Why on the busiest day of the week was there only one person working the check-in counter? The serpent-like line crept past two competing check-in desks where ornery occupants stood motionless except to occasionally shuffle forward two or three steps, pulling their luggage in tow. Arrived an hour early for the flight, but only 25 minutes remaining and still number 31 in line. "At 4:00," the loudspeaker honed, "12 or 14 more agents will begin and this situation will be resolved quickly. We thank you for your patience. If, however, you purchased your ticket using a major credit card, feel free to do electronic check-in using the machines located at the south end of the lobby. There is currently no waiting line there." People shifted and looked anxiously at their watches then at the mysterious electronic check-in area, babies played peek-a-boo with strangers, and businessmen complained, "Given how much business we give this airline, we shouldn't have to wait in line."
Finally arriving at the gate, it appears that seating was called for the flight since there are only a few people remaining in the gate area. A petite woman in dark sunglasses and cropped red hair steps in line. She is pulling a carry-on suitcase approximately three-fourths her size, bulging on one side where she has possibly squeezed an extra pair of shoes or balled up socks. "What rows are they seating now?," a woman asks her. "I think they're seating all rows," she says. She hands her boarding pass to the agent who asks to also see her ticket. "I don't have anything else," she snaps. "They took everything in Boston." She hands the folder of assorted travel documents to the agent who leafs through each and then instructs the woman to go to another counter to talk to the supervisor. "Oh shit!," she spews as she steps out of line and marches to the other counter. "No ticket," the agent says to the supervisor with a nod toward the irritable customer.
Seated in the plane for several minutes, the redhead pulls her suitcase down the aisle, dark sunglasses still in place. Looking over the top of her glasses she locates her seat and opens the overhead bin, comparing its size to the size of her carry-on luggage. With more energy than one would think such a small thing has, she hoists the suitcase to the edge of the bin where it refuses to go any further. "How the hell am I supposed to fit this in here?" The remaining boarding passengers don't exist as she blocks the aisle. One woman seated nearby whispers to her travel companion, "That's why they have rules." "And what rule would that be?" she says as she boldly turns and faces the woman. "Perhaps," the woman stammers, surprised at being overheard, "if you empty the outside pocket, it will fit," trying to show accommodation and ignoring the redhead's confrontation. "This suitcase is within the carry-on requirements, that's why I'm wondering which rule you were referring to," she spews while she removes seven pairs of balled-up socks from the outside pocket. She swung the suitcase up for another try, this time with less force, and pushes on it until it gives in to the pressure. "There," said the embarrassed woman. "I should have told you about emptying the pocket earlier." The angry redhead grabbed a blanket and a pillow from a bin beyond her and was finally seated. The standing passengers walk past her, several glaring at her.
The plane taxied toward the runway. "There are five planes ahead of us," the pilot said. "We should take off in five to ten minutes." The redhead was already covered up with the blue fleece blanket, resting her head on the pillow with her shade pulled down.
As the plane raced and lifted its nose toward the sky, the man beside her began to snore. Several people raised their heads in bewilderment to determine where the sound was coming from. The woman sat up straight and stared at the peaceful traveler. She lifted her glasses and peered over the seats, looking for an empty seat where she could gain distance from the nose blower. "Shit!," she exclaimed angrily as she observed that the flight was completely full. She slammed herself against the back of the seat, jarring her dosing partner awake.