The Air Up Here

if you’re reading this, i didn’t die.

I’m writing from a plane.

Ain’t technology grand?

If you are reading this, then that means that I landed safely. A concept that right now, I must admit, sounds a bit far-fetched to me. This may have been one of the scariest flights I’ve ever been on. Some sort of “thunderstorm” that we had to be “re-routed” through. Whatever. It was jumpy.

This morning I almost missed my flight. Eric brought me to the airport about half an hour before my flight. I’m used to the curbside check-in, having usually just one bag to check in, and ticketless travel. There was no curbside check-in guy. The line was all the way back. They called final boarding when I was still three people back. They called the plane and told them to wait. My gate was clear on the other side of the airport. Eric and I ran to my gate and as I got on and sat down the woman next to me said, “You almost didn’t make it, huh?”

I wanted to turn to everyone and say, “Look, it wasn’t my fault. There was only one person checking in the entire plane. I didn’t make the plane late. I swear. It wasn’t my fault.”

Just as I was about to turn around, the flight attendant above me either elbowed my forehead or dropped some carry-on luggage on my head. I’m not sure which. She held my head for a few seconds in apology and then walked off before I could ask for some aspirin, which was all my sick head was screaming for at that point.

We were in the air in a few minutes, and I discovered a new love– the Walkman. I’ve never taken one on a plane with me before, as I usually have a traveling companion, but this time I knew I’d be spending several hours by myself, and made a few mix tapes over the past couple of days to keep me company. (“Alone on an airplane,” Radiohead just sang in my ear. I didn’t even plan that) It was funny to listen to the Foo’s “Learning to Fly” as the Flight Attendants were walking around serving drinks.

There seems to be a problem, however, in that there are just long patches of music that didn’t seem to tape. I remember playing the song in my house and hitting record and listening to the song, but it didn’t tape. I don’t know what the problem is, but it’s terribly annoying that there are large patches of just empty tape in the middle of the ultimate jamming mix tape. That and it seems to have chosen to not record the entire No Doubt album. It’s like my CD player censored my mix tapes.

I think I scared another passenger when I was shaking my head to “The Beautiful People.”

The woman on my right asked if I was in high school. Thinking that my iBook was some sort of “Word Processor,” I tried to explain freelance writing to her. She asked what the script was that I was working on. I tried explaining Anime. She explained she was from Nebraska. I told her I wrote for the paper. She said they had newspapers in Nebraska as well. We had found something in common.

That flight ended quickly as I was finishing up work and I noticed that I had about ten minutes to get to my new flight.

I rarely do this, but I was very worried about missing my flight and having my mother freak out in another state. I busted up like three rows when the seatbelt light turned off. I had all of my luggage already in my hands, and there weren’t too many people in front of me. I heard the exasperated cluckings of the people who I had jammed past, but they didn’t have a flight that was leaving in ten minutes. I did.

I ran off the plane and over to the person with the list of gate changes. She informed me that my gate was “Down the hall all the way and around the corner.” Nine minutes later I ran up to the gate and handed the woman my ticket. She just stared. I looked behind her. My flight had been delayed half an hour. I looked around and saw that all of the seats were taken.

I consoled myself at Starbucks. I ordered a “Venti Iced Mocha” and the Starbucker (my father insists they are called “baristers,” and that I should refer to them by their Star-buck given name) corrected me by shouting, “Iced Venti Mocha” which is how I usually order them, but I thought I was ordering it the correct way by putting size before flavor, but apparently that isn’t the case. Who knew? I never order them iced, but the St. Louis airport, besides being the most boring place on Earth, was incredibly warm and stagnant.

Still having another twenty minutes, I decided to shorten my life even more by entering the smoking corner. I’m sure you’ve seen these glass zoos. It’s a terrible feeling to sit down, light a cigarette, look around and think, “Oh, shit. I’m the best looking person in this room. This is a sign. This is a sign. I’m supposed to be on the other side of the glass with the pretty people. I must leave. I must leave now.”

I put out my two-thirds of a cigarette and walked out of the glass cage. My head was reeling from the greenhouse effect in there. I may have only had about three drags off a cigarette, but in there it’s the equivalent to half a pack.

The flight was delayed due to “routine maintenance.” They explained that they had to go chair by chair and inspect them for lifevests. I sat down in the middle of the floor, completely giving up on any sort of attractiveness for today. I sipped coffee and watched the silent CNN Headline News. The flight was now fifty minutes later than when my original tickets said I’d be leaving.

We boarded. I’m all in the back, like right by the restrooms. Luckily, I have an aisle seat, as any other kind makes me terribly uncomfortable. I’m always sitting next to Elbows McAllister and Snorey O’Reilly. The flight attendant was a dead-ringer for Jm J. Bullock, which set me at ease… until he sat down next to me by pulling his little aisle-seat out of the wall and buckling up. I was suddenly not in an aisle seat anymore, but rather Too Close For Comfort with Mr. TWA.

We sat for a very long time on the ground. The pilot came on to tell us that we were in line for take-off and were being re-routed away from the deadly thunderstorms that had cropped up all along our flight path. We were tenth in line for take-off. I asked Jm if I could get up and use the restroom. He smirked and put his seat back into the wall. The other flight attendant told me to “hurry up,” as there was only another half-hour before we were set to leave.

