Tuesday, June 28, 2005

It's a Bird...IN a Plane!

I joined my husband in Chicago last weekend to see "Little Shop of Horrors." It's one of my favorite movies, and I've always wanted to see it on stage. We did catch the Celebration High School production, but I was looking forward to seeing the touring cast from Broadway. (Actually, after seeing the "real" play, I'm even more impressed by the quality of the Celebration High version.) Plays are just about the only thing I'll return to Chicago for these days.

I flew home Monday morning on the Southwest cattle call, leaving poor hubby behind for a week. I got to the airport early enough to be the first person in the A line, which meant that my prospects for an exit row looked good. I have short legs, so comfort isn't the biggest draw for me (even though I certainly enjoy it). Flying makes me nervous, so I head to the restroom at least once, even if I've avoided liquids for several hours before the flight. I like sitting by the window but hate tripped over the other passengers in my row. If I'm in a regular row, I take the aisle as a courtesy. If I can get a bulkhead or exit, I can enjoy the view and still be able to get up with minimal disruption to my neighbors.

The plane had come to the gate and disgorged its passengers, so I knew that boarding would begin soon. Then a group of people came up, pushing a cart with a number of animal carriers. That surprised me, since you cannot bring pets on Southwest. Turns out that Seaworld had sent a number of critters to make an appearance at "Taste of Chicago." Now, they were winging their way home on my flight. Most of them were birds, although a sloth was included in the mix. How ironic...birds flying in an airplane!

The animals all had their own seats and were even named on the boarding passes. Since I was at the head of the line, I could see the passes as the gate agent scanned them. The species for each critter was listened in last name, first name format (for example, "Toucan, Hornbilled," "Conure, Golden" etc.). The trainers pre-boarded with their charges and strapped them safely into the first several rows.

Next was the regular pre-board, and then the lettered cattle call started. I trooped on with the As and headed back to my favorite exit row seat. My happiness at getting it was tempered somewhat by "Linda Blair" behind me. She was not a little kid...maybe 10 or 11. I've sat in front of 3, 4, and 5 year olds who were much better behaved. When you've got a kid behind you, the odds are 90 percent that you'll have some seat kicking, but this girl seemed to be having epileptic fits. She was literally banging her head into the back of the seat! There was no one in the middle seat in my row, but even the guy sitting on the aisle was getting annoyed. The kid would go from head banging to kicking like a mule, and then she'd grab the back of my seat and start jerking in manically. I was waiting for her head to spin and pea soup to shower my hair.

Both the guy on the aisle and I glared at Mom and Satan-ette, but they were clueless. Mom put on the old "I don't speak English" routine. I used to babysit for a Mexican family, so I still remember a few choice curses in Spanish, but I decided that it wasn't worth wasting my breath. The only thing that might have been effective was an exorcism, and I happened to be all out of holy water.

Meanwhile, the flight attendants announced that one of the Sea World trainers would be bringing the toucan down the aisle. There was a stir of excitement throughout the cabin and a run on the overhead bins as people grabbed their cameras. I usually consider myself lucky to live in Florida, but this was one of the rare times that I envied the tourists. They were all equipped with cameras to capture their Kodak moments with Mickey. Since I was going home, I of course didn't have one. A picture of a bird flying in a plane would have been classic!

Rico, the toucan, was quite well behaved as the excited passengers blinded him with their flashes and oohed and ahhed over his impressive beak. He is part of a new show at Sea World, so I'm sure he's used to being the center of attention. I am a bird lover, so I enjoyed seeing him up close. I've been to Discovery Cove, but never to Sea World, so I'll have to check out the show. When I see Rico, I can yell, "I know him!"

Soon enough everyone (human and animal) had to get belted back in, as we were descending into Orlando. It had been an interesting two and a half hours sharing a plane with both Satan and a menagerie. As we touched down on the runway and taxied to the terminal, I couldn't help but thing of the cry from the old "Superman" show: "Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's Superman!" With just a bit of paraphrasing, it would fit my adventure nicely: "Look! Up in the sky! It's a bird IN a plane! It's Toucan Sam!"

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