I hate flying. I do not hate it in the way that, say, my brother hates flying. He believes that every ticket he buys is a one-way, Super Saver Special to the grave. Over break he refused to fly in the same plane as me because “that way when it crashes, only one of us will die.”
I am a selfish bastard because I don’t care who’s onboard with me when the bird goes down: I will soon be gone and none of it will be my problem anymore. I actually think the in-the-air part of flying can be fun. One of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen was the sun rising over the ocean on a plane ride back from Japan. Unfortunately I could not enjoy it at the time because the person sitting next to me had brought their meatsack onboard, and the meatsack kept screaming, and every time the meatsack screamed the person would rattle it a little, not a lot, not enough to hurt it, just enough to make sure that it kept screaming all the way until we landed.
Meatsacks and, more generally, people are the reason I hate flying. While my brother sees airplanes as steel tubes of death, I see them as the cans you buy at the grocery store, only full of people instead of baked beans or corn. Like the baked beans or corn, what comes in a plane is crammed to the brim, soaked in its own salty juices and smelly and unappetizing when removed.
Because I do not like the sensation of being canned, I drank a third of a bottle of tequila (yee-ha!) before flying out of La Guardia at the start of break. I hoped that if I pickled myself in a different substance, alcohol, my immersion in that uniquely unsavory mix of stale air, other people’s breath and whatever flourishes on the headrests of airplane seats would be more bearable.
My traveling companion had taken similar, though possibly more extreme, measures. She is of my brother’s school of thought and, before she ate a double dose of Valium and a little pink one I couldn’t identify, believed that our plane would explode upon reaching its cruising altitude. It took us both a fair amount of time to get our shoes off at the security checkpoint.
We had timed it perfectly: we would just manage to get ourselves on the plane; I would gobble down my little packet of salt bullets and then pass out on a tray table; she would fly much higher than everyone else for the duration of the trip. We decided to make it as far as we could through the score of “Beauty and the Beast” before the plane left.
As it turned out, my Lumiere was not the reason everyone at our gate looked pissed off:
“And now that I’m grown I eat five dozen eggs!”
“Our flight is cancelled.”
“So I’m roughly the size of a — wha?”
“Our flight is cancelled.”
“We’re all gonna die! Too soon! Big plane boom boom! Bring me some pizza.”
I stumbled my way back to the ticketing counter. I was almost at the front of the line when the guy behind me (thoroughly bescarfed, Prada bag in tow, powdered?) licked his lips and said, “Someone’s traveling light today.”
At this point I had been up since 5:35 a.m., was wearing a hoodie my mother had sent me that advertises a fraternity for veterinary students (Go Alpha Psi!) and reeked of a cheap Texan motel. I’m not sure what the poor creature’s designs were, but I do not think he deserved what he got. Devoid of self-awareness, I turned to him, warmly introduced myself and started to tell him why I hated flying. I think I had gotten to my can of baked beans metaphor before he had to awkwardly cut me off, spin me around and send me to the counter to talk to the angry little man on the other side of it.
I hope I didn’t say or do anything unseemly to get us on the next flight out. I do remember shouting “Cinco! Dios mio!” but I think that was because it didn’t leave for five hours.
I know that the two pieces of pizza I bought from “Viva! Italia! La Guardia!” cost more than $8 and even in my drunken state tasted something nasty. There was a little rivulet of pizza grease running down my chin when the Prada Prowler pranced past.
“Ooo, looks tasty.”
I worry about this man, whoever he is, because at that point the pizza and I were in a dead heat as to which looked less tasty. Whichever he was referring to, he fails.
I didn’t want to soil a mother’s gift with pizza yuck, so I bundled up the second piece in a bunch of napkins and cradled it gingerly in my hoodie pouch. I thought this was a good, unremarkable plan until I walked through the metal detector.
“You got a kitten in there?”
“No. It’s a pizza.”
“Thought you had a kitten. Put it through the X-ray.”
“If it had been a kitten, would I still have to put it through the X-ray?”
This troubled me all the way back to the gate. Imagine the kitten’s terror at being forced through the dark tunnel with the dirty flaps! Would you put it in a little gray bin? Wouldn’t the X-rays mean that a crispy kitten would come out the other side? At the height of my speculative indignation, my friend, having finished her pizza, belched and went to sleep.
I heard, just before I did the same, some woman a few rows over say, “Thank God they’re asleep. People like that are why I hate flying.”
Steven Kochevar will eat your meatsacks, look out, look out, he’ll eat them.