“And what’s that?” He asked as He walked alongside me.
“You’re forgetting how she feels about what I’m doing,” I said, motioning to the sweet old woman in the wheelchair sitting at Southwest Gate 16. We stood at in the walkway just outside the gate. Florence sat in the chair maybe 10 feet away, her purse clutched beneath her arms. He looked at her for a moment, his grin melting to a straight face.
“She’s afraid.” I said. “Afraid about going through this airport. Afraid of getting her purse snatched. Afraid of what she’s going to face when she gets to O’Hare. To be honest, I would be too. I’ve been to O’Hare before and if you think this airport is daunting, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
We were taking the escalators down to the ticket counters where I walked up and greeted another elderly woman.
“Did you call for a wheelchair?” I said.
“Oh, yes.” Marguerite had a cane laying over her with her carry-on bag on top of it and her purse on top of that. She clutched them as if her life depended on it.
“I’m Andy, I’ll be taking care of you today,” I said as I retrieved a wheel chair and cast my hand over it. “Your chariot awaits.” Marguerite smiled slightly and lowered herself slowly into the chair, her bags clutched to her body all the while.
“Where we going today? Do you have your boarding pass and your photo ID?”
“Oh yes,” she said and fumbled in her purse. She handed everything to me. “I think I need to go to gate C 14,” she said timidly.
“Well, that would be kind of hard because there isn’t a gate C 21. But there is a Gate 16, so we’ll go there,” I pointed out on the boarding pass where it said the gate. “But once you get on the plane, the flight attendant will take you to C 21, because you are sitting there. Sound good?”
Marguerite looked confused as she examined the boarding pass.
“Don’t worry, Miss. I get’em confused all the time, too.”
Marguerite smiled slightly and chuckled. I put the foot rests down.
“And away we go,” I said as we backed into the elevator. “Move over,” I said curtly to Him and shoved Him into the corner.
We took the elevator up to the second floor and down to the security gate. I leaned over to speak to Marguerite again. “Now, do you have any hip or knee replacements I should be aware of?”
“Yes, I have a hip replacement. And I have a Pacemaker” she said.
“Okay, and the other awkward question I have is are you 75 years of age or older?”
“I’m 81,”she said and sunk in the chair a little.
“Well, I would have guessed 29, but okay. In that case, we can go right through the security checkpoint and you don’t even have to get out of the chair. Sound good?”
She smiled, relaxed a little, and looked up at me. “Yes, that sounds marvelous.”
“Okay, we’ll get you squared away.”
Once we were past the security checkpoint, we walked to the gate where the first woman was sitting. He got impatient and started walking ahead of us, glancing at all the overpriced food, drinks and magazines until I ran over his foot with the weight of the chair and Marguerite on top of the chair. He yelped and started hopping on the foot I hadn’t run over.
“Sorry about that, Ahab,” I said and pushed Him out of the way. Still hopping, He lost His balance and fell to the floor where a few people wheeled their carry-ons over Him and a few strollers. One occupant of these strollers, fussing with her sippy cup, dropped the cup on His head and sour milk spilled out onto His face. I wheeled the second woman parallel to the first woman.
“Florence, meet Marguerite.” Both woman extended their hands to each other and grinned. “Now, do either of you need to use the restroom?”
“Oh, yes, I need to,” Marguerite said. I sighed deeply with mock exasperation. They both chuckled.
“You couldn’t have said that before Miss?” I said and put my hands on my hips. Then I smiled and took her to the restroom. She slowly lifted herself out of and into the chair again as I held her bags. “Alright, are we good?”
“Yes,” said Marguerite. “We’re good.” I wheeled her back to the gate where He sat nursing His foot.
“Freaking lawn jockey,” He muttered when suddenly, Florence leaned out of her chair as far as she could and soundly boxed his ears. He yelped again and rubbed His ears along with His foot.
“Why don’t you stop bothering him,” she said as she settled back into her chair. “He makes me feel safer and he’s nice.” He looked at her incredulously.
“See, what you don’t realize is if these nice ladies have a guy like me pushing them into and out of airplanes and gates and ticket counters, I make them feel safe. They don’t have to worry, at least in the airport, if someone is gonna come along and mug them or take advantage of them. Not while I’m here. Last night, I helped a woman to a bar in the airport and got her a chicken sandwich. Then I took her to a shuttle bus. And she tipped me $3. And it was worth that and more. The ‘more’ was I got to see her get into the shuttle with the help of the cool shuttle driver and head to the hotel and not have to worry.”
His looked brightened a little. ”Oh yeah. And I’m sure you weren’t tempted going into that bar at all, were you? Didn’t want to slide off to the side and grab a shot while no one was looking?”
“No, I didn’t,” I replied. “I had a job to do and I did it and it made me feel good. And I know it made her feel good.” He followed as I wheeled Florence down the jet way to where the plane would meet it. He stood between me and the swinging doors. The tarmac was outside the doors.
“Bullshit,” He said and pulled His last single-serving vodka bottle from his cloak. “You’re working this job because you have to and you and I both know you can do more.”
I watched as the Southwest plane pulled to within striking distance of the swinging doors.
“Well, you said it. Not me,” I said and pushed out the doors to the concrete 50 feet below. Within seconds, the plane rolled over Him, crushing the bottom half of His body.
“So, do you have everything you need Florence? It’s a long flight.”
“And what’s that?” He asked as He walked alongside me.