I stood at the entrance to the airport bathroom and waited for an overweight man to finish urinating.
His jean shorts and tight white underwear were dropped to the floor, pooled in a liquid of unknown origin that surrounded his yellow plastic flip flops with coordinating toenails. He made low guttural sounds while rocking his hips in a counterclockwise motion and he seemed to be lost in a euphoric nirvana that mimicked the name of the band on his t-shirt. When he finished, he slowly bent down and raised his pants, being sure to shake his hands dramatically in the air to wipe off any excess wetness. Then he carefully removed a bottle of Purell and drowned his palms in the sanitizer before opening a pack of Skittles and walking by me with a belch.
After exiting the bathroom I sat down in a chair near my gate to await boarding instructions. During that time I had the chance to check out the people sitting around me.
I always like to observe those I’ll be riding with in situations fraught with terroristic possibilities. I do the same thing on the subway. I want to know who I’ll be dying with.
That day I imagined myself standing there when someone yells, “He’s got a bomb!” (Because I assume it’s like in the movies when the bomber shows everyone the device first and lists his demands.)
I try to picture who among my passenger friends will be the hero. I mean, obviously I’ll be the hero (or the “La Guardia-n Angel” as the paper will call me) but there needed to be a guy I’d look over to after knocking out the terrorist and say,
“Let’s make sure this guy makes his connection…to jail.”
Then I’d probably make-out with a hot flight attendant while everyone clapped.
But in looking around the terminal, all I saw were the stereotypical airport travelers.
To my right was, “Sleepover Barbie.” Sleepover Barbie is the woman who is unable to travel unless she is fully dressed in her pajamas and carrying one (or all) of three things: a blanket, a stuffed animal or a giant pillow. She likely has a massive tote bag embroidered with her sorority letters and filled with no less than four large celebrity tabloid magazines, oversized water bottle and copy of either “Anna Karenina” or “Little Women,” neither of which she plans on ever finishing. She is dragging her slippered feet along the carpet and looking for a corner where she can dramatically flop down and sip the remains of her iced coffee.
In front of me was, “Narcoleptic Hipster Couple.” Narcoleptic Hipster Couple are the man and woman who are always tan, (the man most likely clad in wispy goatee, fedora and faded print t-shirt citing a foreign surf shop, the woman in huge sunglasses, sheer tank-top and sandal dangling from a manicured toe) and they look as if they haven’t showered in days while the woman sleeps on the shoulder of the dozing man and they share iPod headphones listening to Feist, each exhausted from their utter coolness.
On my left were scattered groups of “Confused Elderly” that circled the front desk like geriatric sharks. These seniors are convinced they are in the wrong place but do not want to miss the flight that has not begun boarding on the plane that has not yet arrived for which they are not sure they’ve paid for. The men wear blue crested blazers, the women floral print jackets and each clutches their itinerary with impending death grips while looking doe-eyed towards the gate at their acne-faced savior stationed behind a computer they know nothing about.
Pacing in front of them all was “The Most Important Man in the World.” This man, who is likely donning a dapper three-piece gray pinstriped suit, is frenetically scrolling through something on his handheld device while his brow furrows with the weight of decisions that will alter the course of human history… and must be made before take-off. He looks at his travel companions with disgust, awaiting the call for first-class passengers so he can free himself of this homely hodgepodge and settle in to his important work that he doesn’t quite understand himself.
And then that call came. The worst part about when they begin boarding a plane is that everyone stands up in unison regardless of what section is called. People around my seat formed a large mob that pulsated with nervous tension as people rubbernecked over shoulders to see if others shouldn’t be in front of them. Everyone seemed desperate to cram into a tiny plane and even more desperate to get on there before the person beside them. It’s like they thought a bouncer stood at the front desk and was only letting in a certain amount of passengers.
When I finally got onto the plane and sat down I tried to enter into a state of Zen-like ignorance of those around me, but was unable to avoid the people who were perpetually lost. Apparently tickets that read seat 20C were much too confusing to line up with the label that said 20C on the seat itself. Once on the plane you notice certain people you hadn’t seen seated around you in the terminal.
Like, “Fat Drama Group,” a mixture of pale, overweight boys and girls wearing too-tight t-shirts and singing loudly to a musical they had seen the night before while en route back to a home that ‘doesn’t understand them.’ Or “New Parent Nightmare,” the young husband and wife dealing with a screaming baby that the father seriously considers storing in the overhead compartment, and the rest of the plane seriously considers storing in the toilet. Or better yet, “Handi-drama,” the man who was cleared by doctors to travel at over 300 mph at over 30,000 feet in a pressurized cabin, but is far too incapacitated to walk the 30 feet to his seat.
Once people began to get seated, the talking began. Let me just be clear, strangers that talk to each other on an airplane need to be lined up against a wall and shot. No, that’s a bit extreme. They should line them up in single file so as not to waste the bullets needed to blow what little brains they have out of their head.
Here is part of the conversation I overhead behind me, verbatim, which I couldn’t write down quick enough:
Idiot #1: “…so that’s what I’m saying to you. You’ve got to live your life. And I mean really LIVE it. Live it out loud, ya know? Because I’ll tell ya…it only goes around once. (laughter, hacking cough, more laughter) You know what I mean? I mean really embrace life.”
Idiot #2: “Mmm hmm. I know what you mean. You’re talking about embracing life.”
Idiot #1: “Exactly. Running out and giving it a big bear hug ya know? (hacking cough, laughter) That’s what I do my friend…I live. I really, truly, try to live each day to its fullest.”
Idiot #2: “What do you do for a living?”
Idiot #1: ”I sell janitorial equipment to high schools.”
Carpe diem, douchebag.
And then, like a voice from the heavens above, the captain came on to tell us that the door had been shut and all the passengers had been boarded. When the door is closed there are two options on a plane, you’re either going to survive, or die. That’s it.
There is always a guy around you though who is straining his ears to hear the flamboyantly gay flight attendant describe what to do if the plane happens to rapidly descend and crash into the ocean. Sure, because when that happens I’ll be thinking, “Okay, so even though the bag is not inflating it doesn’t mean there isn’t oxygen flowing. I should first put my mask on and then help the person next to me.”
The more realistic speech that should be given is,
Ladies and Gentlemen, if you’ll kindly direct your attention to the front of the plane you’ll notice our flight attendant Julian executing the proper way to crap your pants in the event of an emergency. There are two exits here, and two in the rear, neither of which you’ll get to use because the plane will be falling from the sky at about 600 mph and will likely break apart. Please take a moment to look at the person next to you, as you’ll be confessing weird sexual stuff to them before your eventual violent death. Thanks for choosing US Airways.
I looked to my left and saw that there was an empty space between me and the creepy goth girl in the window seat and my spirits lifted a bit. There is no greater thrill than finding an empty seat next to you. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all? With a little room, I might even be able to relax.
So I leaned down to my bag and rummaged through it to find my book. But before I could sit back up I heard a voice that said, “Could you ‘scuse me…I’m sitting right there between you.”
And when I looked up from the bag I saw them…the yellow flip flops.