We had a genius plan. And by genius, I mean, completely ridiculous.
Mr. Parker was close to maintaining his “elite” Platinum status on Delta. He likes being a Platinum Member. Flexing his Platinum Member helps him frequently find himself getting bumped to first class. And he likes flying first class. So does his wife.
I often say that I don’t need much. I’m not a shopper. I don’t crave things. My indulgences are someone to do my hair, someone to clean my house, and someone to book me a seat in first class.
That bigger, more comfortable seat and slightly better treatment makes such a difference on long flights. It keeps me feeling human-ish. Less like a parcel being loaded by some distracted 19-year-old at FedEx onto one of those tandem tractor-trailers that make freak me out as they meander and weave drunkenly at high-speed along the Interstate. (Note: trucker slang for these snake-dance vehicles is “wiggle-wagons.”)
But I digress. Back to my man’s status. (With Delta, not with me.) He calculated that what he could do to maintain his coveted Platinum status was to book a flight to visit an old friend now living in the Dominican Republic.
“Honey, do you want to take that trip to the DR that we cancelled three years ago?”
Yes, we’d already planned this trip a while back. But at that time, we needed new passports and it was near the end of COVID lockdown. The passport office was moving extra slowly. Even allowing plenty of time, the passports showed no sign of them arriving and time was running out. So Mr. Parker cancelled the trip. Clicking the “cancel” button was a clear signal to the universe to have our new passports delivered 90 minutes later. Oh, well.
So, we set the Platinum-status rescue operation in swing, and seized the opportunity to travel someplace new. (New to us. Dominican Republic-ites have been enjoying it for centuries.)
Here was the snag. To earn the required points, we’d have to book first-class tickets. Okay. But—and it’s a big but (something I typically try to avoid)—the only flight out of the U.S. to our destination airport left from JFK. The layover in New York would be eight hours—and five of those hours would be overnight while the creature-comfy, liquor-pouring, snack-filled Delta SkyClub would be closed. Ugh.
So, the question: do we get a room for the layover or just stay in the airport? If we get a room, we’d have about an hour to get off the plane and to the hotel. Then an hour to shower and travel back to the airport. Plus, we’d need to be there two hours before the flight. So, four hours in a hotel to attempt sleeping. The cost of all this would be anywhere from three to four hundred dollars. Five hundred if we actually like ourselves.
One time, we had a similar situation in Albany. We'd opted for the hotel. [LOUD BUZZER SOUND GOES HERE] We picked wrong. The full-on skeeviness of our room was so off-putting that we didn’t even want to pull down the bedding. We cautiously laid atop the bedspread in our ski jackets, looked at each other, and said, “Let’s get the hell out of here.”
Nope. Not this time. This time, we were just going to wait it out in the airport. Hell, I can tough out five hours of rough living between my first-class flight and my Delta SkyClub time, right?
Have you ever spent the night in an airport?
Allow me to enlighten you.
Our plan was to walk our carry-on bags to a spot that was SkyClub adjacent. That way, when the clock struck 4:50AM and the club opened, we’d be right there.
After our inflight dinner of mediocre mushroom ravioli in a mild-mannered mystery sauce, we’d be well sated. I would also grab a bottle of water as we de-planed. (I use the word “de-plane” specifically to irk Mr. Parker. Looking for a good time? Use the word “de-plane” with Blaine and enjoy the ensuing rant.)
So, with surprisingly decent mushroom-stuffed, ravioli in our bellies and a bottle of water in my hand, we made our way from our arrival gate along three people-movers to the Delta SkyClub and parked ourselves just beyond it.
An empty airport is a surprisingly noisy place. We seemed to have picked the very spot where the overnight employees gather on their breaks. Did I care? Not sure. After about twenty minutes of conversations by strangers in a variety of languages, I was sure. I cared.
We picked up our bags and hauled them to a seating area on the other side of the SkyClub. Nobody there was talking because nobody was there...at all. Just a vast concourse of empty seats all the way to the closed Dunkin' Donuts.
Of coures, there were random bells ringing. And periodic, robotic announcements about not smoking on the premises. And some guy driving a floor-cleaning vehicle that whooshed as it went past. The machine looked like a miniature Zamboni. (Would that make it a Zambonini? Or a Zambonita?) The zambie driving it had a blank look on his face and no discernable plan to his path. Just some undead guy thinking of nothing as he drove nowhere.
