Every year Sun Coast Retirement Center sponsored trips to different destinations in Florida and the southeast. Sometimes they even went further afield. Already this year some residents had gone to the Everglades, South Beach, and a shopping foray to Tampa.
Edith and Mabel decided to take a trip together. The problem was deciding which trip. Mabel wanted Disneyland. Edith wanted New York City. Both trips were to be a quickie two night, three-day event. Disneyland was cheaper since the trip was by motor couch and New York required an airplane ticket but, at 85, both ladies felt this might be their last hurrah.
Edith: Mabel, you know you haven’t been to The City for 30 years. It’s time for another visit.
Mabel: Yes, and last time I went, it was filled with drooling drunks, pimps and prostitutes. Why do that again?
Edith: It’s not that way anymore. Now it’s people skateboarding down Park Avenue and sipping Starbucks.
Mabel: Why not Disneyland? It’s easy to get there and we’ll make the grandkids envious.
E: You know I can’t do those rides. Besides, who wants to get pushed around by all those annoying strollers and bawling babies
M: Who wants to be pushed around by all those teenaged boys with plugs in their ears and their pants dropping off?
The discussion went on like this for a while and finally the decision was made the rock, paper, scissors way. Edith and Mabel always chose the most rational method in a conflict.
It was off to New York City with six others. There was a tour guide to meet them at the airport at La Guardia.
Excitement mounted as Edith packed. She had her usual list: earplugs (Mabel snored), sleeping pills (strange bed, strange noises), bunion cushions for walking, mace for the pick pockets, camera and extra film (none of that confusing digital stuff), extra pop tarts for between meals.
The Suncoast Retirement Center van took everyone to the airport and Ms Smith escorted the group through security. Mabel had to leave behind her pocketknife. Despite careful pre trip instructions, she didn’t believe the TSA would take away an old lady’s only protection against hoodlums in the city. She believed that she could take out anyone who tried to pick her pocket.
During the three-hour flight, both Edith and Mabel make multiple trips to the bathroom. Both took water pills and this required both getting up, grabbing onto the back of the seat in front of them, maneuvering around the beverage cart and, of course, chatting up all the people as they made their way down toward the restroom.
The first time Edith did this, she got herself locked inside and couldn’t figure out how to get out. She finally started banging on the door.
“Help! I’m trapped in here! Let me out!”
“Hang on, ma’am. We’ll get you out of there. Let me get my special tool.”
The flight attendant, a fiftyish looking woman who thought Edith looked like her mother, helped Edith back to her seat.
Mabel, who was sitting at the aisle, was fidgeting. Pulling at her blouse, she was trying to adjust her bra. Despite repeated admonitions about her shouting, Mabel announced to the audience at large, “This damn bra. I should get a new one and be done with it. The elastic has given out.”
“Mabel, I keep telling you not to shout. Just because you’re hard of hearing, doesn’t mean you have to yell. Stop pulling at your blouse. People will think you have a gun in there.”
“I’m not yelling!” Mabel shouted.
Across the aisle from Edith sat a Sikh who was concentrating on his laptop. Despite the yelling and bumping, he seemed to settle into ignoring his surroundings even though he was the object of suspicious stares.
“I don’t like the looks of that one!” shouted Mabel.
“What do you mean?”
“He looks like a terrorist to me.” Mabel was again grabbing her chest and moving her stretched out bra. “Look at that turban. You have to watch these people. You never know what they’re doing. They look suspicious.”
Edith looked across the aisle, shrugged and resumed reading her magazine.
Mabel continued. “What would we do if he stood up and tried to take us out? We’re stuck here on a plane. ”
“Do me a favor. Be a hero and shut up,” snapped Edith.
At this point the Sikh stood up and moved to the back of the plane. Mabel jumped, sure that an attack was imminent.
She shrieked and got to the floor.
Just then, the innocuous looking man sitting behind the Sikh, stood and reached down to grab Mabel by the collar of her shirt and probably the nape of her neck as well. Everyone was into the act by now. People were bending, standing and straining to see what was going on.
Mabel hollered, “Get off me. Help!”
“Ma’am. I’m a federal agent. Please stop your yelling. You are disturbing the other passengers.
By now, Mabel was hysterical. She couldn’t hear most of what people said under the best of circumstances and was even less in control now.
“She can’t hear you. She doesn’t have in her hearing aids.” Edith said to the assembled people. She was clearly embarrassed for this whole situation.
The agent tried again, only louder, to explain to Mabel that she was not in peril.
“I’m sorry ma’am. If you don’t settle down, we’ll have to return to the terminal and ask to you leave.”
Mabel: Get your hands off me!
Agent: Ma’am. Sit down. Everything is alright.
Mabel: Help! Murderer! Someone help me!
By now, the attendant and several other passengers were involved in getting Mabel back to her seat. Everyone was up and moving. People were struggling to either help or hide. Mabel was crying.
Gradually, people calmed down. Mabel was still whimpering, but she finally sat down. When things seemed to be returning to normal this came over the speakers:
“Ladies and Gentlemen, due to federal regulations, we are returning to the terminal to assure everyone’s safety.”
No names were mentioned. They didn’t need to be. All eyes were on Mabel and her companion, Edith. Mabel, still unaware of her culpability in her deafness, did not react. The groans were unheard by her. Her face was hidden in her handkerchief.
The plane landed smoothly and taxied to the gate. The doors opened and more federal agents entered to escort Mabel off the plane. Edith stood up too.
Mabel said “Are we here already? Have we arrived in New York?”
“No,” said Edith. ” I’ve changed my mind. We’re going to Disneyland.”