I am always paranoid that I'm going to mess up the whole check-in procedure, so I always ask someone if I have to check in at both the gate and counter. I was approaching one of the desks when about four cops told me not to stand where I was standing. I assumed it was usual cop crap, but one smiled and said, "someone got sick there a few minutes ago."
I only had to check in at the gate, the flight was on time, and there was a Roy Rogers right in my terminal, so I figure my travel troubles are over for the day. The attendant informed me that even though I was reserved for a window seat (and a Muslim meal, I might add...and oddly enough I didn't get searched once the whole trip), she had given all of the window seats away and I'd have to take a middle. I was in the rear of the plane and boarded late, so when I saw that one middle seat open in the back next to the largest human being I have ever seen in my life, I knew I was in for a cramped ride. He saw my face fall as I looked at him, and with his right leg was immobilized by some brace, clumsily stood up to let me in with a sheepish smile. Some passengers nearby interrupted our exchange by asking him how it felt and what it was like, all oohing and aahing over him. I lean to the girl next to me and ask if we are supposed to know who he is, and she says all she knows is he's a football player. Then the passengers all ask him if they could "see it". And he hands it to them: his Super Bowl Ring.
Just as my fear of sitting next to this guy switched to the excitement of chatting with a moderate celebrity, someone sitting in another aisle seat offered to switch with him so he could stretch his bum leg into the center aisle of the plane. I asked the stewardess his name, and she told me he was Kenyatta Jones, a player for the New England Patriots.
A little while into the flight, I lean back to the girl next to me (who was impressed that I wrote his name down because she too knew she'd forget it and her boyfriend would probably like to know that little aspect of the story) and say, so, that guy was a professional football player, right? "Right...", she pauses, "so what's he doing in coach on AirTran?" Exactly. I guess everyone's trying to save a buck.
I arrived in Tampa at the airport that 1977 built. For anyone who might understand, it looked like the Rockaway Mall did in 4th grade: mod number fonts on the terminal signs, everything was a shade of orange or brown, casino carpeting--the escalators were only 1-person wide and had that groovy ridgey handrails with some mosaic wave thing inbetween them. I was reunited with HM, she took me to Starbucks for a gigantic Carmel Frappuccino, and we were off to Ybor City for some beers.