By Fiona Warnick
“If I can’t see the world soon, I swear I’m going to turn into a living cow pie.” Or at least that’s what I announced to my parents, as flopped onto our grubby couch in a pretend faint. Now, I guess you could say that I have a bit of a flair for being over-dramatic. But what can I say? At that moment in time, I really, truly, 100% felt that if I did not get off this boring excuse for a farm, I, Winnie Jackson, would become just another one of those lovely cow pies that littered our fields.
How was I to know that this one measly statement would cause them to ship me off to my aunt’s place in NYC, all the way from Middle-of-Nowhere, Hemmington, Ohio? Even if I had known everything my words would bring about, I still would have said them. After all, it was better than being a living cow pie!
The troubles really started in the airport bathroom. Seeing as I was 15, my parents had decided that even though I’d never left Ohio before, let alone been on a plane, I would fly to NYC by myself.
At first, I was excited about this. Then I was scared to death. Then I was thrilled. Then I was back to being terrified. We’ll just blame my mood swings on teenage hormones, and hope I wasn’t becoming bipolar.
Anyways, there I was in the airport bathroom. I’d survived security, found the gate my plane would board from, and really had to pee. I’d located the ladies’ room without difficulty, and was feeling pretty accomplished. I was a natural at navigating airports!
Before I explain what happened next, I must make it clear that though I could milk cows, muck stalls, and feed the bulls without getting gored, there was a whole lot of the world hat I’d never seen except in the movies. Automatic flushing toilets of the kind they have in airports, for instance.
I’d sat down on the toilet, done everything I needed to, and was just standing up when suddenly... “Floooooooosh!”
That rude toilet flushed itself before I even had my pants up!
Never having seen this kind of high-tech toilet before, I was majorly startled. I jumped so high into the air that I probably could have waved “hi” to the woman in the next stall if my mind hadn’t been on other things.
Once I had both feet firmly back on earth, I turned around and slowly backed away from the toilet the way you step away from a rattle snake. The red light on the motion sensor blinked menacingly at me. I took a deep breath. It was just a toilet. It was nothing to be afraid of. I took another deep breath. It was, in fact, something one should be embarrassed to be afraid of. I rolled my eyes at my own stupidity, unlocked the stall door, and washed my hands with my head held high. But if I’m being honest with you, it took a good 5 more minutes for my heart rate to return to normal.
The next of my airport adventures took place at Starbucks. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
When I had mostly forgotten about the toilet incident, I realized I was thirsty, and also a little wiped out. I required coffee. A quick glance at my watch assured me that I had plenty of time to find some.
I swung my backpack over my shoulder (the rest of my luggage had been checked), and headed off down the terminal. Soon enough, I saw a Starbucks, and knew that was the place for me.
This may sound strange, but I had never been to Starbucks before. My town was probably the only one in the U.S. that didn’t have one. Plus, my parents had this thing against chain stores. But somewhere along the way, I had gotten this idea in my head that you couldn’t really say you were American unless you’d been to Starbucks. So I was going now.
There wasn’t a line, so I walked right up to a counter before realizing it was the pick-up counter, and the place to order was different. I quickly pretended to have been just getting a closer look at the menu (even though I hadn’t read a word of it) and hurried over to the other counter.
When the cashier asked me what I wanted, I told him, “Just a large coffee please.”
He gave me a funny look. “What kind of coffee?”
What kind? What in heavens name was he talking about? Back in Hemmington, we just had coffee, plain and simple. If you wanted milk or sugar or anything fancy like that, you could add it yourself. Obviously, things were different at Starbucks.
The problem was, I didn’t know how they were different. They clearly had multiple kinds, but as to what those kinds were, I hadn’t the slightest idea. What was I supposed to say?
As luck (of either the good or back kind, I’m still not sure which it was) would have it, the person standing in line behind me came to my rescue.
“The girl wants an iced latte. Can’t you tell? She just has that iced latte look to her.”
I didn’t know what an iced latte was, but it was suddenly my favorite kind of coffee. Why? Because of that boy’s glorious voice. I swear that when he spoke, angels didn’t need to sing, because it already sounded like they were.
“Yeah, an iced latte would be great!” I squeaked at the Starbucks employee.
“Name?” he asked.
Why did he need my name? Whatever. “Winnie.” I whispered, and slid a $10 bill across the counter before turning to discover that the looks of the guy behind me completely matched his voice. In other words, he had a handsomeness level of positively biblical proportions. And he thought I was the kind of girl that would want an iced latte, whatever that was!
