Josh saw him coming down the concourse pushing a leather office chair. Well, to be honest he heard the chair coming; he looked up to see if some kid was riding a skateboard on the smooth cement. The hollow sound echoed throughout the empty airport and Josh looked up to see him coming: a middle-aged guy pushing a large office chair. Working off-peak meant dealing with non-flyers or people who had some weird need that could not be dealt with during normal business hours. So, when the man pushed the chair up to Josh’s work area, he prepared himself.
“Good evening sir. How can I help you?”
“I have a flight,” the man said handing an e-ticket across the counter.
“Well, let’s get you started,” Josh said taking the ticket and scanning it. “Wow, Mr. Benz you are early. Your flight doesn’t leave for three hours.”
“Yeah, I said I was early.”
“That you did sir. Well, I can check you in Mr. Benz, but if you have any bags I would suggest you wait for a few hours,” Josh learned across the tall counter and whispered, “the baggage guys aren’t real good at getting bags on the right flights if they come in too early.”
“Well, I came early to get this taken care of,” he said pointing at the chair.
“Oh, are you taking the chair to someone here in the airport?”
“No. Is everyone in Kansas stupid? I am taking the chair with me on the flight.”
“Oh, well that is a new one.”
“What does that mean?”
“I mean that I have never had a passenger take an office chair on a flight before.”
“Well, today is your lucky day, you get to do something different.”
Josh looked down at his computer screen and started clicking away at the keyboard, “Well, Mr. Benz…it looks like…hmm. Hold on let me check something.” He pushed his lips together and stared at the screen. “Well, Mr. Benz, it looks like the chair will cost you an additional $300.”
“What? Are you kidding me? $300? How the hell does a $200 chair cost $300 to take as checked baggage? I knew you bastards were going to jack up the price on me. I just knew it!” Dan said banging his fist against the counter.
It was the reaction Josh was hoping for, “If you were a member of our Elite Flyers it would cost just an additional $100 for an oversized bag.”
“That’s funny. Okay, I’ll play along. What’s it cost to become an Elite Flyer, Josh?” Dan asked looking at Josh’s ID.
“It is $200 a year.”
“Well, that doesn’t really save me any money now does it Josh? Because $100s plus $200s equals $300s.”
“But as an Elite Flyer you will have access to our Sky Salons as well as premier seating.”
“What does premier seating mean? Does that mean I get seat upgrades?”
“No, you will be able to board before the other passengers.”
“So I would get to sit on my flight an extra 15 minutes? That isn’t a huge selling point for me, Josh.”
“And you get access to the Sky Salons.”
“What’s in the Sky Salons? What’s the one like here in Wichita?”
“Oh, we don’t have a Sky Salon in Wichita. There is a very nice one in Dallas, do you want me to describe that one?”
“I live in Portland. My goal in life is to fly over Dallas and Wichita. Not to stop. Fly over,” Dan moved his flattened right hand like a plane as he spoke.
“We have a Sky Salon in Seattle.”
“That’s great, Josh. I live in Portland. Portland and Seattle are actually two different cities; maybe you should have paid better attention in your Geography class, Josh. Then you would know the difference.”
Josh held back what he wanted to say. He had Mr. Dan Benz right where he wanted him, “I’m sorry Mr. Benz, does that mean you want to join the Elite Flyers or do you want to pay the extra for the chair?”
“I don’t want to do either,” Dan took a couple deep breaths and looked at the floor. When he looked up he was smiling, “Why can’t I take my wheelchair with me on my flight for free? Isn’t there some kind of law that protects people like me, who are disabled, for getting charged extra?”
“Oh, I didn’t realize that you were disabled, Mr. Benz.”
“I prefer to think of it as differently-abled. Does that make a difference?”
“It certainly does, Mr. Benz,” Josh said, “Here’s how it works. You will need to provide a doctor’s note describing your condition and then we will refund the costs you incurred today,” Josh paused, “unless you have a doctor’s note for the chair already.”
“Are you fucking kidding me? Really? You are really getting your jollies from this aren’t you? You love this don’t you? You have this pathetic life where you just love giving people shit? Does it make you feel better?”
Josh looked down at the screen and mouthed the word, “Yep.”
“I saw that. You son of a bitch. Where is your supervisor?”
“I’m the only one on duty right now,” Josh said leaning across the countertop. He spit his words, “My supervisor will be here after your flight leaves. Do you want to stick around?”
“Just give me my ticket.”
“Do you want to check the chair?”
“Not with you guys. I’ll find a way to get it to Portland for less than $300.”
“Okay, Mr. Benz, here is your boarding pass. Have a nice flight.”
“I hope you rot in Hell, Josh,” Dan turned and pushed the chair down the concourse, turned left and saw the security checkpoint. He halted and played the conflict out in his head before scooting the chair into the smallest food court he had ever seen: Waffles, KFC, frozen yogurt and a Chinese buffet. He moved one of the small chairs aside and rolled his dad’s chair up to the table.
The white glare overwhelmed Dan. He slumped into the chair and fought with the urge to call Emily and tell her to come to the airport.
Instead, he ate two terrible waffles and left the chair.