Outloud: Friendly Skies

How to make your connection

By Sally Sheklow

Sally74Ever notice how hard it is to spot LGBTQ people in airports? Okay, so maybe Larry Craig didn’t have that problem, but air travel throws this lesbo’s gaydar seriously out of whack. Homo-looking men turn out to be nothing more than Queer-Eyed Straight Guys. Sauntering women with dykey haircuts and sensible shoes? Canadian.

Returning from a three-day Midwest humor-writers’ conference—which oddly failed to attract any other out essayists from GayVille—I was hankering for queer connection. Other than a news story about same-sex marriage on airport terminal TVs (Go team!), not a lavender-leaning comrade in sight.

I also hadn’t eaten breakfast. The conference meal plan ended the night before, leaving me hetero-overloaded and food deprived. At least I had a good old airplane meal to anticipate.

Frequent fliers will note the flaw in my thinking. People who don’t take to the air very often, like me, may be unhip to the new deal. As far as I knew, my four-hour nonstop flight home to Oregon would include lunch.

My shoestring travel budget ruled out overpriced concourse restaurants. A gift shop/newsstand was selling single pieces of fruit for a buck seventy-five. No way was I succumbing to that rip-off. I salivated a little anyway.

Eventually I boarded, found my aisle seat, and buckled in. The flight attendant demonstrated the safety procedures with a refreshingly faggy flair. Most male flight attendants tend to exaggerate machismo, acutely aware that theirs is a stereotypically swishy profession. This guy was a blatant unabashed queen. I half-expected him to flounce a feather boa across his shoulders when he reminded us passengers to stow that bag completely under the seat in front of you. Mary!

Thank God(dess) at least one other member of my tribe was onboard. If I could make contact, I hoped, he might slip me a packet of pretzels before takeoff. That would hold me until we’d reached cruising altitude, and, I still believed, lunch.

Then I noticed the menu in the seat pocket in front of me. Small print explained the new trend in air-travel hospitability—no more complimentary food service. Not even snacks! Who knew?

Like I said, I’m a stay-on-the-ground kind of gal. Here I was on a 1,700-mile flight, famished, and out of cash. I was welcome to purchase a restaurant-quality sandwich or salad for $10 . The nerve.

All my life airline meals have been part of the pact we make when we put our lives in their hands. Where do they get off redefining the rules? It’s unnatural. It goes against tradition. Somebody should lobby for a constitutional amendment protecting the sanctity of the union between one passenger and one meal.

Under normal conditions I’d have raised hell, but there was no fight left in me. The crew had closed the hatch, sealed the oxygen-deprivation chamber, and begun recirculating jet-fuel fumes, rendering us passengers lifeless.

Only the flight attendant remained chipper. The sassy, sissy boy sashayed down the aisle checking seatbelts, clearly the life of the party. Trying to send him homo vibes, I took out my travel journal, the one with a wedding photo of me and Wifey on the cover. When Miss Thang rolled by with his beverage cart, I angled our dyke portrait toward him and flashed my best We Are Fam-i-ly smile. My stomach growled, but who could hear over the engine drone?

Either we’d mind-melded on the Q-beam or I just looked plain pathetic. “Are you hungry?” asked my Queen Angel. He tilted his bouffant toward my journal.

I nodded, offering my sincerest gay-pride-solidarity look.

Sassy Boy leaned in close and sibilated, “I’ll see if we can serve you a little sumpin’-sumpin’—don’t tell a soul.” He pranced off to the galley and back down the aisle in no time. With a conspiratorial wink, he handed me a box lunch. At last, one of those special rights we’ve heard so much about. I gave his well-manicured hand a grateful pat. My wedding band clinked on his pinky ring.

Writer Sally Sheklow lives with her wife in Eugene, Oregon, and doesn’t travel much. She welcomes your comments at [email protected].


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