Now, I’m tall. Taller than 5 out of the 6 boys in my grade at Hemmington High. But even though this guy looked only a year or two older than me, he was taller, by like, a lot. And he was standing kind of close to me, so I had to crane my neck to look up into his face. But trust me, it was totally worth whatever aches and pains it would cause me the next day.
He gave me a quick grin, before looking above me to the menu on the wall. I didn’t move. Looking back on it, I probably was acting a lot like that lady in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, who just freezes when this man (her future husband) walks into the restaurant.
So anyways, there I was, frozen in Starbucks, making a complete idiot of myself. The guy glanced down at me and graced me with another smiled, but this time it was a “You’re really weirding me out” type smile. It jolted me out of my daze. I could feel my face begin its transformation into a bright red tomato. I hastily stepped away from the guy, but bumped into the counter, so then I sort of awkwardly turned and used all of my remaining brain power to walk over to a little cafe table instead of running away as fast as I could.
I collapsed into he chair before realizing I had yet to get my coffee. After a couple breaths to steady my heartbeat, I got back up and went to the pick-up counter.
There was a cup sitting on it. Was it mine? It had ice in it, so I was prepared to bet it was an iced latte. But on the side it read “Jimmy.” That was not my name. Was it possible that the Starbucks cashier had thought I’d said “Jimmy” when in fact I’d said “Winnie?” I had been speaking quietly, but I didn’t exactly look like a Jimmy. Did I? I hoped not. Whatever. I grabbed the coffee and returned to my table. I tentatively tasted the drink. Given who had recommended it, I had high expectations. I regret to say that it was a long way from meeting them. Coffee was supposed to be hot. Putting ice in it was pretty much the stupidest idea in about 3 centuries.
But it was still coffee, and I was still thirsty, so I drank it.
I was almost finished, with just a few sips left, when a shadow fell over my table. A very tall shadow. My heart rate approached the speed of a train, hurtling towards train-wreck. And then that voice, that voice, said, “Winnie?”
I looked up at him, and he glanced at my cup. “Or should I say, Jimmy?” he chuckled.
“Mhm?” I tried to say. I say tried, because it came out sounding more like that noise cows make when they’re being stubborn. A sort of, “Nuhhmphurnug.” Real attractive, I know.
“Here’s your change, you left it on the counter.” He said.
Had I? How embarrassing. “Oh, thanks.” I mumbled.
Only after he was gone did I realize that he had given me a whole $10. He had paid for my iced latte! I dropped my head onto the table. If things continued the way they were headed, I was going to have heart failure before I could legally drink alcohol.
I don’t know how long I could have stayed there with my head on the table. A long time. Maybe I would have fallen asleep and missed my flight! But that didn’t happen. Phew! I don’t know if I could have survived any more humiliation right then.
What did happen is that they called everyone on my flight to come to the gate, because we were boarding. I pulled myself together, dumped the dregs of my coffee in a nearby trash, and headed back up the terminal.
When I reached the gate, people were already lining up, even though they were only letting first class and people with babies on at the moment. I joined the queue and surveyed my fellow passengers. I hoped none of them were terrorists.
In front of me, a woman dressed in a business suit crisper than bacon talked on her cell. A man argued with his wife about where to go for dinner behind me. And a few people in front of me... Oh, no. It was the guy from Starbucks. For the first time, I wished I had never left my wonderful farm full of cows.
I had thought I was ready for the big outside world, but in just the first few hours I had been scared by a toilet and made a complete and utter fool out of myself in Starbucks. This was going to be a long trip.
But that was no way to think! I was Winnie Jackson, and I would not let a few minor mishaps keep me from a fantabulous adventure in New York City. Correction: a few slightly larger than minor mishaps. Thankfully, nothing had quite qualified as major. Yet.
I considered my options. I could run away from the plane and the Starbucks guy, miss my flight, go back to the farm, and turn into a living cow pie. Well, that was a big fat NO. I was going to have to get on that plane, be brave, and pretend not to notice ol’ Starbucks Guy. Or better yet, I would pretend to have forgotten him! I mean to say, the Starbucks incident was almost an entire 10 minutes ago. That was around 600 seconds. He was ancient history!
This little mental pep talk had gotten me to almost the front of the line. I had a momentary freak-out when I couldn’t find my boarding pass, but then it appeared in my pocket, and all was once again well in the world.
The stewardess ushered me on through the rickety tunnel which led to the plane itself. I was on a plane! A real-as-a-charging-bull airplane! For the first time in my life!
