Tuesday, August 19, 2008 at 4:15pm
I work a lot. Since moving to New York City almost two years ago, I work more and sleep less than ever before. I work Friday through Monday (when I am in town) at a wine store in Union Square. I love learning about wine, I love my co-workers, and I LOVE the benefits I get at that job in exchange for working a paltry 20 hours a week. However, it is physically taxing, and when I am in demand for my “real” job (I am a freelance corporate meeting facilitator), I often work Tuesday through Thursday as well. This means that I have the potential to go several weeks with no off day. It also means that I travel (on average) twice a month. For the current month of August, I am traveling weekly. This week alone I am traveling to three cities in five days. I am tired, my right eye is twitching intermittently (after just over two weeks with no more than 4 hours of sleep a night), and I have a bad attitude.
Yesterday morning, I flew to city number one: “Big D”. Like most of my recent flights, this one was scheduled to depart before 9AM. It takes just over four hours to get to Dallas from New York. This is actual flying time, and doesn’t include the hour and a half of sitting on the runway (“Uhhhhhh…. Folks, this is your captain speaking. Currently, we are number 19 in line for take off. Uhhhhh…pretty normal for JFK rush hour. Thanks for your patience. We’ll get you off the uhhhhh… ground as quick as we can. Thank you for flying Delta.”) that you can always count on at JFK.
I have by no means been all over the world (though that is my goal), but I have been to lots of places and lots of airports. I am absolutely convinced that JFK is the worst airport in the Western Hemisphere. I was once seated next to an off-duty (and amazingly sober) pilot, who wholly agreed with me, and proceeded to draw me a diagram illustrating exactly why it is so very inefficient. He sketched out the flight patterns, and by the time he was done, it looked like an ancient Egyptian had drawn a very complicated football play. I mean, it is remarkable that any flights leave the ground there at all. (The upshot is WAY too much traffic.)
I have done what I can to streamline my travel process: I check in on line the night before. I print my boarding passes at home. I try NEVER to check bags (that is a loser move, people.) I also applied for and received a “Clear” card. (This entailed undergoing a rigid security check complete with finger printing and retinal scans). I present this card at the Clear terminal, which is located next to the regular security line. I am greeted by name, then after a thumbprint scan and a quick cavity search (just wanted to see if you were paying attention), I am escorted to the front of the security line (Later, Suckas!). The Clear people even place my shoes and laptop in the little gray bins for me. (I confess that I enjoy pretending that I am a secret agent or diplomat for the duration of this procedure). As a result, I don’t mind traveling nearly as much as I used to when I first made NYC my home base.
However, even for someone like me, for whom it is routine, traveling is still an activity that has the potential to really piss one off. Flight 1677 pissed me off. I take full responsibility for my fatigue, and attending bad attitude. However, in rows 5-20 in the Coach section of this flight (I know, I know - as much as I fly, I should get an upgrade, but Delta only counts SOME miles toward your membership status. I should be gold or platinum, or whatever by end of the month, and then I’ll be upgrading like a mofo) there were 15 children under the age of six. Fifteen. I know, because I counted while waiting in the breezeway for my valeted bag to appear. A Czech couple were responsible for four of these children, and judging by the piercing shrieks that abated not at all for the entire four hour flight, I can only assume that they were burning these children with cigarettes the whole time. When they weren’t burning them, they allowed them to scrape whatever they could find against the textured plastic walls of the plane. They also encouraged them to kick every seat in sight, prompting the gentleman beside me (who looked to be in his early hundreds) to say, “Would you quit with the kicking? Jesus CHRIST!”
What the Czech couple did NOT do, was shush them, comfort them, discipline them, or in any way try to meet their needs. I had my ipod in tuned to my meditation CD (thanks, Melody!) playing as loudly as possible, and I could still hear their tortured cries. Now, I am not implying that all Czech people are bad parents. Nor am I implying that this is the fault of the children themselves. I know their ears pop, and they get frightened and motion sick and everything else, and that they can’t communicate that. I get it. What I AM saying is that these particular parents were complete Asshats. And, there is nothing like prolonged screaming to put one in a mood (how do serial killers do it?).
Another of these fifteen children was seated directly in front of me. He was a precious little boy of about 4, with a loving and wonderful parent. They were of Indian descent, and I couldn’t help but appreciate their silky black hair and HUGE dark eyes. The little boy was very well behaved, and his mother was wonderful with him. She talked to him like he was an adult, but she was definitely in charge. However, HE spent the entire flight saying, “Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mama. Mama. Mama. Mommy. Mommy. Mommy. Mama. Mama.” After about 45 minutes, the cute wore off of this for me. The irony is, when he heard the shrill Czech babies, he said (at top volume), “I DON'T LIKE IT WHEN IT'S LOUD. IT BETTER NOT BE LOUD, OR I AM GOING TO GET OFF.”
This brought to mind the old “Deep Thoughts with Jack Handy” sketch on SNL, specifically this one:
“The face of a child can say so much.
Especially the mouth part of the face.”
This also made me realize, as I sat exhausted and twitching in 12C, how very ill-equipped I am to be a parent, because comfortable curious children seem to get on my nerves as much as uncomfortable screaming ones do. At hour 3, I could suddenly understand the woman on the evening news who, looking like she just got hit in the back of the head with a 2x4 (think Laura Bush), says to the reporter, “I just put him in the oven for a second to keep him warm.” Now, I love kids, and they typically love me, but I am more content than ever with having the occasional loan of them, vs. the ownership of them. That is not to say, I don’t admire those of you who ARE equipped to do it, of course. So, everyone can relax.
After reassuring my elderly row mate that the scraping sounds were coming from the Czech babies and not the plane’s engines, I returned to my normal plane musings:
1) How very cool it would be if my legs were detachable and could be stowed in the overhead (I am 5’9, and due to my unfortunately high waist, most of this is leg).
2) How much I would dig having a collapsible spine (like rodents do).
3) How I truly believe that I am immune to dying in a plane crash due to my lack of musical talent.
4) If I am wrong about this, I wouldn’t really mind dying instantly in a spectacular fireball, vs. dying of a prolonged illness in a hospital (I want to be cremated, anyway).
The rest of the flight passed without incident, though the screaming continued for all of the taxi right up to the gate, and I landed in rainy Dallas and took a cab to my hotel - the W. I was greeted by a relentlessly cheerful front desk clerk, Melissa. She was so “up” that I looked around briefly searching for a television camera. (I am sure there already is a Reality show about a hotel, but I don’t know this for certain, as I rarely watch TV, and I don’t watch Reality shows at all. In any case, Melissa would be perfect for it). She said, “HEY, MISS WOOD. WELCOME TO THE W! I AM SO SORRY ABOUT THIS WEATHER! IT IS NORMALLY A HUNDRED DEGREES IN TEXAS EVERY SINGLE DAY, AND TODAY IT’S EIGHTY. WHAT’S UP WITH THAT?!!”
I couldn’t help but think, “It’s normally a hundred degrees because God himself is trying to burn this bitch down. If Texas were a small building, God would stuff a gasoline-soaked rag in a Lone Star bottle, light it, and malatov it to the ground – with the Bushes inside.”
I didn’t say this, however, as it would have been impolite to do so.
I have cool jobs and a good life, and I am not really complaining. I’m just saying that I wouldn’t have attended Flight 1677, had I known it was so skewed for younger audiences. In the future, I shall endeavor to attend flights that are quieter, more comfortable, and possibly offer adult beverages. Suffice it to say, I totally wouldn’t have sex with it.