Thursday, January 3, 2013

#0009 Flying

No, I am actually not at all afraid of flying. I'll leave that problem to Erica Jong and other aerophobes. My problem is that I sometimes develop air rage (like "road rage" but in a somewhat elevated form) when I approach an airport.
I must submit to the various people in uniform or otherwise jeopardize my paid-for flight. Some of them seem adequately trained and qualified for their position and thus spark little fear and loathing in my reptile mind. For instance, the first row of TSA defense at the airport is usually professional enough, asking not whether I received something from someone else to take over on the airplane but what I received. But they do it like tired actors who are repeating their lines for the millionth time. And so for the hundredth time I answer, also without thinking: "Nothing." Any sense of accomplishment I feel after passing that test is always thrashed when I reach the ticket counter. "What? You don't have an infant voucher yet?" or "We're sorry. a) Your airplane didn't make it back from Paris. b) There's been a delay. c) That bag is overweight. d) You are overweight." (OK, I don't get the last comment often, but I wouldn't put it past these bozos.)
By the time my bags are checked, I always have to run to the gate. How did this happen? I arrived at the airport more than two hours before flight time! But first water must be drunk, bottles must be emptied, then water must be held - with crossed legs - as the wait in the line for the real security check threatens to break all sorts of new records: length, slowness, chaos (Did that guy just break in line? I'm gonna break his f**king legs!), lack of interest in anti-terror screening, etc. After watching my child cry as his favorite scissors are confiscated and discarded, we run to the two bored border guards who want to see the other set of passports we are in possession of. Then the real fun begins.
An hour after scheduled take-off, we board the world's smallest passenger cabin to hold 280 people, plus a dozen infants on various parents' laps. The seat in front of you is guaranteed to cut off the circulation in the legs of anyone over 5'7". Your own seat will give anyone else thrombosis. The plane takes off before you have found your headphones (which don't work in your seat anyway) and then slams to a halt, strips of plastic flying around the cabin due to the torque of the plane's body as it brakes from 100 to 0 kmh. in record time.
After we are informed that a light went on, showing a failure in air pressure, we de-plane with a $6 coupon for food during the ensuing two-and-a-half hour delay. How much will that buy you in an airport? Fries. At least the ketchup is free in the US.
We get on a new plane and see how maintenance personnel board the plane and begin bolting down the seats in the business class cabin. They don't bother with ours. After an hour in that hot plane (it is, after all, August in Atlanta), the stewardess pops in a film to sweeten the wait. Our three young kids and those around us perk up. The parents' faces drop as we read the screen: "This film may not be appropriate for younger viewers due to scenes of sex and violence."
You know all about airplane food, don't you? It got better during the 1990's and then after 2001 returned to either pasta or chicken for dinner and the microwaved croissant for breakfast. Hold the bananas, dude, they look too much like a weapon and are hard enough to be used as one.
Arriving at our destination with a gurgling stomach and children too tired to carry themselves through customs, you try to keep your eyes open long enough to claim your luggage and get home. Home - sounding better all the time!

#0010 Emptiness

You know that feeling, don't you? You've had a giant meal, gorged yourself on sweets and wine and have a wonderful dizzy feeling - and then you wake up the next day and your stomach aches, your heart is racing and your head is pounding. It all looked and tasted so good last night and then - bam! - the sweetness is gone. Not only that, but the relative emptiness has you aching as if you had never ever fed yourself.
And yet something is still in you, spinning you around and causing you to dread the next minutes for fear of feeling even worse. This feeling of being drunk on emptiness is even worse than that of surfeit. And suddenly the music from last night is playing on the radio and you run to turn it off, but it is echoing from stereos all around the house, the neighborhood. No, the music is playing in your head and you can't get rid of it. The song reminds you of the feast and of the people there and the laughter and warmth and dancing and closeness. But today it's all gone, all over, and you doubt the good feelings will ever come again. The conversation about music and literature was all just posing, one person trying to impress another. Empty words now, you realize.
Go ahead, eat and drink again. Try to get full. You'll just end up empty again.