A flight attendant pointed me towards my seat, but she failed to get me all the way there. I needed seat 22A. But where were the labels? Oh, there, just under the overhead compartments. There was row 18...19...20...21... Aha! Row 22, and there was my seat, 22A, only... Someone was sitting in it.
He had blondish hair, looked around my age (though a little on the short side), was reading a book, and wasn’t nearly as handsome as Starbucks Guy, who I luckily hadn’t spotted yet. But none of that was important. What was important was that he was in MY seat. At least, I was 90% sure it was my seat. And if it wasn’t, oh well. I’d already embarrassed myself twice today, surely I could do it again.
I gathered my courage, and confronted this intruder.
“Excuse me, but you happen to be sitting in my seat.” I told him.
He glanced up. “Oh? Yes, I suppose I am.” He went back to reading. This boy was just begging for a good old fashioned slap across the face. I restrained myself.
“Well, do you think you could move?” I asked in a tone that was perhaps not as polite as my my mother would have wanted.
The boy ignored me. I reached forward and plucked the book out of his hands. “Listen, buddy. I don’t know who you think you are, but you are in my seat, and you need to move. I can’t very well sit in your lap!”
He looked at me very seriously. “No, I agree. If you sat in my lap it would make it very difficult for me to keep reading that wonderful book you just stole from me.”
“And it would be even more difficult for you to read if I went and dropped it out the window. So move!”
He shook his head. “The windows on planes don’t open.”
Some interfering woman behind me tapped my shoulder.
“Your blocking the isle, miss.” She explained.
I glared at her and flopped into the seat next to the one I was supposed to have, and then turned to the boy.
Before I could say anything, he spoke. “And now you’re in my seat.”
I groaned. “Perfect. So let’s just switch seats. I’ll give you your book back, and then we can ignore each other for the entire flight.”
He pretended to consider this. “Or, we could not switch seats, you could give me my book back, and then we can ignore each other. See, I want the window seat.”
“Well, I also happen to want the window seat!” I informed him. Never having flown anywhere before, I wasn’t entirely sure if this was true. On buses, I actually preferred isle. But it was my seat, and this boy was being infuriatingly ornery, so at this moment in time, I did want the seat. I’m stubborn that way.
“Anyway.” I continued. “Seeing as it seems like you’re just going to read for the whole flight, I don’t see why you want the window.”
“Whatever.” He rolled his eyes, and we switched places. Somewhat awkwardly, I might add. There isn’t a lot of room in the non-first class sections. With that settled, I stuffed my backpack under the seat in front of me, buckled my seat belt, and waited for take off.
Finally, the flight attendant stood and gave a whole spiel about where the emergency exits were, how our seat cushions could be used as floatation devices in the event of an emergency, and how she hoped we would enjoy our flight.
“That’s not going to happen, is it?” I whispered nervously to the seat stealing boy next to me.
“What, that we’ll enjoy our flight? Not if you keep interrupting my reading.”
The nerve of him! “No! That we might crash!”
He raised his eyes to the heavens. Or more accurately, to the “no smoking” sign above our seats. “I thought we were going to ignore each other.”
I frowned, and stared out the window. Suddenly, the plane began to move. Slower than I can jog, I’ll admit, but it was moving! I gripped the arm rests tightly, and watched intently as people on the ground waved flags and things to direct our plane. Soon enough, we were on the runway, building speed, and then the ground was getting smaller, and it really hit me.
“We’re flying!” I whispered to myself in awe.
“Good work, Sherlock.” The boy next to me muttered.
“Ignoring you!” I replied in a sing-song-y voice, without taking my eyes off the window.
Cars below us were ants. Warehouses were no larger than a chicken’s toenail. But as interesting as the view was, everything gets boring after a while.
I turned my attention to the people around me, carefully avoiding the one in the next seat over. The couple who had been arguing about dinner in the airport sat in front of me, her head on his shoulder. And across the isle from them... Starbucks Guy, listening to music from and MP3 player. I froze, then quickly unfroze myself. Why did he have to be sitting so close? Why did he have to be on this plane, for that matter? The world was an evil place.
I tried to focus on the other passengers, and then the view, and then a sudoku puzzle I had found in the seat pocket in front of me. But my eyes kept disobediently flicking over to Starbucks Guy. This was bad. I didn’t even know his name and I was already half stalking him.
It’s funny. Whenever I’d read those books where a girl goes completely goo-goo over a guy, and her brain short-circuits and stuff, I’d always just laughed at the characters for being so insanely silly. I’d never expected I could one day join their ranks. And here I was, obsessively watching a guy listen to music. Something was wrong with this situation. I seriously needed something to take my mind away from Starbucks Guy, and Sudoku%