions and stress-eats candy bars with no recourse but lots of feelings after the fact. You just get what you get (and you don’t throw a fit! Come on, you know I had to say it. It would have been wrong not to finish it.).