Monday, November 24, 2008

The Upright and Locked Position

I'm just back from four days in Los Angeles and I don't remember another time when so much awesome was crammed into 96 hours. My friend TheStarterWife's wedding was incredible--she looked insanely gorgeous--and getting to hang out with Holly, SignaltoNoise, and Clare bordered on splendid. Yes, I realize how odd it is that my friends are a collection of pseudonyms and links, but whatever.

The only downside was the fact that getting across the country involves my arch nemesis, Air Travel. Somehow I fell prey to the Travelocity gnome who made a 6:45 a.m. flight sound awesome, but when my alarm went off at 3:15, the I Hate Myself fairy violently disagreed. The only upside to a predawn drive to the airport was that my eyes weren't fully open when I ingested my St. Christopher medal and purchased a TSA-approved $3 bottle of water to throw down enough Xanax to ensure that even in the event of an air disaster, I'd be twitching my leg often enough to make the rescue workers wonder if I was chasing rabbits in my sleep.

Yes, I'm terrified of flying and have to be heavily medicated before I can even consider stowing my belongings in the overhead bins. Last summer on a trip to Monterey, the staff at the [Name Redacted] Inn--which offered a quaint in-room fireplace that harbored bats and had the kind of smoke reflux that made my belongings smell like RJ Reynolds' bronchial tubes--helped themselves to my anti-anxiety meds so I spent the duration of the return flight clawing at my own face. During a layover in Minneapolis, my travel companion suggested that I have a drink to calm my nerves and obviously didn't anticipate that I'd slug so much Patron that I'd try to tongue kiss the Snoopy statue in the terminal.

This trip I didn't take any chances. I packed two bottles...and a suitcase lock.

I flew Continental, partially because they were the cheapest and partially because in my past life as a comic, I racked up enough trips in their shoddily embroidered seats to earn Silver Elite flyer status which means...nothing, really, except my inflight magazine may not have been dusted with MRSA and I get to stand on a special mat while they search for my reservation and mispronounce my name.

None of my four flights (including stops in Newark and Houston's George "Not the Shitty One, We Promise" Bush Intercontinental Airport & Armadillo Shaped Novelty Store) were full but I still was surrounded by all manner of Freakshow and have collected some of my favorites for you:

-- My seatmate on the flight to Newark was a woman rocking a double-braided hairstyle last seen on Willie Nelson and an oversized nylon tote bag full of string cheese. I get freaked out by dairy products that don't require refrigeration but she seemed to enjoy it and--based on the amount of peelable wrappers that accumulated in the seat pocket--she wasn't planning on having a bowel movement at any point during her vacation. She started reading a book with a Bible and a quill pen on the cover, so it became immediately obvious that we had nothing in common. I put my headphones on, realized I have enough Replacements music to be incorporated as a Minneapolis suburb, and went to sleep. I woke up in New Jersey with tray table creases on my face and "Kiss Me On the Bus" lodged in my head.

-- I spent the six hour trip to LA beside a couple who played 'Get to Know You' Games with each other until we were somewhere over Iowa. "So what's your middle name?" she asked as he stared intensely at the upholstery like it was a magic eye poster. "Joseph," he grunted, "Um, what's yours?" She mumbled something that sounded like "Cicada", thumbed through a few pages of one of those Vampire novels that double as Hot Topic catalogs, before asking "'s your favorite food?" I swear he said "Steak-Umms", an answer that delighted her so much that they made out until the wheels kissed the runway. After listening to them quiz each other, I couldn't figure them out. The only things they seemed to have in common were over-the-counter hair color, a fondness for leather goods, and a willingness to give/receive a fumbling-but-brief handjob beneath one of the complimentary blankets that I sincerely hope was incinerated upon our arrival. I spent an hour (the duration of the extended edition of Don't Tell a Soul) convinced that they'd committed some kind of heist and were fleeing the Jerz to start a new life in SoCal with the contents of the cash register from the House of Plants.

