Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Continental Drift

Recently had the experience of being wrapped in a somehow aerodynamically feasible, pressurized metal tube, way too far off the ground, hurtling through space at 2/3 the speed of sound, for a lot more hours than one would prefer, sitting in a seat with a highly complex control system, capable of something just short of an infinite number of positional options; finding just the right set of seating variables, thereby achieving maximum comfort, requires no small amount of luck, some fairly intricate mathematics, and even if you're smart enough to figure it out, it can easily take longer than the full duration of your flight.

Not that there should be any confusion about this. Notwithstanding the occasional pangs of misplaced guilt for the people inhumanly crowded into the strictly non-adjustable seats in the back, Business Class is really the only way to go. It at least offers the possibility of completing your journey without suffering either some sort of physical paralysis or serious mental breakdown. And yet there is the lingering sense of being systematically 'killed' with Business Class kindness. I mean, how cheerful-smiling-friendly can these flight attendants be? How often can they inquire into your well-being, ply you with snacks, engage you in conversation in a way suggesting they actually care about anything you have to say?

 To the point that you find yourself becoming slightly suspicious.  To the point you're compelled to ask.

Excuse me, but are you by any chance the member of some happy, smiley face cult?

If it would make your flight any more satisfying, I certainly could be.

No, don't go to any extra trouble on my account.

In that case, is there anything I can get you? Another drink? Something from our so-elaborate-as-to-be-virtually-incomprehensible menu?  One of our comfy, hypoallergenic, made-entirely-from-recycled-plastic-water-bottles lounging jackets?

A lounging jacket?

It's also quite stylish.

Would you perhaps have an operational manual for this chair?

Let me go and query the Captain on that. 

*(So how many flight attendants does it require to screw in a light bulb?
Four.  One to push the cart, a second to smile reassuringly at the bulb, a third to unscrew the bad one and screw in the new one, and a forth to go on the P.A., informing passengers that while changing a light bulb in flight is not exactly routine, neither does it in any way constitute what might be construed as an emergency situation.)

The highlight of my in-flight service was being asked by a tall, Finnish flight steward if I would like him to tuck me in with a blanket.  

Uh, no thanks, I told him.

In that case, he said, may I offer you a reindeer meat sandwich?

Reindeer, did you say?

It's really very delicious.

(And this is exactly my point. You know the people back in Economy are not being offered reindeer sandwiches, and a case can certainly be made that, from a purely existential perspective, they are much better off for not having to make that choice.)

I passed on the reindeer, the blanket, the complimentary foot massage; ordered another beer instead, as the plane cruised somewhere over the arctic, outside air temp hovering around negative 60 C.
The miracle of flight, I reminded myself, repressing an urge to start screaming.

At least I was finally able to conquer the seat. After nine hours of pushing buttons I had the thing more or less where I wanted it. Not exactly comfortable, but close enough. The pursuit of absolute perfection is, after all, a fool's errand. Even thought I might be able to doze off.

Which is, of course, exactly when the Captain's voice came over the P.A.

We'll be landing in approximately twenty minutes. Please make sure your seat belts are secured and return all seats to their upright positions.


Friday, August 2, 2013

Blurry Reflections In An Ever-Expanding Puddle

After twenty-two straight days of ominous grey skies, sizzling high humidity and near-constant drizzle, is it any wonder you're reaching for the anti-depressants? Chewing them like candy, swiping them from family and friends, hording them with pack rat-like fervor. You're as depressed, but somehow you don't mind it as much. You're learning how to be happy with your chronic unhappiness.

Think of it as the paradoxical nature of life in the rainy zone.

Even the usually uncomplicated act of moving through space has become a daunting challenge. It's like trying to walk on the bottom of a swimming pool wearing gravity boots (breathing, needless to say, is also problematic). To conserve energy you and your wife take turns dragging each other around the house.

I'd like to go and sit on the couch now, you announce.
Fine, she says. But first you'll have to drag me into the bathroom.
Let me take another pill and see how I feel about that.

Twenty minutes later you're still sitting at the kitchen table, feeling neither one way nor another. The wife has managed to crawl to the bathroom and you're dumbly gazing out the window wondering when the garden had turned into a jungle. Menacing plants with large, succulent leaves press against the glass, aggressive crawlers seek out cracks in the outside walls, flocks of subtropical birds nest in the attic.

You weren't even aware there was an attic.

And then the screaming starts.  Not that you immediately recognize it as such. Sounds waves propagating through a humid medium of supersaturated air invariably become distorted, compressed, twisted into unrecognizable shapes. A woman's scream, therefore, is mostly indistinguishable from, for example, the mournful murmuring of ghosts, the subsonic drone of an anomalous electromagnetic discharge, the hapless yowl of a hungry puppy.

You sincerely hope it doesn't turn out to be option # 1. With your mood in free fall and your limbs simulating strips of worn out elastic, the last thing you need on your plate at this point is a so-called 'supernatural situation'. And suddenly you're wondering where the expression 'on one's plate' came from.

  Don't I have enough on my plate already? You also want me to worry about the origin of the expression 'on my plate'?  Anything else you'd like me to do while I'm at it?

Could you perhaps remove the birds from the attic?

Okay, now you're getting on my plate and I'm not very happy about it.

Can I offer you a mood enhancer?

Screw you!

Two mood enhancers? That's two for the price of one. You'll be feeling twice as upbeat in half the time.

In addition to being an idiot, are you also a drug dealer?

Fortunately, both you and your wife have wholeheartedly adopted the puerile, dehumanizing and utterly mindless practice of carrying cellphones at all times.  She calls. You answer. It's one of the few things you actually agree on.

Get in here, she says. 
Why, you want to know.
She says, I'm trapped in the bathroom with a giant spider.

(Another feature of the relentless rainy season, the giant spider, with the apparent ability to materialize out of thin air. They appear, they terrorize, they vanish. If you stare at them and let your eyes slip out of focus, they begin to resemble distant elliptical galaxies millions of light years from Earth, the black holes of their plump fuzzy heads as alluring as they are lethal.)

How do you expect me to get there, you ask her.

Crawl, she says.

You want me to crawl to the bathroom to see a giant spider?

No, I want you to crawl to the bathroom and catch a giant spider. Bring tools, preferably with the capacity to also serve as weaponry.

Are you seriously suggesting we terminate a giant spider?

If this thing bites me and I die, I will come back and haunt you mercilessly.

Ah, ghosts again. Why are you not surprised? One minute you think of them, the next your wife is threatening to become one. You sense yourself caught in an unreconcilable loop of quasi-tragic unreality. You're also pretty sure it's started raining inside the house. On the other hand, you might just be over-medicated. You're so mood-enhanced you've begun hallucinating. To the extent you're willing to entertain the implausible notion that the sun has come out.

The what has come out?

Bright glowing disk in the sky, source of all life on Earth?


Never mind.

Pondering all this, a virtual myriad of potentially debilitating variables,  the phone rings .......