This is an old column (from 2007) that I thought about last Wednesday, when three inches of snow closed every New York airport. It left tens of thousands of people stranded without hotel rooms and doomed to sleep on those uncomfortable airport seats that were designed by sadists.
I wrote it because, every once in a while, I have to sit back and remember how clueless I can be at times.
Last week I was pitching a new piece of advertising business in Fort Wayne, Indiana. So, on Wednesday night, I went with two of my associates to LaGuardia Airport to catch a 9 PM American Airlines flight to Chicago. Now there was, indeed, an American Airlines flight that was leaving for Chicago at 9 PM, but unfortunately, that was the flight that was supposed to have left at 6 PM.
The 9 PM flight was scheduled to leave at 11:05 PM. So, it was after 1 AM when I arrived in Chicago and dragged my tired, slightly drunk ass to the Hilton Hotel, which is located right next to the American Airlines terminal.
This may be one of the most successful hotels in the world. It's obviously always packed with people who have missed their connections because of perpetually late flights. I checked in, and got on the elevator to go to my room. The elevator was packed with unhappy men grumbling about their flights. There was an attractive woman standing next to me, dressed in a dark blue jump suit. I assumed she was working for the hotel.
She leaned close to me and said, "I love your suit."
Now you have to understand, at that point, my suit looked like an unmade bed. I was a rumpled mess. "Thank you," I said.
"You look tense," she said. "When is the last time you had a massage?"
"Never," I mumbled. "I've never had a massage." Now the elevator had reached my floor, and the elevator door opened. I smiled and said, "Good night." My newfound friend followed me out the elevator. I started to get a bit suspicious.
"I give massages and it's clear you need one. You are too tense. That's how you men die. Tension. You hold everything in and are too tense. Did you know the football player Walter Payton died when he was in his 40s, and that ballplayer Ken Caminiti died when he was in his 40s?"
"They must have been flying American Airlines," I thought to myself.
She looked at me, smiled, and said, "You must get a massage tonight. I don't like that tension I see in your eyes."
I didn't have the heart to tell her that she was making me tense. I was puzzled. Did she work in the hotel? Now she was moving closer and I backed up.
"How old are you?" she asked. Before I could answer she said, "Don't tell me. I'm very good at ages and I would say you're in your late 40s? 47 . . . 48 . . ."
That's when it registered with me. OH MY GOD — I'M SO CLUELESS. SHE IS A HOOKER AND SHE IS BLIND. "Yes, that's right. I'm 47 . . . 48 . . . got to go to my room now," I said and broke into a trot toward my room.
"Don't you want me to do something for your tension?" she called after me in a clearly seductive voice.
"No, actually, I sleep better when I'm tense," I answered, as I ran to my room and double-locked the door.
At 5 AM, I was awakened by my cell phone ringing. It was American Airlines informing me that my 7 AM flight to Fort Wayne had been canceled. "Why?" I asked. "Bad weather," was the answer. Well, the weather in Chicago was perfect and my contact in Fort Wayne later said the weather was perfect there, too.
"Bad weather" is airline talk for "We didn't have enough passengers scheduled for that flight so we canceled it."
So, we rented a car and I drove four hours to Fort Wayne. After our meeting, we all decided to avoid American Airlines and come back via another airline. The plan was to fly Northwest Airlines from Fort Wayne into Detroit, and then on to LaGuardia.
As I was going through security in the tiny Fort Wayne airport, a pudgy security guard looked at my boarding pass and said, "You have been chosen by your airline, Northwest, to undergo additional security measures." For the next 20 minutes, he and his associate went through every part of my carry-on bag and my body.
This pudgy guy, wearing white rubber gloves, patted me down and "massaged" me (his words) in places that the Hilton Hooker would have charged double to touch.
He ran the wand over my fly and said, "That's a metal zipper, isn't it?"
"Yes," I said nervously.
"Got to check that," he smiled. Then he started to check me in an intimate area where I expected him to say, "Turn your head and cough."
"Do you want to go into an area behind a screen?" he asked.
"No, this is fine," I said, thinking to myself that this guy was enjoying patting me too much for me to risk being alone with him. His partner was taking every item of clothing that I had in the bag and rolling it into a ball and stuffing it back into the bag. Every five minutes one of them would say, "We don't want to do this but your airline, Northwest, has selected you for an additional security search." Clearly, I was the victim of a jurisdictional dispute between Northwest and the security staff at the airport.
Naturally, when we got to Detroit, our 7 PM Northwest flight to New York was delayed until 10:30.
I will end this column with a prayer: God, please put Northwest Airlines out of business, before they hurt someone. Amen.
POSTSCRIPT: Less than a year later, Northwest Airlines was merged into Delta Airlines and was never heard from again. When I heard about it, I remember thinking the good old Della Femina curse is still working.
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