Happy New Year and all that. I apologize for the delay in updates. I’ve neglected the blog and devoted myself to fishing, swimming, introspection and Guinness beer for the past few weeks. I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays and didn’t allow shopping and travel to forge a bleak view of human nature.
I must say a few things about air travel. First, I hate taking my shoes off in security lines. For some strange reason I’d rather remove my pants and walk bottomless through security then shuffle around with other strangers in socks. There is something very humiliating about having to remove your shoes. Socks should not be seen. They should be the first articles of clothing to be removed. For instance, when presented with the possibility of sexual congress, immediately get your socks off. (Socks, not rocks) You never want to be caught wearing only socks. It’s terribly uncool unless you’ve been married for twenty years or possess unnaturally ugly toes.
Another odd thing about air travel is how sloppy everyone looks. Airline gates now resemble the cigarette strewn bus depots of depressed cities. When I was a kid, my mother made us dress for air travel as if we were going to church or some kind of state dinner with dignitaries. Air travel was an event and I felt important participating in it. I imagined my family and I were being filmed boarding the plane like astronauts or rock stars. I would turn and wave. Headlines in my mind read, “The Flemings Tour New England.” The nightly news would report: “The Flemings boarded Eastern Airlines today for a flight to the Northeast. They looked dapper as always in polyester and clip-on ties.”
Air travel is depressing, now. People in dirty shorts and T-shirts board with grease-sodden paper bags. The plane’s cabin smells like an Italian deli with a subtle hint of junior high locker room wafting like an occasional gentle breeze.
Not to discriminate against the overweight and obese travelers, but if there is a member of this group on my plane, he inevitably takes the seat next to mine. And half of mine as well. On my recent flight from LA, I sat next to a man who, if he wasn’t a Sumo wrestler, should immediately consider a career change. He slept the whole way. On top of me. I elbowed him approximately 380 times. The man smelled faintly of day-old diaper and when he pushed his mammoth body out of the seat to use the bathroom, the cushion released a remarkably potent smell from nearly 3 hours of seeding it with silent farts.
It was a long flight. Idea for a movie pitch? Fat Men on a Plane?
Do you remember when pilots were square-jawed war heroes? Now, they just seem like nerds. During a layover in Dallas, I ate next to a pilot at Subway. The guy was so clumsy, I surreptitiously tried to smell his breath for booze. At one point, he knocked a large drink all over the table, floor and the front of his pants. I offered him napkins. He was surly and embarrassed. I was quite a distance from my own gate, so I thought to myself, “I’d hate to be the poor sons of bitches who have this guy as a pilot.”
I’m sure you suspect how this ends. I walked another mile to my gate. Just before we board, our pilot rushes toward the gate. Yes, it was him. To other passengers, he appeared as if he pissed himself but only I knew that it was just root beer. (I saw him get a refill.)
Another pilot experience on my return trip from Florida was even more disturbing. I cut my fingers cleaning a glass salad bowl the night before I left. (That’s another story – and the reason why I’m grimacing right now, typing.) I was in the bathroom at the Palm Beach International Airport gingerly washing my hands without getting the bandages wet. While I struggled through it, I was serenaded by the strenuous efforts of a guy performing what we often refer to as “number two” in the stall behind me. He finished and walked right out without washing his hands. And he was a pilot!
I exited the bathroom behind the pilot, yelled over to my fiance, “No hand wash!” and pointed at the guy. The pilot frowned at me and rushed away. This is a very juvenile thing to do, I admit. My fiance was both amused and embarrassed as she is with most of my 13 year-old antics. But she was also appalled that the pilot left the bathroom without washing. In the spirit of things, she named the pilot “Captain Doo-doo Hands.” We followed Capt. Doo-doo Hands at a safe distance and watched him buy a banana (perhaps this is the source of his strained efforts) and pay for it with his tainted hands. We laughed and continued on to our gate. Just before we boarded the plane… yeah, you guessed it. Capt. Doo-doo Hands was our pilot. He still carried his banana. When we walked by the cockpit to take our seats, I wanted to poke my head inside and say to the copilots, “Do you smell doo doo?” If anyone had a black light, that instrument panel would light up like… well, like an instrument panel, I guess. But brighter.
From what I understand, piloting a commercial jet is all automatic and instrument flying, now. The mystique of the pilot has been tainted along with the hands of our able captain. And perhaps his own neglect of his hands’ hygiene reveals a sad neglect of those steady instruments he once relied on to steer and land an aircraft with a skill and competence once revered.
Oh, well. More nostalgia. In our jaded, hi-tech world, even hurtling through the air at 500 mph, 30,000 feet in the air has become mundane and ordinary. I vowed to myself to make these posts shorter to accommodate our short, online attention span. So, I’ll stop here. Happy New Year. I hope 2007 is not ordinary.