I tried not to hold Jm J.’s hand when we finally took off forty minutes later. I now have no idea when we are due to land, but I know that my mother is already waiting for me at the airport. I also realized I didn’t tell her what airline or what city I was arriving from. That means she only knows I’m due around 1:30, which is exactly what time it is right now in the air.

Sorry, mom.

The iBook is always the attention grabber on an airplane. People always stop to ask how much I like it and if I’m happy with it. I’m worried they’re going to see through my fake-geekness that I sometimes have to put on when I discuss computers. I’ll be honest with you here, since I’m pretty sure that I’m going to die on this next wave of turbulence, and this whole closer-to-death thing has made me realize that I should just keep being honest all of the time, since they might find this entry in the wreckage. Sometimes I fake my geekness. Like, I know that this machine has a lot of RAM, which I think means that it can hold more, which makes it faster, but I don’t know how that’s different from a hard drive, or if it’s different from a hard drive, and what kind of bus or motherboard I’m looking at here. I think I can fake it a bit better with a PC, but with a Mac, which I’m pretty new to, I’m just about clueless. I end up babbling about graphics and opening and closing a few pictures, while trying to hide the latest vulgarity-filled piece I’m writing for whatever webzine.

They’re gonna see right through me.

And I know when I walk off this plane in my big shoes, wearing this Sports Walkman, carrying my iBook and my bottle of water, there will be people on the other side of the terminal that haven’t seen me since I was eleven years old. What will they think of me? Will I live up to their expectations? What did they think would happen to me when I was five and dancing around their living rooms? Will I still be the charming niece that confessed her secret desire to be a horse when she grows up? Will I look anything like them? Will we all get along?

My mother doesn’t even know for sure where I’m sleeping. This should be interesting.

I’m just not very good on planes the second I can’t do something to keep my hands busy. I have my computer here with two hours worth of work, two books and a magazine. I’m constantly reading or typing. Otherwise I’ll completely lose it on some poor passenger. I know, I’ve done it before. The worst was when I was seated alongside another passenger who was afraid of taking off. The two of us just kept staring at each other, clutching our armrests and gasping at the same time. We both were in tears. We freaked each other out.

And every time I’m on a plane at night I can’t even sit next to the window. I have too many John Lithgow fears.

So, I try and fly during the day. I try and have an aisle seat. I make sure to pack several distractions. I save work for myself to keep busy. I try not to think about smoking or eating or comfort. I bring a jacket for the cold, and wear a t-shirt for the heat. I wear comfy jeans, but tall shoes so I can see over other people and reach the overhead compartment. My new plan each time I’m flying alone is to bring this Walkman, because it totally rocks to listen to Radiohead in the air. People don’t talk to me as often this way. Next time I’ll just have to make sure that my mix tapes all work before I take off.

Oh, and the cold? I’m still coughing, but the chewing gum has helped my ears, along with the Walkman, I think, because I can tell when they are clogging up, and I can pop them. My lungs were feeling kind of heavy until I popped out my inhaler. Instant satisfaction. That and the allergy meds I took before I left this morning. I may be medicated, but I can breathe and my head isn’t killing me.

Well, except for the part where the flight attendant dropped something on my head. That’s a little sore.

Well, I’m now officially late for my mom at the airport, and I have a feeling that this flight isn’t landing in the next hour or so. I hope she sticks around, as I’ve never been to this airport before, and I don’t even know where to find her. I hope the Hartford airport’s a small one. Because if I don’t get a hold of my mom, I’m gonna have to call Rob or Dana, and that’ll be difficult to explain to the family. That and I don’t know how to call them, only e-mail. I’d be all “Hello, Operator? UFred please. No listing? Okay, how about Chubbin Chubbinsky?”


No, really, what if this plane never lands? You’d think the pilot would come on every once in a while to tell us how long it’s going to be. Oh, wait. The headphones. The loud music. I’m an idiot. I tried striking a conversation up with the guy sitting next to me, but he’s so not having it. I’ve written e-mail, I’ve written all of my assignments for this week. I finished my book. I tried starting another. I flipped through Spin magazine. I’m running out of things to do, and I see no sign of landing soon.

I may panic right here. Wait, how much is left on my laptop battery? Okay, about an hour. That should be enough.

Some kid just came barreling down the runway aisle. Miraculously, I didn’t accidentally trip the poor thing. That’s what usually happens. This must mean my luck is changing, and instead of going down in a fiery death, we’re going to land soon.

By the way, I’m sitting behind a couple that I’m sure is me and Eric in about thirty years. As I was waiting to get to my seat before take-off, the man was stuffing their luggage in the overhead bin. He just kept pushing and shoving the luggage until it bent to his will as she stood behind him shouting, “Do you think we should just move some of it to another overhead bin? We should probably just move some of it. Do you think it’s all going to fit? I can’t see how it’s all going to fit, can you? Did you get everything in there? Is it all fitting? Are you going to try and move some of it to another bin? Do you want some help? Do you need any help? Are these our seats? Are we putting our stuff in the bin over our seats? Did you check the tickets to see if these are our seats? Did it all fit?”

And instead of answering a single one of her questions, he just kept shoving the luggage around until it all fit in the overhead bin, slammed the bin door, and took her hand and led her to her seat. She never stopped asking and answering her own questions, and he just kissed the back of her hand as they sat down.

I think we’re landing. Wish me luck.

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