Monday, September 15, 2008

Cruise Altitude

Seat 14A (Aisle)

When the flight attendant hands me a Coke, I tip her a buck. Probably this isn’t a tipping situation. But it couldn’t hurt. Sort of like an investment in karma. Maybe my dollar is the only thing keeping this plane in the air. Probably it isn’t. But it couldn’t hurt.

My business in Chicago, I’m going to a funeral. My uncle died, his liver like chewed hamburger, a lifetime drinker. But a long lifetime. And if you’ve got to die—and you do—then maybe dying for something that gave you kicks is the way to go. Better than being gobbled in gears at the factory where you hate working. Or headplanting off the roof while scooping fists of leaf-mush from your gutters. Besides, he was a happy drunk.

And damnit, the circumstance might be a bummer but I sure do love a plane ride. Watching the cars below shrink to peanuts shrink to nothing. Perfect geometric parcels of farmland. Looking down and seeing clouds, for Chrissakes. A view reserved for the Lord himself until man figured to make 200 tons of metal float on air.

Plus sometimes I’ll even meet some real nice folks. All these strangers stuck together, going from the same place all of them to another same place. With different reasons entirely. All of them with the same where and when and how. All of them with their own whats and whys. But today not so much. Next to me this dude twists and squirms and looks at what must be an expensive watch. One seat beyond and some guy stares out the window. Looking down on the clouds, no doubt. And could you blame him?

If I might complain about one thing though. And I feel ill mannered. But if I might complain about one thing, I’d say being perched next to the restroom is a drag. What with the airline food rushing through everyone like it’s got an appointment to keep and leaving me stuck in the odor collage.

What I’ll do, and you’ll have to excuse the crude speech. But what I’ll do, add mine to the mix. On the off chance smelling my own handiwork will be more bearable. Probably it won’t. But it couldn’t hurt.

Seat 14B (Center)

Here’s my issue. And I hate to complain. But I’ve never heard of downgrading somebody’s ticket. Upgrading, sure. Flights overbook, it happens. But bump a schmuck up to first. Don’t drown a bite of caviar in a sea of mayonnaise. And downgrading is a euphemism. They’ve stuck me in the middle seat. Near the lavatories.

Believe me when I tell you, under different circumstances I would’ve settled for the next flight out. My meeting though, only four hours away. And I’m primed. Gonna sell the shit out of this account. And there’s no rescheduling for tomorrow. Gonna tough it out in the cheap seats. And all the stress has my hemorrhoids flaring. Gonna get myself some complimentary Bloody Marys. Like I’d pay $5 a pop. Not after this bullshit.

Here’s the thing. And it’s not like I’m complaining. But for me, planes are never ideal. Humans being ground dwellers. Something about soaring in the air just isn’t natural. Boats too for that matter. To a lesser degree. I know cars kill more people than planes. Than boats. I know this. But I’ve been in car accidents. $500 for a new bumper. Higher insurance. When planes crap out you fall 30,000 feet. When boats crap out you drown. Still I’m not about to drive to Chicago.

But here they’ve got me in the middle seat. The aisle with an easy exit. The window can lean and sleep. The middle you have nothing but a jerkoff on either side to fight for armrests.

And I don’t mean to complain, but these guys are some purebred jerkoffs. And I know jerkoffs. The one to my left, nothing but a goofy smile. Like he won gold in the Special Olympics. The other just stares out the window and captivated. As if Nebraska looks any different than Wyoming.

So I’ll sit here and count the seconds. Look at my watch, worth more than most of these dopes make a year. And I’ll count the seconds until I can escape this seat near the shitter. Where every five minutes another asshole contributes to the bowel movement cocktail. And I’ll count the seconds until I’m free of the jerkoffs book ending me. The one on the aisle now the umpteenth bastard to drop a duce in my vicinity. But really, I don’t mean to complain.

Seat 14C (Window)

Miles and miles of nothingness between myself and the ground. I almost expected a perfect line dividing an orange Nevada and a pink Utah. Like the layout in my grammar school geography book. But all I get is square after square of yellow and green and brown and on and on. No matter California or Iowa. And how could I have been so foolish to expect anything other. Still, in sixty years this is the first I’ve been further up than a fourth floor balcony. And how could I have been so foolish. Except that being foolish is damn easy.

So why I’m going to Chicago is not much a reason at all. Truth is I once told myself I’d see Jordan play. Go to a Bulls game and eat hotdogs with pickles on poppy seed buns. And then he retired and I said that’s that. Easier this way. Then he came back and I said, I’ll go to a Bulls game. I’ll drink beer then beer then beer to warm myself from the brutal winter. And he retired again. Easier this way. But now I’m flying. Tickets to a game. A decade late for the man. But timing can be hard.

And timing means less when life is static. When you live in the same town from birth through adulthood through old age and you say, this is who I am. When you work for a freight company for too long but not quite long enough. You say this is who I am. You unload trucks every day and this is how things are. An easy living and an easy life.

But that’s done now. And to be quite honest this air travel deal isn’t so bad. One thing though, it smells like the stables at my grandfather’s ranch. When I had a grandfather. When he had a ranch. The way stench hangs heavy and raw and you never quite get used to it. But that happens. And some of the folks crowded here, they’re a trip. This peckerhead next to me flashing his watch then looking if anyone noticed he’s sporting more than a Timex. Next to him a kid all giddy and passing out dollar bills like they’re business cards. Like he’s General Washington. Characters.

So why I’m going to Chicago is not much a reason at all. I quit the freight company last month. Three years shy of my pension and retiring with half my top pay. Three years shy of doing nothing professionally. An easy way to wait it out, sure. So I quit. And I bought a ticket to Chicago. And from there New York and from there London and from there anywhere. Because when it’s all over, the one thing I’d hate to say about life: it was easy.


Anonymous said...

Hah this is seriously funny

Stephanie said...

This is great!

Leroy J. Powers said...

Good stuff!