Monday, April 29, 2013

I have a new cat. It’s a long story.

My aunt Gail - we called her Gaggie - was a funny lady. She was a free spirit, she did things her own way. She died two weeks ago.  At her funeral,  a teenager reading a tribute to her called her “sarcastic,” which is cool, because Gaggie would have taken that as a compliment. I mean, she let us call her Gaggie until she died at age 58. You need a sense of humor to survive in my family, and Gaggie was always able to laugh at the shit life threw her.  She had breast cancer, which she survived twice but lost the third time around.

I think the best tribute I can make to Gaggie is to tell a funny story. And people - this is a mother of a story.

Gail had a cat called Charlie. When no one would take the cat after she died, I stupidly volunteered to do it. Grief makes you do strange things.

After the service, after Gail’s house was cleaned out, and after 3 long days with bored and non-time-adjusted kids in a small hotel room, we picked the cat up from her house and headed to the airport. My kids were BESIDE THEMSELVES. There was basically nothing in the world more exciting that (a) getting a new pet and (b) taking it on an AIRPLANE. It was like all of their kid fantasies came true at once. It was Christmas and Easter and Thomas the Train and Hello Kitty and Candy all wrapped up in one delicious, tactile package that would be poked and cooed over in its little nylon cage all the way to the airport. My kids were FUCKING EXCITED. Got it?

I asked my other aunt to get a health certificate and a sedative for the cat so I could take it on the plane. The vet left a printed letter instructing us to give the cat BENADRYL before the “stressful event.” Seriously, fucking Benadryl? How do you dose a cat with Benadryl? Isn’t cat medicine supposed to be meat flavored and come with a dropper? The only liquid benadryl comes in bubble gum flavor for kids. I hear cats love that. Also, it comes in a 4 oz. bottle. This is important later in the story.

At the airport, my son told everyone and anyone who would listen that this is his NEW CAT CHARLIE, who used to belong to GAGGIE, who DIED, and who will NEVER SEE CHARLIE AGAIN. This was both hilarious and maudlin, but did not provoke the sympathy that I was hoping for from TSA. I would like you to picture this scene at the screening line:

2 adults
2 kids - JACKED UP on new pet fun
1 carseat
6 carry-on bags (one stuffed with shit from Gaggie’s house).
1 CAT in a carrier
1 “medical liquid.” Remember the Benadryl?
Did you know that in order to bring an animal on the plane, you have to put the carrier through the x-ray machine? That’s right. TSA told me to take A CAT OUT OF ITS CAGE and plz hold while they scanned the bag. I said “You’re kidding, right? You know this is a cat? It’s not even my cat? What if this cat gets loose? Are you really being serious right now?”

“Well, ma’am, if the cat is going to hurt someone or something, then I guess we could take you to a private room for a screening.”

“Yes, please. Let’s do that.”

TSA escorted me to a closet containing a filing cabinet and some leftover trays for the scanners. I pulled the cat out and plopped it in a tray. I secretly prayed for it to take a shit in this tray. Then I wondered if they would need to scan the shit to look for explosive material or condoms full of coke. The cat was totally cool with this, by the way. It actually started purring.

They sent a TSA lady in to watch me. She stared at me like I had three heads. I said to her “You’re not a cat person, are you?”

TSA Number 2 came back and pronounced the carrier clean. I packed kitty back in her bag and off we went to the gate. Because we were anticipating this shit show, we were very early for our flight, which meant more time for my kids to go off the rails and make everyone waiting to board the flight hate us ON SIGHT.

Then it was time to drug Charlie. My kids were climbing over themselves and pushing each other out of the way to help. Brandon held them back with one hand and tried to hold the cat’s head still with the other. I measured out a double dose of Benadryl - you know the cat will puke out half - and poured it down Charlie’s throat. He immediately started to hork it up and FOAM AT THE MOUTH. JUST LIKE OLD YELLER. All the while making rabid gargling noises. I could see people pulling out their phones and start texting. The kids were now even MORE EXCITED.

“Oh shit! I poisoned the cat! We haven’t even gotten the fucking thing on the airplane yet and I killed it!” I said to Brandon - who was already on his phone Googling “foaming at the mouth” and calling for baby wipes to clean the cat foam puke off his hands. Turns out this is a normal reaction for cats when they eat something they don’t like, so - PHEW. Cat is not poisoned. Of course, this meant I still had to carry the cat on the plane.  So basically, it was a draw.

After my kids gobbled up Burger King, including extra juice and cookies from the BK cashier (THANKS LADY. It’s not like I’m getting on an airplane with them or anything), ran a few laps, pulled each other’s hair and screamed “THAT’S MY PAPER MASK” at top volume a couple of times, our section was called to board.

Ready for the punchline? We were in First Class. That means we brought two children and a cat into the tiny, shitty, First Class cabin of an MD90. People were already pissed that they wasted miles for this shitty, shitty first class experience, but now THEY HAD THREE MORE REASONS to be pissed. Also? Remember the word shitty. It’s important later.

60 seconds after boarding Nolan touched his feet to the seat in front of him and ignited the rage of the aging hipster in the seat. She immediately got on her iphone to text other aging hipsters about how much her life sucked now that she must endure a flight with a child behind her in FIRST CLASS. That’s when I made the decision to place Charlie - who I was certain would shit and puke about 30 seconds into takeoff - directly under her seat. I told Nolan I was doing it for him, and I would  move the cat if he was bad on the plane. Two birds killed with one stone - I’m a pro, y’all.

