Spirit Airlines, We Salute You

Dedicated to Spirit Airlines, who made sure we sat on the tarmac at ORD for exactly 1 hour and 50 minutes so as not to refund our airfare.

Dedicated to Spirit Airlines, who made sure we sat on the tarmac at ORD for exactly 1 hour and 50 minutes, so as not to hit the 2-hour mark and activate the rule refunding our airfare. Photo taken at 12:50 a.m. after a VERY long day of travel.

Let me tell ya’, flying Spirit Airlines was a real treat this past week. My friends and I just wanted a cheap flight to Vegas. Spirit Airlines just wanted to shake us down. It was good that I printed my boarding pass at home, since there’s a fee for that. I got to O’Hare Airport two hours early, but it didn’t matter.  I’ve only seen lines like Spirit’s baggage line during Thanksgiving and Christmas. I ran outside looking for a Sky Cap, to no avail. This no-frills airline was the aerospace equivalent to Tonya Harding. And oh yeah, there was an extra fee for the luggage, which was cheaper if you pre-paid for it at home. They also charged for carry-on luggage. By the time we added in all of the extra fees, it would have been cheaper to fly United or American.

The O’Hare Airport official shepherding us unwashed masses told me that often times, the Spirit Airlines passengers missed their flights because the baggage line is far too long, and the passengers might not get rebooked for another week. Wow.

I grabbed my window seat, lamenting that I was sitting nowhere near the Sister Wives. I dug into my Chris Farley biography, trying to ignore my discomfort. By the time I hit page 26, I was laughing so hard, my seat was quaking and tears were rolling down my cheeks. I really tried to hold it in, but the woman pressed into my right side gave me a look. I’d like to think it was concern, but it was more like horror, as in, “Fucking great. I’ve hit the mile-high jackpot with yet another mentally imbalanced seat mate.”

TJ Hobans mom had surprised me with a gift of hummus, crackers, and bottled water from O’Hare before we boarded. It  was a good thing, since there was no free water or free snacks on this interminably long, uncomfortable Spirit Airlines flight, where my 5’5″ frame pressed into the seat before me. I had indent marks on my knees by the time we landed. I wondered how tall people survived it.

On my return flight, the Sister Wives and I all sat together, thank God. We paid $25 for extra leg room. Across the aisle from me sat a grizzled old man. He was diabetic and in pre-anxiety attack mode because we landed on time, but we sat on the tarmac in no air conditioning for one hour and 50 minutes. He made it clear–to anyone within listening distance–that he really wanted to borrow a Xanax. Or two. Or three. I texted Sister Wife Gina, sitting directly in front of me, that it was a lucky for the old man that she was a nurse. Here is what she texted back:

Screenshot 2015-09-23 12.48.47Screenshot 2015-09-23 12.48.57

I made a loud comment about Sister Wife Gina being an FBI profiler. She began interrogating the old man. He shared that he was a used car salesman, and that he went to Vegas 10 times last month, each time flying on Spirit Airlines, and each time, sitting on the tarmac at O’Hare for precisely 1 hour and 50 minutes. He informed us that Spirit only had two gates at O’Hare, so this was de rigueur. He continued waxing poetic about Vegas, sharing that he stayed way outside of Vegas to be “near the mountains.” In my naiveté I believed him, but on our exhausted drive home from O’Hare at 3 a.m., street smart Sister Wife Gina clued me in, using that slow speak you do with children, the hearing impaired, and English-as-a-second-language folk. The used car salesman was an aging Joey Buttafuoco, hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It was storming hard outside of our humid little plane on the tarmac. The pilot would have had a great career in writing fiction–he audaciously announced that we couldn’t deplane because “If there is lightning within a 5-mile radius of the airport, it’s against the rules to deplane.” The balls on that guy! Magically, we deplaned an hour later, as the lightning continued.

Sister Wife Maura flew back on Spirit Airlines the day before, and texted us this image of the tray table in front of her–she carries Clorox wipes with her everywhere, so she was well prepared for Spirit Airlines’ hygiene issues.

The tray table facing Sister Wife Maura on Spirit Airlines this past week.

The tray table facing Sister Wife Maura on Spirit Airlines this past week.

I told the Sister Wives I was writing this blog, and they all said in unison, “If Spirit Airlines offers you free apology passes to fly anywhere, just refuse them!”


That Time Ron Jeremy Broke My iPhone in Las Vegas

The Sister Wives & I hit Las Vegas this past week to attend the “Perfect Physique” movie premiere for Sister Wife Maura’s brother, TJ Hoban. We flew on Spirit Airlines, which deserves its own scathing blog, so watch for that.

While in Vegas, I demanded we do some exploring, rather than lay by the pool all day, since that equates to me and my milky white skin sitting inside of a hot, boring cabana while everyone else gets tan. I had high hopes we’d hit the mobster museum. After all, I happen to own one of the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre bricks, courtesy of Jan Gabriel, who had an entire episode on The History Channel about possessing them and how they cursed his life. (Sister Wife Carolyn muttered, “But of course you own a St. Valentine’s Day Massacre brick…”) Then the cab driver randomly happened to mention that Las Vegas had an erotica museum. It was meant to be. It wasn’t a hard sell for the Sister Wives, pardon the phrase.

The Las Vegas Erotica Museum--the most unusual museum I've toured thus far.

The Las Vegas Erotica Museum–the most unusual museum I’ve toured thus far.

