I really need the guidance of a wise mentor, such as Jedi Master Yoda, to help me overcome my intense and never-abating hatred of flying.
Now, I’m not afraid of flying, which would inevitably lead to anger, and then to hate, and then to suffering, and hence, to the dark side. But fear never enters the picture.
Instead, I leap straight for the anger, hate, and suffering.
I’m one of those unlucky travelers, for whom frequent travel is a constant problem. For example, I never check a bag. It’s not because I’m cheap, it’s because when I do, my bag is inevitably the one that doesn’t show up. Or has broken items, such as perfume or wine bottles, or the zipper breaks open, spilling my underpants and embarrassing lack of matching socks onto the baggage carousel.
In the airport, I’m a magnet for loud cell phone talkers and creepy old men who want to buy me a drink. On the plane, I either sit next to someone who wants to talk about their grandkids, someone who chooses to douse themselves in cologne to mask not showering for a month, or a screaming baby. Oh yeah, or that creepy old man from the bar who sees the wedding ring, but still tries to look down my shirt and breathe on my neck. When I go to the bathroom, as soon as I sit down, turbulence starts, and the seat belt sign comes back on—-having my urine become airborne isn’t exactly at the top of my list of favorite flight experiences.
My first experience with flying was a high school band trip, and since then, with the exception of my honeymoon and trips to see my family when I was in school, every time I’ve flown was for a musical event-—audition, gig, what have you.
Over the years, my already seething hatred of flying has become the gold standard of arrival at the airport. I purposefully find ways to ease my travel, like cutting out the overhead compartment, and fitting everything I need for a trip, from music to clothes to computer into: a backpack.
Yes, a backpack. Now, you could use the argument that my size makes such travel accommodations easy. But size matters not. Judge my backpack not by its size.
I enter airports much like Luke Skywalker enters the cave on Dagobah. Full of trepidation, yet ready to battle the evil inside.
It does take some personal restraint when TSA agents ask what’s in my bag not to respond with, “only what you take with you” and then hobble off like my tiny green mentor.
Of course, TSA rarely checks my bag, and only once has asked me to go through the full body scanner. I attribute this to two things:
1. In an attempt to assuage the anger and hatred that flying inevitably instills in me, I treat TSA agents with kindness and respect. I say hello, I look them in the eye, and I thank them and smile as they do the crappiest job in the universe.
2. I wear children’s clothes and shoes, and ask them things like, “do I need to take my Nintendo DS out of my purse?” which causes them to either think I am a child, or that I am mentally handicapped, and either way, as a 5’ 1” blond chick, am probably not a security risk.
However, once I get into the airport, it’s another story.
First there’s the noise. I don’t understand why, when everyone has magic intraweb phones and ipods and computers of their own, that five thousand televisions need to be blaring at top volume, playing the same “news” story every 13 minutes. Also, the announcements, which are widely known to, I don’t know, anyone who’s ever flown or who has ever seen a movie with an airport in it, are screamed at decibels louder than the planes themselves. “There’s no parking in the red zone.”
So the grumpiness starts, and eventually spins out of control and then suddenly I’m wielding a red light saber.
We board. But only after a dozen announcements of delays: yes, we’re boarding now, haha just kidding, no we’re not, yes, we’re boarding, come on down, nope, nope, a few more problems, ok boarding, everyone RUN FOR THE PLANE OR WE’LL NEVER GET TO LEAVE…oh wait, we’re just messing with you, sit down a spell. But don’t go far, cause the plane will leave while you’re at Sbarro’s waiting in line for 40 minutes for a greasy piece of pizza. And we’d like to ask our first class passengers…
At this point, I’ve usually only been indoors with re-circulated air for about 50 minutes tops, and while I really want to wash my feet and socks because of God-knows-what on the filthy floor from security, I can still swallow my irritability and get ready for my travels.
My first step, once I sit down and shove my bulging backpack under the seat, before I even open my book, or browse the Skymall for hilarious potential gag gifts, I take out my Humidiflyer. http://www.humidiflyer.com/
The Humidiflyer is THE device for hypochondriac introverts who just want to be left alone to read a [expletive deleted] book on the plane. As a personal humidifier, it keeps me from drying out before singing auditions—-I have the unfortunate tendency of getting nosebleeds from the dryness of airplanes—-but it has the added benefit of making me look like I’ve got some kind of communicable disease and NO ONE TALKS TO ME.
Most of the time, people cast sidelong glances at me as they board, looking at me, looking at their ticket, in the hopes that they’re not next to the “dying girl.” Here’s where the children’s clothes and Nintendo DS come in handy yet again.
On only a few occasions has anyone asked me what it is I’m wearing on my face, and they laugh when I tell them, adding that I sometimes wheeze when I want to freak out the person next to me.
The plane lands, and we reach my least favorite part of flying. No, not deplaning and exiting at my destination, but changing planes, the worst of which occurs in
Atlanta. HELL. A FULLY OPERATIONAL DEATH STAR.
I really feel like the experience would be more realistic if the employees of the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport wore Storm Trooper uniforms. At least I’d be more likely to get out of their way as I run from one terminal to the next, desperately trying to make a connection that should have been an hour and a half but is now 10 minutes. And my droid can barely keep up.
