Feb 18, 2012

Newark Airport, 7:30 a.m. — The People On My Flight

I'm sitting at Newark Airport, terminal C, gate 81, playing Scrabble, waiting for my flight to Chicago. There's a man, pot-bellied, maybe in his late 20's, saying, "Awful," under his breath, repeatedly. Well, he's not really saying it, he's almost singing it. He's not talking to anyone about anything, he's not watching T.V., not reading a newspaper or magazine, just repeating, "Awful." 

I have developed a head cold and am a little nauseous from the generic Mucinex I took that morning, so I got up to get some water. I'll never know what was so awful for my fellow traveler. As I am waiting to be rung up, I notice that the store is selling lollipops with real scorpions—HotLix.   I'm a little horrified, a little curious, but mostly tired.  

My seat next to Mr. Awful had been taken while I was filling my backpack with toilet paper (make-shift tissues) and buying water, so I found a new location and started reading the book I brought with me—the book that was suggested to me to study character descriptions, so that I could go back and work on the characters in my book. A woman sat down next to me, Afrin in hand i.e. demonic nasal spray. Have you ever used this stuff? I've never done crack, but I have to assume the addictive powers are similar. My new gate neighbor is either suffering from a cold and is congested, or she's addicted to Afrin, but either way, I'm not sure she was aware that she was wearing an entire bottle of perfume. As someone used to say all the time, "Why have perfume if you can't wear the whole bottle?" Whatever the reason, I had to move. 

I now find myself next to a young woman yelling Spanish into what I can only assume is some sort of automated system. Her Spanish was broken up only by the words, "psychiatric clinic." I guess she got what she needed, because she's hung up her phone and is now testing every single ringer on it. She settled on crickets. 

It was right around this time that I look up and see someone I went to high school with and haven't seen since. We spoke to each other over a couple of rows, before I decided to stop being the loud one in the terminal and got up and sat next to her. She's working in PR now and is on her way to Chicago for some Irish organization's event. I let her know that I love Irish people, because, well, I do. She took down my email and said she'd add me to the local chapters happy hour list. Win. 

But alas, now it's boarding time. This flight I'm in boarding group six instead of last week's eight. I'm moving up in the Continental/United world. Trying to figure out where the line actually is, I asked a tall, curly-haired-almost-dread-locked man if he was on line.  He was. He's also not a fan of the new boarding process. This particular flight is especially lacking logic because they are boarding from the front of the plane. But, whatever. Curly is now telling me that they should be boarding from the back of the plane and window seats first, anything else is absolutely disruptive. But he quickly changed his mind.

"Well," he said, "I guess it makes sense. I saw the woman who starred in Groundhog Day, so it makes sense that they would let her board first. I mean, she wouldn't want all these people coming up to her, asking her for her address. I mean, autograph."

Um, what?

Finally settled in my seat, I figured my people watching time was over. But, no. I'm seated in an aisle seat, which is not my first choice, but I'll take it over middle. The middle seat is occupied by a man who is entirely too tall to be sitting in coach. I felt a little bad for him, all crammed in there like a sardine. As the plane begins to ascend, he begins to sporadically grab at his chest. I considered asking him if he wanted a Xanax, but that's weird. I also considered talking to him, but instead I'm writing it all down. With the lady in front of him trying to recline her seat, I'm pretty sure he's going to lose his shit. He's trying to hold up the seat in front of him frantically, with three fingers on his left hand. He's shaking, he's desperate. Now he's battling the chair with both hands, his right arm, and his legs. Eventually he loses and is now grabbing at his chest again. This must be what I look like to people when the plane hits turbulence. I become like a cat, trying to avoid a bath tub filled with water, clutching the armrests like if I hold them hard enough, I can somehow steady the plane. 

But right now, I am starving and I do not want an $8 snack pack. The rest of the flight is uneventful. We land at O'Hare and taxi for what seems like an eternity. It was definitely over ten minutes. Maybe we landed somewhere else and are driving to Chicago. Crickets sounded a few rows back. 

Welcome to Chicago—O'Hare.

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