-- Across the aisle was an Asian teen with a demon face airbrushed on his hat who refused to turn his Zune off, even after the flight attendant nudged him. He nodded, pulled one earbud out, and promptly replaced it as she moved up the aisle collecting empty ginger ale cans. I tried to stare a hole through his skull and--if we'd had any mechanical difficulties--I would've blamed him and the Insane Clown Posse.

Getting home yesterday was a disaster from the wake up call on, when I rolled out of bed reeking of wormwood and regret thanks to the absinthe I'd had at the Edison (but I got to keep my lightbulb-shaped glass!) and only got worse when my cab got rearended on the way to the airport. The Cliff's Notes version is that I got to the Continental counter at 7:40 for my 8 a.m. flight and had to bat the fuck out of my eyelashes to the ticket rep so I could get on the plane. The phrase "I could so make out with you right now" may have been used, which probably violated several TSA regulations. I didn't check a bag so after getting my boarding pass, I had to hustle to gate C-62, burdened like a sherpa beneath the weight of all the $4.99 used CDs I bought at Amoeba music because I go across the country to stock up on the kind of out-of-print acoustic shit I could've gotten for $0.02 from Amazon sellers.

-- My seatmate was a woman wearing a catsuit who had already commandeered all three pillows and refused to get up to let me move to the middle seat because she'd swaddled herself in two blankets like baby Jesus with highlights and a blowout. As we taxied toward the runway, she loudly announced to everyone that she was going to Las Vegas, even though she was on a flight to Houston. During the flight, she repeated the same repertoire of three moves: taking her shoes on and off, frequently sponging makeup on the scarab beetle sleeping on her cheek a mole on her face, and applying a roller of perfume to her wrists. Yes, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but on an airplane the scent lingers and drifts. She also had at least nine cups of coffee and with every refill she would touch the steward's arm and say "You do make it so good" in the kind of heavy accent preferred by Carmen San Diego villains. Her entire cultivated persona reminded me of a game of charades where you were trying to make the other players guess "sexy!" but part of her definition involved chewing with her mouth open.

--The family in front of me had a toddler who was wholesomely adorable in a Family Channel sitcom-kind of way. Both parents doted on him and suggested a game where they'd pretend that the airplane was a giant roller coaster, which was cute in theory until we hit massive amounts of turbulence over Middle America and he'd throw his hands up and scream every time we kicked through a cloud. For three consecutive hours. At one point, his mom turned around and sheepishly apologized to us, staring at me because I assume I looked the most pissed. I managed to muster a smile and told her not to worry because I had headphones and enough drugs to turn Keith Richards' blood to sludge. That was apparently the wrong way to begin a relationship, because when we landed, she shielded the kid's face from me as I reached into the overhead bin to grab my backpack.

I shrugged, threw a bag on each shoulder and took off to the next gate, "My Little Problem" echoing in both ears.


wanderingtex said...

i HATE flying. im also pretty sure that ive been on a plane with all the same people. they must be frequent flyers or something.

hoppster said...

part of the safety video should be a segment on in-flight etiquette, just to provide all passengers with a friendly reminder to keep your hands, feet, children and personal odor to yourself. really, the goal should be to make yourself as unmemorable as possible to the passengers around you.

The Imaginary Reviewer said...

Yeah, flying is pretty much the most hellish thing one can do that doesn't involve Eli Roth. (Eurgh, imagine flying with Eli Roth! How awful would that be?)

No matter how much free booze I can cadge off the stewards, nothing can make up for the fact that I'm currently in a tin can several thousand feet in the air, and the only thing coming between me and death is mankind's shaky knowledge of gravity.

lfar said...

"Her entire cultivated persona reminded me of a game of charades where you were trying to make the other players guess "sexy!" but part of her definition involved chewing with her mouth open."

You are glorious in every way!

SouthernBelle said...

I don't care, I still love flying.

: )

surviving myself said...

I can't believe you had a bad time flying! Nothing wrong ever happens when people fly.