The fact that in this particular airport, one must PAY for silence—-yes, pay by the hour for a quiet room where televisions and crappy Muzak and painfully loud announcements aren’t just ho-hum, kind of bothers me. I mean, I already paid for a ticket, and if they really want to save some money, they could just TURN THAT UNNECESSARY CRAP OFF. Seriously, I feel like part of our national energy crisis is because people are too lazy to turn things off. But that’s a story for another post.
Of my recent travels, one particular broken-blood-vessel-in-my-forehead-inducing story stands out.
I boarded my plane, and went to my seat, which, unfortunately for me, was between two pre-teen girls. I wasn’t happy about it, but, that’s flying. So I took my seat, took off my glasses, put my jacket over my lap, and readied to go back to sleep. Cause it was 6 am. And at that hour, I’m not even present enough to remember to put on my Humidiflyer.
Then I hear a shrill voice, demanding to see my ticket RIGHT THAT INSTANT. The mother of the children I sat between was having a [expletive deleted]-fit that I couldn’t possibly be sitting there. Even though I clearly was. At this point, everyone on the plane is staring at her. And then at me.
Before Admiral Ackbar could yell, “it’s a trap!” the flight attendant came over asking if there was a problem. And the woman lit into her about me being in the wrong seat. Here’s the thing, if I were randomly going to choose a seat, why in the world would I select a middle seat between two kids? That sounds like a brand of hell I’d like to avoid for two straight hours.
So I show my ticket to the flight attendant, who was very nice, and happily traded with the mom for the aisle seat of that row. Next to me sat Darth Mommy, who was very loudly complaining about her expectations of having the whole row for her family even though she didn’t buy all six seats in the row. As if the airline was going to leave a seat empty for her convenience.
I thought I could ignore this, but my anger was seething inside me—-what kind of person attacks a complete stranger merely for being inconvenienced? When did this become ok? DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT FLYING SUCKS FOR EVERYONE!?! WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE IN THIS TOGETHER, LADY!
When one of her teens yelled, mom, mom, mom, MOM, MOM across the aisle from another seat, then “give me that water” without so much as a please, I’d had enough.
I called over the flight attendant, and asked, “excuse me, ma’am, but is that seat empty?” and pointed up the aisle. “Not anymore!” she said with a smile and allowed me to go up to the front of the plane. I left, silently, and did not acknowledge the Sith Lord or her minions.
My flight was delayed (of course) and finally got to ATL for the connection. The flight there had apparently been on a martini shaker, not an airplane, and when the plane landed and we were advised to be careful opening the overhead compartments because contents may have shifted, I bit my tongue, and didn’t yell, “my contents have shifted!!” nor did I projectile vomit on the passengers and crew, even though I really felt like it.
But my Linda Blair impression, though dormant, was soon to rear its backwards head.
As I exited the plane, I went straight to the bathroom. And next to me at the sink was a woman whose bag was moving. So she pulled her tiny dog out of her purse, and set him down on the counter. That’s right. TINY DOG. ON COUNTER. NOT SANITARY! I’d already reached the point where I wanted to take a bath in bleach, but now, I had to leave and go to another bathroom to wash my hands. Three times.
To anyone who would call me OCD for that, let me remind you, there was a DOG ON THE BATHROOM COUNTER.
And it’s loud.
And I manage to get stuck behind every slow walker and talking-on-their-cell-phone-and-meandering-into-someone-else’s-way idiot in the airport. So I’m boiling.
At this point, I decide that given the choice of restaurants, if I’m going to eat an unhealthy breakfast, at least I’m going to enjoy it. So I go to Mrs. Fields’ cookies, partly cause it had no line.
And then we reach the breaking point:
“Can I help you, sir?”
DID YOU JUST CALL ME SIR?
GIVE ME A COOKIE!! I AM NOT A MAN!! COOKIE! NOW! NOT MAN! APPARENTLY I LOOK SO TERRIBLE THAT YOU THINK I’M A MAN. NO, THAT COOKIE. FOR ME, WHO IS NOT A MAN.
The manager of the idiot who thought I looked like a man then started to attack me: “SHE SAID SHE WAS SORRY!”
I paid for the cookie, which, as it turns out, was indigestible and greasy, and I ended up at Burger King eating indigestible and greasy hash browns instead. On my walk over, I heard the manager of Mrs. Fields’ complaining loudly that I had said ANYTHING AT ALL at being addressed by the wrong sex.
How could I be so offended?
As I stood waiting to board the itty-bitty baby plane that would take me away from this horrible purgatory of an airport, I put a purportedly “potato-product” hash brown in my mouth. As I pulled my hand away, I realized not only was my hand completely covered in grease, but that somehow, some way, I had acquired a Darth Vader-like robot hand.
Sorry, Yoda, the force was not strong with this one.
I managed to sleep on the flight home, exited the airport at my final destination, and started toward my car. At that moment, I got a text message from a friend, asking if I was free that night.
No, too tired from the travel and the auditions, I replied.
“You are my hero!” she texted back.
That was the moment when the turbulence, anger, and greasy food wreaked vengeance, and I threw up in the parking lot like a frat boy at a toga party. High-ho the glamorous life indeed. I defy anyone who tells me that they are envious that my career requires so much travel, and how I really get to see the world. Or, as reality would have it, the Hartsfield-Jackson airport and, up close and personal, the pavement of an airport parking lot.
If only I’d taken Yoda’s advice. Looking away, to the future, to the horizon. Never my mind on where I was. Adventure. Heh. Excitement. Heh.
A Jedi craves not these things.