I was having one of those weird 3 a.m. dreams.
I was trying to get somewhere, but I couldn’t seem to make any forward progress. It was like my feet were stuck. Then I heard a loud buzzing sound. Killer bees? A demonic golf cart? A brain-sucking vacuum cleaner? I opened one eye. I was in a huge room with a towering white ceiling and I was surrounded by rows and rows of chairs. There was an detached voice coming from nowhere and everywhere at the same time...
“People with utility carts trying to get to the mezzanine level please use the elevator, not the escalator.”
Mezzanine level? Was that in heaven? Had I died? If so, how the heck did I get into heaven? Did they have some kind of amnesty program?
The buzzing got louder -- definitely a vacuum cleaner. Why do they have to vacuum in heaven? I thought everyone wore white and walked on clouds. I opened the other eye. I was wearing jeans. That was an improvement. Usually in weird dreams like this I’m naked.
I rolled over. My feet didn’t. As I fell to the floor I noticed they were stuck under the arm of one of the chairs.
The voice came on again. “Please do not leave your bags unattended at any time. If you spot any unattended bags please report them to the nearest security guard.”
Oddly enough I knew exactly where my bags were. They were in the middle of my back. My head was on the floor. My feet were still stuck. I saw an upside down vacuum cleaner approach followed by upside down woman holding an upside down extension cord. She vacuumed around me and continued on her upside-down way.
“Welcome to San Francisco International Airport,” the strange voice said. “Please keep your boarding pass with you at all times and plan to arrive at your gate at least fifteen minutes before your flight.”
It was all coming back now. I was flying home from Seattle. I got as far as San Francisco where I found out that United Airlines had merged with Continental. Only apparently they forgot to tell the pilots. All throughout the airport people stared into gaping, windy gateways where planes were supposed to be. Many paced zombie-like talking on cell phones or followed their GPS systems from closed coffee shop to closed coffee shop. On the tarmac long trains of baggage transports could be seen driving around and around in circles.
At midnight, a nice lady had given me a number and told me to go to customer service. “How will I find it?”
“Follow the others,” she said.
There are always others in my dreams. Often familiar, but never quite like anyone I actually know. Sometimes they chase me. Usually they point out that I’m naked.
I found customer service. There was a long line. It resembled a group that might be camping out waiting for the next Twilight movie. I pulled my collar up around my neck.
“Are you all trying to get to Santa Barbara?”
Hundreds of hollow, vampire-like eyes looked at me. One of them spoke. “Eugene,” she said.
She didn’t look like a Eugene, but I held out my hand. “Ernie,” I said.
Then she explained a lot of them were trying to get to Eugene, Oregon. The plane that was to take them there never showed up.
“They say we might get a flight by late Tuesday.”
“But today’s Sunday.”
“Apparently, the computers don’t know that.”
When I finally got to the counter, they confirmed my flight for 8:16 a.m. “Is there a place I can sleep?” I asked.
The customer service rep swung his arm in a wide-sweeping gesture, then he handed me a package containing a toothbrush, razor, comb and deodorant. Apparently, it was not the first time this had happened.
I went to my gate. I was the only one there. Until the vacuum lady, and now an upside down guy who was angrily emptying metal trash cans.
“Thank you for flying United,” the PA voice from the netherworld said. “United is the world’s leading airline and is focused on being the airline customers want to fly.”
Want to maybe. Able to, not so much. I crawled back up onto my makeshift bed to dream about driving home – naked, of course.