411: Somewhere over Iowa, on my way to my godson Ewan’s second birthday
Soundtrack: “To Zion”, Lauryn Hill
Checking in to my flight at Dulles, I’ve achieved the Zen calm that comes with traveling extensively alone. Without hurry, without concern for what time the plane departs, and with almost no luggage.
The world opens up for me as I move through the airport. While checking in I choose a seat in a bulkhead row (extra legroom) that’s entirely empty. Nothing I in my pockets or bags sets off the metal detectors or x-ray screeners who last week overlooked my box of cigar matches in my carry-on. On my way to the gate I stop at a restaurant that makes me an egg-white omelette with a side of fruit.
Of course, there is no line, and of course, it’s cheaper and better than the $5 meal that I forego on the plane. The waiter is solicitous in his service, and makes sure I have plenty of fruit, an English muffin, and extra sides. I board the plane second to last, and discover an entirely empty cargo bin above my seat, right next to a perfectly folded Wall Street Journal that someone has taken but not read.
If you handed me a bow and arrow right now, I suspect I could seperate you from that boarding pass in your hand at 100 yards, blindfolded.
It turns out I’m not the last person to board the plane. Arriving right after me is a man in his early 50’s. Huffing and out of breath, he plops his stuff down on the seat on the end of the row we’re going to share. He’s frantic, though he’s got 10 minutes until they close the doors. He starts yanking stuff out of his bag: newspapers, a laptop, a very new-looking User Guide for a Nokia 6200, and a notebook.
He violently crams a roller bag into the overhead compartment, presumably shoving everything else to the back. Nothing breakable in mine, thankfully. He then drops his pile of reading material onto the seat in between us. Finally, he takes his laptop and reaches down to put it on the ground, but he’s in a hurry, so he just lets it drop the last six inches, and then puts his heel on it to shove it back under the seat between us.
That can’t be right, he must not have seen where he put his foot. Nope, he looks to make sure, and kicks it the rest of the way.
The flight attendant (or the waitress in the sky, as The Replacements calls them) comes by for breakfast. Orange juice for me. But two cups of coffee, an orange juice, an omelette and pancakes for him. He’s eating so fast little bits of food fly off the fork in a circle of filth around him, on the seat, on the tray that seperates us, and the carpeted wall in front of us, on the bulkhead.
Now that we’re in the air over 10,000 feet, it’s about this time I start to take a comprehensive look at this guy. On the laptop, an enormous Starbucks metal logo plate. On the screen, the green Starbucks “Glenda the Good Witch of Coffee” logo adorns the background. His notebook has a sticker on the front with the same image. He starts fiddling with his Blackberry, obsessively reading e-mail on both his Blackberry and on Outlook on his laptop at the same time.
There’s also a corporate asset tag on the laptop, suggesting that these logos are not just fanatical consumer devotion to his favorite company.
Later, he’s emptying his pockets into the seat next to him. A complimentary starbucks coupon stares up at me from the pile of crumpled paper he’s just emptied from his pockets.
I’m trying not to take this as a sign that my general aversion to coffee is smarter than it looks, but all the evidence points to the contrary. As I watch him now, he’s watching a DVD (“Payback”) on his laptop, reading his e-mail, drinking a soda, and occasionally flipping through a pulp paperback that recently appeared.
I’m sticking to bottled water.