The museum was everything you could imagine. The three Sister Wives who joined me agreed. But one of the campiest exhibits was the Ron Jeremy Fortune Teller machine. Naturally, I needed to experience this.

The Ron Jeremy Fortune Teller Machine, Complete with Ron Jeremy's Voice Over.

The Ron Jeremy Fortune Teller Machine, Complete with Ron Jeremy’s Voice Over.

In my excitement to snap a picture of the animatronic version of Ron Jeremy, my iPhone dropped to the floor. Shattered. Damn. It became the most expensive, memorable fortune I’ve ever had prognosticated for me. And then Ron Jeremy told me I needed to invest another $5 to get the “real” fortune. Oh, Las Vegas…the three-card monte of my life.

My Aunt Shirley

Today’s post is dedicated to my mom’s BFF, my Aunt Shirley, my inspiration, who taught me the value of keeping a mental repository of jokes, as well as the fine art of story telling. For her, it was sport. 

Me with my mischievous Aunt Shirley, who had just downloaded more jokes, and my Mom.

Me with my beloved, mischievous Aunt Shirley, who had just downloaded more raunchy jokes, and my Mom.

Early in my career, to supplement my meager income as a writer/producer for a motorsports TV series, I worked for a machine tool company. My eyes were opened to how witty and hilarious engineers can be, once they stepped away from their blueprints. For example, this engineering contractor from Ohio would walk past my desk and drop these bon mots that would double me over. As one sales rep from Indiana was earnestly boasting to me about his daughter, who was studying horticulture, Mr. Ohio walked past and with perfect timing, dryly dropped, “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t lead a horticulture.” Mr. Indiana’s conversation ended abruptly. It’s the rare occasion that I ever get to repurpose that line, but it’s in my quiver belt. Mr. Ohio also would describe the weather in the most unusual of ways, such as, “It’s warmer than a syphilitic whore in a hot pepper patch!” That Mr. Ohio…he sure had a way with words.

So my machine tool experience was in the early ’90s, and it was wild times. Their big tradeshow of the year was IMTS in September, the largest, most boring show Chicago’s McCormick Place ever holds. The nightly after party was always at the EXCALIBUR Club in downtown Chicago. One of my employer’s most prominent resellers was this guy Bob from Wisconsin. However, Bob wasn’t prized so much for his top sales skills as he was for memorizing the largest catalog of off-color jokes of anyone in the machine tool industry. Anyone. But my boss was secretly betting on me. We had already worked together for several months, and he knew how funny I could be–thanks to my beloved Aunt Shirley–be it situational comedy, or joke telling. So my boss made sure I was physically placed at the bar that night to go toe-to-toe with Bob from Wisconsin.

I kicked it off by asking Bob if he spelled his name with one “O” or two, and his night of stardom just waned from there. True to form, Bob started rattling off his catalog of dirty jokes. For an entire hour, every single joke he told, I finished the punchline. Every. Single. Joke. It was the only time I saw my boss nearly wet himself. It was as if Aunt Shirley was ear prompting me, feeding me lines. These were all jokes she had told me before. The crowd surrounding us kept growing. Mouths dropped open in stunned awe. Bob was dumbfounded and frustrated. He kept trying to physically shake it off, like a dog with water in its ear. He finally gave up. But then he spent the rest of the evening trying to pursue and conquer me. He also failed in that endeavor. Several cocktails in, I was in a semi-vulnerable state, but my boss and his boss kept me safe.

It’s hard to imagine my mom and Aunt Shirley as BFFs. They were so opposite. Mom was the superintendent of a conservative Missouri-Synod Lutheran Sunday School for 30 years, while Aunt Shirley was a lapsed Catholic, an astrologer, and a medium. Mom was a Pisces, Aunt Shirley was an Aries. They were well suited.

I used to relish going to Aunt Shirley’s house in the city. She would make the world’s best lasagna–the smoked gouda cheese was her secret weapon–and she would often read my astrological chart. I think my mom’s curiosity overcame her Lutheran disdain for Aunt Shirley’s readings. In retrospect, Aunt Shirley was amazingly accurate. I am adopted, and she told me I had a sister who would be looking for me in my late thirties. This came to be true, and I reunited with my bio-family–the parents, two full-blood brothers and a sister–at age 39. She also told me my first husband would be unusual (he was), my second husband would be even more unusual (he is), and my third husband would be the best suited to me. While that has yet to unfold, it wouldn’t surprise me. She was right about a lot.

Aunt Shirley had a Near Death Experience in her 30s, and through that, she taught me not to fear death, and to trust in the promise of an after life. She often told me she wouldn’t live to see her 80th birthday. I had hoped against all hope that she was wrong about that one. She died three years ago, at 79, of ovarian cancer. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t miss her. I am thankful she had children, whom I grew up with as my “first cousins,” so I still feel the imprint of her energy in some way. This Labor Day weekend Mom and I will spend with two of her daughters.

Before she passed, Aunt Shirley took an autobiography writing class. I was blessed to get a copy of her book, which shared very personal, very human moments in her life. Stories she would never have told me in person. It made me love her even more deeply, if that were even possible. Her autobiography taught me the value of living one’s life on your own terms, as she did. I’m still working on it, but I’m getting there. Evolving. And every once in a while, I’ll feel Aunt Shirley give me the occasional assist, confirming her presence on the Other Side.