The plane truth. (2018)
Will someone please tell me why airline passengers sitting next to each other feel compelled to converse at decibels loud enough to shatter concrete? The two people sitting next to me are close enough to each other to hear their swallows of Chablis and vodka splash into their stomachs.
“For God’s sake, will you please lower your voices; I’ve already lost the hearing in my left ear!” Admittedly, I’m a chicken shit, but oh how I want to blurt this out.
I’m on my return flight to Denver from a weeklong exhausting trip to Dallas and Nashville. I was in Dallas for the unveiling of my mom’s headstone, marking the end of the traditional Jewish year of mourning and the anniversary of her passing. Then to Nashville for two full days of research interviews for a ghostwriting project. I think they call it “ghostwriting” because I keep stumbling around drooling like a zombie from The Walking Dead. The trip concludes with three fun days sharing mutual birthdays with my 7 year-old granddaughter and enjoying my son’s family. I was worn out, confirmed in the bathroom before boarding my Southwest flight, the skin beneath my eyes drooping like melting wax. Moments before, I successfully executed a pre-board appeal to the gate attendant. My routine involves limping to the desk, smiling and noting the person’s name before pleading. “Hi Christy. I’ve had recent back surgery and if possible I need to sit by the bulkhead.” Frown. Pause. Shift weight to other foot. “Any chance I can pre-board?” While true, I do confess that said back surgery was 4 years ago. Now a senior, however, I am cashing in on random manipulated acts of kindness.
I limp down the jetway, hobble through the doorway, wince when hefting my bag into the overhead bin, and gingerly maneuver into the first row’s aisle seat. Next to the window, a guy in jeans and sky blue t-shirt with some sort of medical logo is watching an NBA playoff game on his iPad. He doesn’t look up as I buckle my seatbelt.
Good sign. He won’t bother me. Now, if we can make it through boarding without someone taking the middle….”
“Ladies and gentlemen, please go ahead and take those middle seats as this is a full flight. Every seat will be taken.”
Well, so much for that.
“Excuse me, sir. Is that seat taken?”
Hmmm. An attractive young woman with gentle face, kind eyes and soft voice.Good sign.
Smiling. “It is now.” I stand and step into the aisle, allowing her time to wedge the brown leather briefcase into the overhead bin and settle into her seat. Taking a deep breath, I insert the two earbuds of my Bluetooth headphones, open my iPad, select Chris Botti for some soothing jazz, and settle back for much needed decompression.
Reaching 10,000 feet, I realize I’m in for a hellish 2 hour and 47 minutes. The gruesome twosome have just ordered their first round of drinks, thus enhancing their insidious loud conversation. Oh, and did I mention they were LOUD? Raising my headphones volume to “Max” and jamming the earbuds deep into my ear canals, I am fairly certain grey brain matter will begin dripping from my flared nostrils momentarily. I swap Chris Botti for AC/DC. “Highway to Hell” is no match for the two Dementors relentlessly yakking away in their chamber of hollers. Even Bon Scott’s shrill voice fails to mute fragments from their banal exchange.
“Yeah, I just got the award as top colostomy bag salesman of the year.” Proud of himself. Second glass of vodka initiated.
“Really? That sounds like a big honor.” Impressed. Polishes off her first glass of Chablis.
“I’m on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell
Highway to hell
I’m on the highway to hell.”
“My favorite all time movie is Howard the Duck. What’s yours?”
“Well, I like…like action movies, like…actually I don’t know.” Giggles. “That’s a loaded question.” Halfway through her second glass of Chablis.
“Not really. I can read people. And I can tell you’re a woman who likes movies with dogs and romance. C’mon, I’m right, right? C’mon.” Nudging.
“Hey Satan, paid my dues
Playing in a rocking band
Hey mama, look at me
I’m on my way to the promised land, whoo!”
“Actually, not. Although I really liked the The Shape of Water. The way the creature’s thing popped out was really cool…though you never actually see it.” One raised eyebrow and tilted head.” And then they do it in the bathtub.” Pauses. Giggles. “So, what’s a ‘colossus ski bag?’” Hiccup. “I like to ski, you know? Should I have one? Can I buy one from you?”
“Highway to hell
I’m on the highway to hell.”
“No, silly woman, it’s a colostomy bag. It gets rid of your waste by….”
“Wow, that’s sounds great. I’ve been wanting to trim down a bit. Are they easy to use?”
I stab the flight attendant button, leaning out into the aisle to grab her attention. Desperate for additional bags of peanuts in hopes that the combination of crunching and acid rock will cover his description of a device for rectal waste bypass. Should that fail, I am ready to stuff the remaining honey roasted peanuts into my ears along with the earbuds.
“Have you seen Napoleon Dynamite? I think Uncle Rico is amazing. Third vodka.
“Yeah, I saw that one. Lafawnduh was cool…duh. Get it? Duh.” Giggles and wipes spittle from chin. “Want some M&Ms?”
“No, I’m afraid I’ll get ramped up from the sugar.” Guffaws.
“I think they go great with these Wheat Thins and my Chablis.” Giggles.
“You know, you’re quite the happenin’ lady. Hey, I think I’ll have one of those M&Ms. Any chance you can find me a green one? I’m a natural kinda guy.”
“Stop it, you silly man.” Nudges his right arm. Giggles. Incessantly.
Reply chuckle. Eyebrows inverted ‘V’s.’ “I can be serious too. I was a high school basketball coach once. And a little league baseball coach.” Pauses, wipes mouth. “I guess you could say I like working with balls.”
“And I’m going down
All the way
I’m on the highway to hell”
“Are you flirting with me?” Sits up straight, yanks the bottom edges of her lavender knit top—thus accentuating her curviness—and takes a sip from her latest Chablis, never taking her eyes off the coach-turned-all-star-colostomy-bag-salesman.
I casually unbuckle my seatbelt, walk to the front bathroom, slide the lock, lower my head into the toilet, rest my right cheek against the shiny metal, push the blue FLUSH button…and flow into the cool, clear ultramarine liquid swirling around my head. Repeat. Repeat. Refreshed, I grab all remaining paper towels, tissues, and feminine napkin bags to tamp away excess blue streaks and globs now fused to my hair and white soul patch. Deep breath and then I calmly turn and bang my forehead three times on the diaper changing panel on the wall to the left above the toilet.
Shirt front smoothed. Collar straightened. Decorum restored. Returning to my row, the two bobbing parasites watch me lower into the seat. I grin civilly as if to say, “If you even think about asking me anything, it will be your last spoken words before I straddle your seats and cram the remaining bags of honey roasted peanuts down your….”
“So, what do you do?” she asks cordially.