By: Brian Shinnick
Let me be the first to tell you: I love my mother. I love her a lot. I love her like I love Itialian food and Kermit the Frog. I mean I really love my mother. She’s the best Mama Bear this side of the Mississippi. But I’ll also be the first to tell you: She drives me absolutely nuts. Good God that lady makes a whole new angry boy outta me. One that throws fits and tantrums and hot dog tomatoes at homeless men. Absolutely bonkers. That said, it should be no surprise I chose to take a little trip with my mother to Napa Valley, CA. Just the two of us. That’s right, wine country with mom.
It’s 9:45 a.m. standing curbside at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, easily the most hated airport in this United States, and, for that matter, the world. I’m on time. Per usual. My mother has just sent a text saying she’s a half-hour late. I deal, but damn do I want a cigarette. I just quit smoking three days ago— terrible, horrendous timing. While I’m thinking about the best way to tell her I’ve caught some strain of Malarian stomach virus and can’t go to the coast, she’s trying to stuff some kind of stand-up vanity mirror into her roller bag that could easily house my brother for six months in Hong Kong. We’re gonna be gone four days, mind you.
I love my mother. I love my mother. I love my mother. I love my mother. I think I love my mother.
She arrives an hour late. My dad drove her to the airport—God love that man. My mother steps out in a white fluttering blouse, blue jeans and tall brown boots. She’s on cloud nine. Vacation with her boy. She’s been waiting for this moment for 27 years and the day has finally come. Stepping out of the car she begins jumping up and down clapping her hands like a nine-year-old getting ready for Disney World, “Yayayayayayayayay VACATIOOOOOOOOOOOON!”
We step into line for the TSA check. “How looooooooong is this going to take?” she asks me stomping her feet.
“Ma, you were a flight attendant for twenty goddamn years.”
“Yeah, but I think this is the slow line.” She’s tapping her chin scanning the huge room before her.
“Ma, there’s only one line.”
“Yeah, but this is the slow one I think. Look at this one, Bri. It’s rushing up there. They’re moving so fast, Bri. Bri? Bri? Bri?”
“It’s all the same line, Ma.” We move through the line at the same miserable rate as every other miserable group of people discussing their pre-flight cocktail.
Now we’re third in line. I’m kicking off my shoes, slapping off my belt, jingle-jangling pocket change and money clips and baseball caps into grey bins when she says, “I’m not going through that body scanner.”
“Huh?” I ask between my security strip down.
“I’m not going through that scanner. Eh-eh. Too much radiation.”
“Ma, everybody goes through that microwave thing. It’s fine. C’mon.”
“I’ll opt out.”
“Out of the trip?” I ask as I hear angels singing sweet melodies of relief from high above.
She opts out. Opts for the full body-wanding deal. I’d never even heard of such an option. They rub their fingers through her hair. Check her armpits deeply. Make her spread her mouth wide, just in case she was hiding any shrapnel in there. It was an extra fifteen minutes tacked on to my airport pleasure.
“Let’s take airport selfies!” she exclaims as we sit down at our gate. In case you were unaware: there is such a thing as an airport selfie. Maybe you knew. I didn’t.
“Ma, c’monnnnnn. We just sat down.” But she’s already got her phone stuck out, leaning her head on my shoulder, snapping her smiley face photos as I’m still trying to shake off last night’s whiskey.
“Airport SELFIES!” She starts clapping her hands again. Tomorrow is her 58th birthday, mind you.
As we’re boarding the plane I notice a group of guys my age all in suits touting matching duffle bags. It’s a professional hockey team a few of my friends played for, the Rockford Ice Hogs. I see an old buddy, Garrett, and he tells me the team is headed for a west coast road trip for a week or so. I tell him I’m going to Napa with my mom. He tilts his head a little, “Well that uhhh that should be fun. Yeah…?” We board the plane.
We wrap up the morning shoot of airplane selfies quickly and now she’s looking for a way up to first class. She’s not taking No for an answer. Oh no. She’s telling these flight attendants it’s her birthday. Nope. She’s telling these stewardesses I’m recently cancer free and we’re celebrating life. That’s just not true. She’s gonna tell these uniformed women slanging cocktails that I have titanium in both my legs and I need the precious leg room. Flag on the play. She’s gonna finger point at these broads with scarves, explain exactly who’s boss and that she’s never sat coach in her life when there’s open seats in first class. I’m just gonna put on a headband, shout Bruce Springsteen songs, pump my fists in the air violently and hope for the best.
She doesn’t get the seats. Shocking. We take off.
In a row of three: Mom’s on the aisle, I’m in the middle, and a nice lady of 40 or so has the window seat. The woman next to me begins working on her computer and closes the window to rid the blinding glare on her computer screen. (Keyword: working)
Mom leans over and whispers to me, “Well I want the window open.”
“Why are you telling me?” I ask this assuming she isn’t brazen enough to complain to a woman—who’s trying to work—about a window that’s only view is the plane’s wing.
“Well she should ask, don’t you agree?”
“Not really, no.”
She hunches over further and dangles her wrist at the woman, “Excuse me. Hi. Can I ask you to put the window back up? I like it up.”
The woman is nice, “Oh sure. No problem.”
I look over at her and say, “That was nice but it’s not necessary.” She assures me it’s fine. I nod thank you. “Do you like Napa Valley?” I ask her.
“Oh my goodness I love Napa,” she smiles.
“Do you want to go on a trip to with my mother over here and I’ll do…whatever it is that you have to do?”
She laughs a little, “You’re funny, but I have to work and take care of my own kids.” She’s not understanding how serious I am.
“I love kids.”
An hour-and-a-half into the flight and she’s finished flipping through the fashion magazines she bought at the airport. Now she’s talking to me about how much this hockey coach gets paid. He’s sitting directly across the aisle. She thinks my answer is absurd, no way should he be paid that much she says. Ok, Mom. She thinks his shirt is tacky for how much he gets paid, “I mean come on,” she says. There’s no way he can’t hear this conversation.
The plane lands.
“Dad said we should take an Uber, they’re cheaper,” she says.
“Dad doesn’t know what Uber is,” I politely reply.
“Dad takes Uber a lot!”
“Dad lives in a suburb and insists he is never drunk.”
“Dad says we should take an Uber.”
I hail a cab—a regular, non-Uber cab.
“So this is an Uber?” she asks.