Thursday, July 22, 2010
I’m not an easy flyer; one of those people who breezes through airports as if they’re at the park and then makes best friends with the rabbi sitting next to them while airborne. No matter how many hours I’ve logged as a Delta flyer, I’m still frightened to death of the friendly skies. I’ll always be one of those nervous cat-like passengers who anxiously claws the vinyl seats and has a panic attack, screaming “we’re going DOWN,” with every instance of turbulence. This embarrasses my husband and children to no end. Yes, I know that I’m 18 times more likely to die by eel electrocution than in a plane crash, or that more people die every year in dry cleaning accidents. But that just doesn’t help.
Take off is the worst part. When I’m flying alone, it takes everything in me to refrain from asking the stranger next to me to hold my hand. Once I asked a retired book store owner, turned protester if I could hold his hand …just for a minute until we got to cruising altitude. He responded by asking if I’d accompany him into the restroom, just for a minute, to activate his Mile High Club membership. I politely declined citing religious, marital status and claustrophobia reasons.
Currently, I’m trapped on a flight from Atlanta to San Jose, CA. Assuming the pilot knows the way, it should be a 4 hour and 18 minute exercise in maintaining my surface composure, while mentally cataloging every catastrophic scenario in air travel since Orville and Wilbur left Kitty Hawk. I recall the Air Egypt Flight that crashed a decade ago, because the pilot decided, in midair, that life wasn’t worth living for him…or anyone else on board. He should’ve at least taken a poll before aiming the throttle downward.
I wonder how mentally stable our pilot is. What if he’s a volatile meth addict who just got into a huge fight with his pole dancing girlfriend at the Houlihans’s bar? What if he decides to make her sorry for even mentioning his receding hairline? What if the pilot and co-pilot (who looks an awful lot like Kareem Abdul Jabar) both ate tainted fish for dinner and begin violently throwing up, drooling and wetting themselves and there’s no one left to fly the plane except a shell shocked Vietnam veteran passenger?
From my window seat, I have an up close and personal view of the left wing. I strain my eyes to see if the bolts and welds appear tight. What if I noticed that the wing was coming loose? Should I casually reach up and press the flight attendant button to notify Miffsy that we’ll be flying in circles for a few minutes before we land with a much heavier thud than usual. Neither the passenger safety card nor the Sky Mall catalog give instructions on what to do in the case of wing detachment. The inflatable slide looks kind of fun, though.
I peer out the window again. No signs of breakage or instability. But any minute a flock of Canadian geese or Norwegian pterodactyls could fly into one of the engines, clogging it up and causing us to plummet to the ground in a fiery crash. Andrew and Jack sit beside me, both happily enthralled in a game of Mario Bros. My husband James is snoozing across the aisle. His mouth gaping open makes him look like a stroke victim. The wife of the Eastern European couple next to him is quietly making fun of the snoring American. We suddenly hit an air pocket. The plane jolts, causing me to wish I’d worn a diaper.
Our seats are in the tail section, where they put families with sugared up children, people wearing turbans and those who had chili for lunch. This flight has a high concentration of foreigners. Ahead of me, a father and son talk about soccer in a variation of English that involves lots of slurring, spitting and lip smacking. Their laptop screen looks as if it’s being rained on. The man directly in front of me, an obese 60-something of Greek or Turkish decent has his seat reclined as far back as possible. Another inch and we could play “dentist.”
As Andrew questions the flight attendant about how many pretzels come in a bag…3 or 5, the captain comes over the intercom and tells us that we’re heading into a thunderstorm and things may get bouncy. “Bouncy” he says as if he’s describing his girlfriend’s new breast implants. We’ll need to fasten our seatbelts, the flight attendants too. What I hear is “Okay, people. This is it. Time to panic.” I look over at James….still snoring. My heart beats out of my chest like in old Tom and Jerry cartoons. I grip the armrests with white knuckles. Other passengers are still reading their magazines, sipping $10 beverages and having lively conversations. I have a flashback of my mom telling my fourth grade teacher, “Angela’s always been high strung.”
Another hour has passed. Miraculously, we’re all still alive and close to landing. I can see the San Mateo Bridge and the night lights of the Bay Area beneath us. Things are looking optimistic. We just may survive after all.
I swear, next time I’m getting that Valium prescription filled.
Friday, July 9, 2010
Sorry, this one's not too funny. I promise more absurdity next time. Honest.
I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Dublin, GA. The cute one. The one with culture and character and celing artwork that rivals that of the Sistine Chapel. I'm enchanted with the accoustic tiles, each of which has been purchased, designed and painted by a different customer. My neck hurts from staring upward at the crayola-esque slice of life quilt that hovers above.
Some tiles have serious themes, like the one directly overhead with a black background and a fetus cradled in the hands of God. The title states boldly "A Child, Not A Choice." Isaiah 4:42. I agree, but wonder how the tile's owner came to choose this message. Was an unwanted pregnancy something they'd grappled with? Did they choose child over convenience, or forever live with regret? Were they a former abortion clinic employee who saw too much? Or perhaps a labor and delivery nurse who witnessed countless miracles each day?
Another tile is covered by an enormous green eye reminiscent of Count Olaf in a Series of Unfortunate Events. Words are written in the lashes. If I were closer I'd read them. The eye appears void of emotion, unblinking, yet interested in nothing that comes into view.
As a kid, I loved to draw eyes, angry, villainous Cruella DeVille type eyes. The more sinister and cold, the better. I'm sure teachers wondered what was wrong with me as they passed my desk noticing that my notebook was filled with cruel, accusing eyes.
So many tiles here share Bible verses: John 3:16, Psalm 34:8, Proverbs 27:17, Philippians 4:13. That's one of my favorites. In the South, religion is part of our culture, not something we hide during the week and dust off on Sundays. God is a part of our everyday lives like flip flops and sweet tea.
Another mainstay of the South is college football. A handfull of tiles boast UGA, UT and Auburn logos.
Two stacked tiles honor the best friendship of Karlie and Beth. They like soccer, Diet Coke and smiley faces. I'm guessing they're preteens and wonder if they're still friends today. Or if their once BFF ship has hit an iceberg and sank like so many unbreakable bonds between friends, especially girls. Maybe Beth is now BFF's with Autumn three tiles over who likes rainbows.
"We Miss Kristin Gillis" says a tile near the coffee shop's entrance. I wonder who Kristin was or is, where she went. Is she simply on vacation, away at college, serving a life sentence in the state pen. Or maybe she's crossed the Heavenly threshold, leaving behind a throng of friends and family who'd give anything for another day with her.
Directly above me, I strain my neck to see a random view of outer space or perhaps a bad acid trip. Next door is a cave drawing with chaotic stick figures surrounding what I imagine as Brontosaurus bones. The next scene comes straight from a Corona commercial or Kenny Chesney song...beach, palm tree and umbrella. I'll go with that.
It's now 2:16 in the afternoon. Enough musing. Time to shut my laptop, re-enter the real world pick up kids, plan dinner, etc. Maybe one day I'll paint my own tile.