I won’t get into why I missed my flight to Los Angeles on Saturday, but getting put on the standby list for the next one afforded me about three hours to get a bunch of writing done. I figured that since I was stuck in the terminal anyway, I might as well save myself the hassle of having to work during my trip, especially since I’d more or less planned to spend the next three days drinking in dives and investigating this marijuana thing everyone keeps talking about.
I wandered around the gate, looking for a place to plug in. Lo and behold, I found a quiet business lounge next to a Starbucks. The area was furnished with spacious workstations, ample outlets, comfy chairs, and a DFW employee napping in a comfy chair. “Come hither, Steve, and work,” the lounge seemed to say. “Get ahead, so that you may enjoy your vacation.”
So what I did instead of cranking out the next three days’ worth of work was to get on the Skylink to look for a bar. Leaving the lounge’s grotto-like serenity, I took the train to E15 where, according to the helpful directory that encouraged me to “explore the airport,” I would find a TGI Friday’s, a Tequileria, and a Riders World.
I stepped onto the escalator from the Skylink platform and then descended into Hell. See, I was flying Virgin America, which departs from the cool, friendly environs of gate E33, which faces east. But down around E15, the windows face west, and the afternoon sun blazes through the pitiful window film cooking everyone inside like Hot Pockets. Where the Virgin gate was peacefully uncrowded, this sunstroked Gehenna thronged with sweating, angry travelers gnashing their teeth in anxiety over whether they’d be able to squeeze onto one smelly US Airways flight or another.
Fuck that, I thought, hurrying past Tequileria and out of the heat to a blessedly windowless corridor. Three or four Dallas Cowboys souvenir shops later, I came upon Riders World, a claustrophobic bar and grill with, who knows why, a motorcycle theme.
If you can picture an O’Reilly Auto Parts that has beer on tap and a hot dog roller, then you’ve got Riders World. Well, those things and graffiti. The wall at one end of the room is covered in names and messages scrawled in marker, presumably written by bikers relieved to find signs reading, “Bikers welcome!”
Next to the graffiti wall is a fridge full of bottled beers and soft drinks, decorated with a laminated menu taped to the door. In addition to beer, Riders World offers stuff like hot dogs, chips, nachos, and the Official In-flight Snack of Inconsiderate Travelers: the breakfast sandwich, or, as I like to call it, the Fart McMuffin. I considered ordering nachos but thought better of it after imagining the stigma earned from ruining an airplane lavatory miles above Phoenix. I played it safe with a Coors Light draft. The guy who took the seat next to me, who I’ll call Sweatpants McHeartattack, didn’t share my compunction, because he happily ordered three hotdogs.
Sweatpants nodded at the TV nestled in the corner of the back bar; college basketball players were dashing back and forth across the screen. “Sucks to be them,” he said, possibly referencing whoever had to share his row but more likely meaning Purdue, at that moment pinned down under a 33-point deficit to Indiana.
Of course, like every other shop at the airport, Riders World also has crap for sale, the kind of crap that’s sold only in airports and in-flight magazines. In the case of Riders, that crap is toy Harleys, locked in a glass case next to a TV. On the other side of the screen was another display case running the length of the wall. It was full of ballcaps.
Seeing as how I was heading to a city where a $6.50 Coors Light draft is kind of a steal, I ordered another. It was getting close to 6; my flight was at 6:35. I drank half of it, offered a “safe travels” to Sweatpants, and walked back to E33, a longer walk than I thought. Passengers were boarding. I asked the lady at the ticket counter if there was room for standbys.
“Oh, there’s plenty,” she said, smiling as she scanned my pass. “You got here just in time, though. You were about to miss your flight!” –– Steve Steward
Contact Last Call at firstname.lastname@example.org.