I’m waking up in a cinder-block room today. Every muscle in my body aches.
Where am I?
I sit upright amidst a billow of white down pillows and quilted comforters. Multi-colored cylindrical lamps with crepe fabric hang next to my thumping head. I fall back.
The cinder-block is actually quite comforting. I don’t ever want to get out of this bed.
This sounds like a night out in Las Vegas, but Vegas is tonight.
Today, I’m waking up in Dallas, cell block 347 of the NYLO, an urban loft boutique hotel that prides itself on random acts of cool.
I think I’m sick.
“You don’t look sick,” Grace offered cheerfully last night, slamming rock tumblers onto the galley bar that slid as soon as she set them down.
Given the amount of booze being tossed back and the light show outside from nearby thunderstorms, we had morphed into a rocking Club 737 at 40,000′. The “darlin’s” and “sweethearts” were starting to roll off thick tongues.
The only thing missing was a pole in the aisle. My luck I’d fall into Beefeater’s lap and you wouldn’t find me for a week.
Instead, I’m tucked into a far corner of the galley, nursing hot water with lemon.
BEEFEATER ROUND 1
On the last round of double vodka, the sweat was starting to lap at the band of Beefeater’s hat, seat 2A, a sign of unease he was either inflicting or trying to quell.
The big boys I usually didn’t concern myself with too much. Three rounds of doubles hadn’t produced so much as a slurred word but Beefeater looked like a heart-attack contender. Chest compressions on him would be like finding a pea through memory foam.
“He wants another.” Grace flashes that good-luck grin and disappears through the first class curtain. Great.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no evil sense of pleasure flight attendants get cutting people off from their alcohol supply.
It can be as dangerous as coming between a mother bear and her cubs. Curses fly, gestures threaten, neck-ties curl around fists and defecation commences on a beverage cart.
Now this lucky girl gets to discover Beefeater’s particular quirks.
I pour a glass of water over ice and move toward his seat. My appearance in the cabin would lead one to believe I’ve appeared from behind the curtain in sequins instead of polyester– all hungry eyes and empty glasses clamor for that last call, last chance to be filled up with something, anything that erases the gray purgatory they have sentenced their wandering spirits to and tonight–
THE ART of the CUT OFF
I set the water glass down on Beefeater’s tray table. Sure enough, the look.
“Drink this, please.”
He tosses it back, sets it down and rattles his other glass– the glass I came to confiscate.
“Another one, please.”
Not a hint of a slur. But the sweat is seeping into the band of his hat now and the thought of ripping open his shirt to begin CPR…
I drop next to his seat. “Sir, I’d like you to drink another glass of water.”
Beefeater does not want water but he didn’t get to Gold status in first class by flunking Negotiation 101.
“Tell you what sweetheart, you bring me a glass of water and–
He puts the offending glass in my hand–
“Bring me another one of those.”
This is the moment of refusal or reticence.
It’s his funeral.
I bring the water and a single shot of vodka over ice, drop it off with the only smile I have for this occasion–fake–and quickly tend to the other lost souls in my cabin.
Beefeater knows it’s a single shot but we’ve compromised and he is, for the moment, satisfied. But only for a moment–
The minute I disappear behind the curtain *DING*
It’s him. I know it’s him.
Beefeater is in the aisle and his seat-mate is doing a tricep press out of his seat.
“I knocked over my drink,” he says, in a sheepish manner.
Clever, clever man.
I race back with towels to mop up the damage and relieve the seat-mate from his straining tricep muscles, which probably haven’t lifted more than a briefcase in ten years.
“I’ll get you another drink,” I offer.
A hand on my arm. Beefeater shakes his head, “No. You were right. I’ve had enough.”
I stare at him. I can count on one hand the number of times a passenger has said that to me when I cut him or her off. This is it.
Oh my God, am I going to cry?
I must be sick.
The swampy warm air of Texas hits as I open the cabin door into the jet-way.
My head is clamped in a hot press, my limbs feel like chew toys and Flight Attendant Barbie has just enough juice left to manage–
“Good-bye, Thank you, Buh-bye, Thank you…”
Beefeater stops next to me, blocking the line of passengers behind him.
“Are you laying over here tonight?”
Oh God, is he asking me out?
“Yes, we are.”
He reaches out to shake my hand. The line shifts impatiently behind him.
Like the infamous YouTube Honey-badger, Beefeater damn near snarls over his shoulder.
Beefeater don’t care. Beefeater don’t give a shit.
He turns his attention back to me.
“Thank you for taking care of me. Take your crew out for a nice evening,” he says.
I feel the almighty dollar press against my palm.
“Oh no, we can’t accept…”
And with that, he’s gone. I call after, “Thank you…”
Thank you. Had I looked at what he pressed into my palm, I would have thrown my arms around him and planted a big kiss on that pudgy cheek–
I feel the crank turn in my back. Barbie straightens up, the smile becomes genuine.
There is a God and he loves me.
Jonathon, the first officer, emerges from the flight deck, blinking at the light of reality that comes after hours of night navigation at 500 mph. He takes one look at me and says,
“You don’t look sick.”
Somewhere between the $200 and convincing me I’m not sick, I find myself saying,
“We’re going out tonight.”
Which is why this morning I find myself confined to bed in cell block 347.