I find this highly disturbing.

lacochran said...

Steak-Umms. HAWT!

"My seatmate was a woman wearing a catsuit who had already commandeered all three pillows"

Oh, you don't want those pillows. You see food carts for the planes but you never see pillow carts. That's because they don't change the pillows. Not even the pillowcases. EVER!

Mike said...

"helped themselves to my anti-anxiety meds"

Don't you just love the "hospitality" industry?

Herding Cats said...

Wow. You got a ton of creepy memories to add to the "Why I Hate Flying List." I have a similar list involving a man that fell asleep next to me on the plane with his eyes open. For three hours, he made hand and face motions mimicking a deranged squirrel. Horrible.

RainbowEclipse said...

First off, the phrase
"had to bat the fuck out of my eyelashes" is thoroughly under-used...

Second, I'll agree with lacochran that it's best you didn't get any of catlady's pillows ---> Just like you know they probably DIDN'T incinerate that blanket from your previous flight-mates, at least you avoided the prior occupants' neck-sweat, if not worse...

nwgdc said...

Wow...Carmen SanDiego!

I haven't heard that in a LONG time, but you're IS a thick accent! I'm stealing that.

nwgdc said...
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Uncle Ebenezer said...

Awesome, I was already excited about my super early cross-country flight, but now I can't wait. Thank you. Your flights sound like they were ultra-fun.

emmysuh said...

Points of Awesomeness:

-"Vampire novels that double as Hot Topic catalogs" Only adds to the love I hold in my heart for you.

-Please tell me the hand job comment was a joke. That is awful. I was once on a bus in the seat behind some slutty girl giving head to a sketchy guy under a blanket on a weekend trip. When they reached back for another blanket in my seat, I knew it was trouble.

-Least favourite part of flying? The bathrooms. Not because they're disgusting, although they are, but because I'm afraid if I flush, some mechanical thing will go wrong and the plane will shoot out of the sky and it will be all my and my overactive bladder's fault.

-And finally, hell yeah Carmen San Diego! Do you remember the theme song by Rockapella? Would I be even more loserly -- I mean awesome if I told you I had seen Rockapella in concert? Granted, I was in high school but I would completely and generally unabashedly go again tomorrow if given the oppurtunity.

Glad you're back.

Geiger Girl said...

I've vowed to lurk less, and love more. So gotta tell you I thoroughly enjoyed your blog posts! Your descriptions on the other passengers had me giggling. You rock!

Reluctant Runner said...

Sounds like the post-flight People Suck elf visited just after the gnome and the fairy. Glad you made it home in one piece!

zlionsfan said...

Flying = +1.

Flying when other people are on the plane = teh suck.

Suffering through what passes for customer service after the usual security theater ordeal = thanks, I'll drive.

I'm just waiting for them to move California about 1000 miles east.

Signal to Noise said...

Having to fly to visit people is what keeps me living in California, I think. I like flight. It's being packed like a sardine that I don't enjoy much. Other people don't help. I really am sorry you had to go through Newark. Not because of the city itself -- but that airport is lamentably bad.

And I KNEW the absinthe was trouble when it tasted like limeade. Drinking anything that tastes so little like booze has always resulted in a hangover where the inside of my head feels like it is a typewriter and someone is smacking the carriage into the side of my head every five minutes.

Braja said...

I think you need to fly India domestic. It'll make that trip look like a picnic.

Elusive Butterfly said...

I will be flying around India on domestic airlines in a month. Come with me??

Christy said...

I'm not sure which fact I'm more upset with: 1) That people around you didn't know who you were & cowtow to your every move & give up their places in line & seats on the plane to you or ask for autographs! OR 2) That you were in Houston & DIDN'T LET ME KNOW IN ADVANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't want to sound like a stalker, but seriously, I'm your biggest fan & would have loved to have met you, even over some trashy airport food! Damn...looks like I'm going to have to fly now to try to catch you in a marathon or something. Hmmm, how can we remedy this for the future? =)