Fine. This was our spot. Tired and with no conversation in us, we stared at each other for a good 10 minutes. Then, the skeptical optimist in me wondered if I could find a position of repose in which to sleep.
There was no way I’d stretch out on the floor.
Why? Take a moment. Think of all the things that could be living in or just recently died in that heavily-trafficked, industrial-strength carpet in the gate areas at JFK.
You now have your answer.
But stretching out on the seats was a challenge. The seats are in long rows with fixed aluminum armrests between each seat.
So the question: could I balance myself up against the metal armrests on the front edge of the seats and close my eyes without falling off.
The answer: Yes.
I removed my outer shirt and balled it up on the seat like a pillow. But really, it was to protect my face from the parade of asses whose cheeks had been compressed on this very spot over the years. (Just thinking about it makes me want to take a shower.)
I laid my head on my shirt, closed my eyes, and waited for the cacophony of airport noises to harmonize into a bizzaro bedtime lullaby. It was working-ish. My brain was hovering between relaxation and actual sleep. But one of the armrests began digging into my ankle. I got up, looked over to see that Mr. Parker had his eyes closed, then laid back down on my other side.
This time, the JFK late-night lullaby did its job. I was out—until…
Why am I hearing some fool taking a call on speaker?
My hope was that it would end quickly. If I didn’t open my eyes, maybe the sleep spell wouldn’t be broken. I could drift back to a dreamland where money and calories have no meaning. (Oh yeah, and world peace.)
But the conversation didn’t stop. Finally, I picked my head up and looked to see who was polluting my chance for sleep with their meaningless chatter. What I saw was a man lying on the ground. First? Eew. Second? He had his phone plugged into the wall by his head, and the device on speaker, presumably so he could relax without holding it.
Are you f*cking kidding me?
This airport is huge. There are outlets everywhere! And this clown (I’m being polite) opts to set up his bad-audio camp up next to two people who are clearly asleep. He had one arm over his eyes, I'm guessing to avoid the daggers I was shooting at him from my own eyes. He clearly knew he woke us up, because he was trying to speak quietly—an effort that was irrelevant because the person yelling at him from the other end of the call didn’t know to give a shit.
I looked at Mr. Parker. “Should we move?”
“Let’s get out of here.”
We grabbed our bags and started to leave. But not before Mr. Parker turned to my now least favorite person in the world, yanked his phone charging cord out of the wall, and said, “A hundred bucks and you can have it back.”
How great would that have been?
No, he didn’t grab the phone. What he said was, “You had an entire empty airport and you had go hunt down the only two people who were asleep?”
We went around the corner, waited the two hours that were left, then rejoined the land of glamorous living in the Delta SkyClub. Starbucks SkyClub Coffee fresh from Ethiopia, a SkyClub croissant probably jetted in from Paris, and SkyClub fruit flown in from the farthest reaches of Fruit-topia. I went to the SkyClub Women’s Washateria, splashed water on my face, and started to feel human-ish.
Once aboard and belted into my extra-comfy First Class Delta SkySeat, waiting to begin winged to the DR, we had plenty of time to reevaluate the choice to spend the night in JFK.
That’s because before we could take off, a sick passenger needed to return to the gate. We waited two hours for that and other random silliness, like fixing a non-functioning SkyChat radio and replenishing the SkyFuel after two hours of running the engines to travel SkyNowhere..
Then, after we finally landed in paradise, yet another sick passenger to be taken off the plane by paramedics. (Red flag?) The Delta SkyStaffers instructed us to refrain from deplaning (yes, I said it again) until that maneuver was completed. That was another 30 SkyMinutes.
Bottom line: I’m never spending the night in JFK ever again. (Except on the way home seven days from now.)
Got any airport or inflight SkyDrama of your own? Feel free to share it by clicking the “reply” button.
Cheers and stay Careful-ish,
Honey Parker has been writing, writing, writing for decades, decades, decades. In there, she has also been a standup comedian, a Hollywood screenwriter, a director, and a co-author of edgy business books. Careful-ish is her debut novel. It is the first in a trilogy. It is comedy-ish.