Friday, November 25, 2011

"About this time, someone is telling you to get on the plane. I say, 'fuck you, I'm getting IN the plane! IN the plane! Let Evil Knievel get ON the plane! I'll be in here with you folks in uniform! There seems to be less WIND in here!'"*

 "Marcy and Me Part I"   
            All this traveling and eating puts me in mind of the first time I flew home from Los Angeles for Thanksgiving.
            I was eighteen and about three months into my first semester of college. I had only flown by myself once before, when I was thirteen, from Omaha to Baltimore, and at that point I’d had gate-to-gate supervision so there was no way I could mess things up.
            This time I was too old for a chaperone (or at least they didn’t offer me one) so I had to suck it up and go it alone.
            It didn’t seem like it was going to be too tricky: I was on a Midwest Express DIRECT FLIGHT from LAX to Epply. They don’t have this flight anymore, unfortunately. I’m not really sure if they still have Midwest Express. But I’m sure I’ll look it up at some point while I’m writing this and let you know.
            So anyway, I was able to do a lot of the basic airport things you do pretty easily. This was approximately 10 months before 9/11, so you didn’t have to be a ticketed passenger to go through security and my friends Dane and Michelle even hung out with me in the terminal. I want to say that Dane parked right at the curb of the airport as well, but I’m sure I’m making that up. This wasn’t the 1950’s.
            I got on the plane and settled into my usual window seat. I used to be able to fall asleep on planes right away and I liked to have something to lean against. Now I feel claustrophobic and have a constant, violent urge to pee unless I’m sitting in the aisle.
            I remember I was reading The Voyeur for school, and thinking later that that was somewhat amusing given the events of the flight.
            My seatmate soon joined me and I was dismayed to see that she was slightly, shall we say, zaftig. I’ve since gotten to the point on airplanes where I just assume the person sitting next to me is going to spill over into my seat. I’m not lucky that way.
            I opened my book and started to read. Midwest Express had (has? I still haven’t looked that up) only two seats per side of the plane, and they were roomy and pretty comfortable.  I was starting to fall asleep when my neighbor leaned over.
            “Are you from Omaha?”
            She was middle-aged and blonde, with a doughy face.
            “Yes,” I replied. “Are you?”
            “Yes, but I travel a lot for work. I was just admiring your t-shirt.” She nodded at my Union Pacific Railroad t-shirt that I wore constantly from the age of 17 to the age of 21.  (Now it has pit stains.) “I work for Union Pacific.”
            “Wow, cool!” I was genuinely intrigued. “My grandpa was a railroad man for years and years.” (It’s true. He was a brakeman. I think. I’ll have to ask my mom. I always picture him driving the train. Conducting, if you will. But I’m pretty sure that’s wrong.)
Beautiful, old train.

            We began discussing the railroad and she introduced herself as Marcy and explained how she worked in the insurance department of the UP.
            She soon began making my day with stories of gory train accidents. She shared anecdotes about people getting brutally crushed by train wheels. She described the injuries sustained by train jumpers. She talked about a man getting cut in half by the ball-and-socket joint thingies that hold the cars together. It was disgusting and incredibly entertaining.
            Soon the cocktail cart started rattling down the aisle.
            I perked up immediately, because I love drinking tomato juice on an airplane. I don’t ever drink it at home or anywhere else, but on an airplane it tastes delicious. Sort of like how Twix in Europe taste so much better than they do here.
            When the beverage cart finally made its way to our row, the flight attendant reminded us that they offered complimentary chardonnay; along with the warm chocolate chip cookies we would receive later.
            I was no stranger to wine at eighteen. We managed to learn how to drink in high school, like normal teenagers. But I was afraid to get carded and be completely mortified in front of the very cool Marcy. So I stuck to the plan and ordered my tomato juice. Marcy ordered chardonnay and asked if it was limitless.
            And that’s about when things started to get kind of weird.

I will continue this story in another post—maybe even tomorrow. But I’m trying to work on keeping these shorter. You’re welcome!!
 See? Right here!
PS Midwest Express still exists! Only now it’s called Midwest Airlines. 

*Quote is George Carlin.

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