Lots of whining, two bags of gummy bears, and soothing engine noise later, my kids fell asleep (this is because I drugged them, by the way*).  I myself popped an Ativan and called for a Chardonnay as soon as we heard the double dings. (Which you really have to listen for on an MD 90, by the way. Those planes are FUCKING LOUD. That’s good, of course, because it obscured the noise of the cat meowing and, most likely, puking, its way up to cruising altitude.)

So, 45 minutes in, I felt pretty good. Like things were under control - the kids were asleep, I was high and rereading the same paragraph in Games of Thrones Book 4 over and over again, and it seemed like I might have dodged a bullet. Now is the part where you should remember the word “shitty.” That was foreshadowing, friend.

I perked up from my pleasant fog just after hot towel service was underway because something smelled FOUL. I turned my head slowly - partly because I was drugged and partly because I knew this is the end for us - toward Brandon. My husband made a very unpleasant face. “What is that smell?” I stage whispered to him (MD-90, remember?) and he said “I think it’s the cat.”

“Noooo” I said. I was in denial. “It’s the bathrooms on this plane. They are disgusting.”

“Noooo.” says Blong. “It’s the cat. It’s coming from over here.”

SHIT. I was still in denial. We had 3 more hours on this plane, and the entire cabin might revolt and send us to the back, hogtied with those plastic handcuff things. Was it too late for them to throw the cat in the cargo hold? SHIT.

Now I said to  Blong - “Imma check the bathroom. I bet it’s the bathroom.” Sure enough, it was disgusting. Not just normal, run of the mill, 30 year old Russian aircraft disgusting**, but extra foul. There was actually shit all over the toilet. I heaved a sigh of relief - it wasn’t Charlie. It was the revolting bathroom. I could just use the one in the back, and we’re all good. Cat had not crapped his cage yet.

I returned to my seat, confident. I leaned over to Brandon and said conspiratorially, “We’re cool. It’s the bathroom. It’s DISGUSTING. I think we can smell it 4 rows away.”

Brandon looked at me and shook his head. “No, actually, it’s not the bathroom. The gentleman in the first row had an accident.” He said this like he was telling me that someone broke a teacup or choked on a Werther’s or something. When, in actuality, what he was telling me was that THE OLD MAN IN THE BULKHEAD ROW SHAT HIMSELF. Which, in actuality, is WHAT REALLY HAPPENED.

Pause for a moment, people. Consider my state of mind. Take a walk over to the dark side with me and check it:  I was relieved. It wasn’t THE CAT. I was home free! Someone was shitting in his pants in First Class! I WAS NO LONGER THE WORST THING THAT EVER HAPPENED TO THIS PLANE!

But of course I wasn’t going to admit that out loud. “Oh my God- “ I said to Brandon. “That is terrible! That poor man!”

But. Let’s be honest, no one is going to give a shit about that cat anymore.”

And ain’t that the truth, sister. That poor man shat himself 4 more times as the flight went on. Flight attendants were flapping around like hens on crack pouring coffee grounds all over the shit in the galley, wrapping the man in extra blankets, and patting his poor wife on the shoulder while rolling their eyes in sheer dramatic glory to the rest of us. They pulled the curtain shut with a flourish and announced that the FIRST CLASS CABIN WAS CLOSED.

I was so high on relief (and Ativan and Chardonnay), that I offered the wife baby wipes and a diaper. She looked at me in horror and shook her head. I mean, WHAT? We’re way beyond it, lady - your husband just shat himself all over the faux leather seats of this beautiful, early model air transport vehicle. You know they’re gonna throw up their hands and retire this bird after today, right? Now take a Pampers.

My kids slept the rest of the way. The aging hipster consoled the wife of the old man. The flight attendant told me he forgot all about my cat and my kids and was only thinking about the huge drink he was going to pour himself after his shift. After touchdown, my very excited children woke up, rubbed their eyes, and said “Mommy, what’s that smell?” while EMS rushed the poor man off the plane. We cruised off the plane and went home, where my kids almost lost the cat less than 24 hours after we got it by leaving the back door open.

But the moral of the story is - Thank God for Charlie. This cat gave me a real reason to laugh and think of my Aunt as I want to remember her. Nolan and Charlie are already best friends. They sit in my office - the DMZ until the other animals get used to him - and watch YouTube videos on the rolling chair. Nolan pets Charlie, Charlie purrs. It makes me so happy that I could cry.

And to the poor man on the plane - Thank God for you, Sir. I know that what you went through was awful and humiliating. I know it super duper sucked to be you yesterday, but you made my freaking day. My hat is off to you. I hope you recovered and got some good drugs and some clean pants.  Hit me up if you want a link to your Amazon affiliate page or whatever so you can make some money off of this disaster.

And finally, I love you Gaggie, and I miss you terribly. I hope Charlie has a great life here with two kids who only torture him half of the time, and that he is happy.

*Melatonin gummy bears. Get THAT SHIT.

** My husband informs me that the MD-90 is not Russian. Whatever. You could have fooled me.