Dad called late last night about the Family Chat we'd dreamt up for my sister’s birthday. It was scheduled for a couple of hours before the call. Turns out wrangling three siblings in three time zones into the same virtual bubble is no small feat. Bloody Skype can’t do three-way video and none of us had the right version of Flash, so we messed about for at least half an hour before we settled. I hadn’t even packed yet, and Andy had only just woken up.
It was lovely to be together, although the odd Internet Stranger popped by our public Chat Room. It was a mere two lines into his introduction before Somebody Orother mentioned “naked.” We respectfully informed him that we were all members of the same family (not the Utah kind, added Cath) so there would be no nudity here.
At about 01:30 I finally had to retire and Sister was itching to escape to the pub for her birthday munting. We signed off in an oddly misanthropic stagger. Bag packed. All stones turned. Sleep.
BZZT BZZT BZZT BZZT BZZT. Fuck. BZZT. Grr. BZZT. Rub eyes. Stretch. DON’T. CLOSE. EYES.
Got to the airport. Checked in. “Would you be interested to volunteer your seat to someone else?” Err, fuck no, I have a plane to catch?? “You’ll be assigned your seat at the gate,” the machine replied. Here we go. For some reason, they’re allowed to sell the same ‘piece of meat’ to two different people and get away with it.
I report in at the gate as politely as possible. Told to wait “a few minutes.” Pretend to relax with coffee at the window watching all the electric insects buzz about below. One name she’d rather spell than try over the loudspeaker gets spelt ten times. Ten times. Don’t you forfeit your chance if you’re not even there to catch the bouquet??
Ten minutes before departure, I was one of two people still waiting for their seat. I noticed a tall bespectacled (black) chap with a tremendously pockmarked neck standing by a pillar, rocking on his Louis Vuitton carry-on. He twitched like a gentle bird appearing to wait patiently, as recommended by the beleaguered counter lady. (She managed to crush me simultaneously with her powerful telekinesis, thereby executing her long-held personal vendetta against me. Wily.)
Neck turned to me, and he approached gingerly. “Are you waiting for a seat?” he said.
I spewed forth. “Am I waiting??! Yes, in a lottery, apparently. I don’t really understand why since I’ve paid actual money for the seat already. I can’t believe this happens. It’s ridiculous!”
“Well, I’ve offered my seat if anyone needs it,” he mentioned, wiggling his ticket at the stones behind the counter, “perhaps you’ll get it!”
I’m sure I looked calm-though-pissed-off, assuming a variety of frustrated postures to the non-crowd that was watching: hands-on-hips, the furrowed brow, arms tightly crossed, quiet huffs. As I waited, the latecomers spilled from the airport dark with just two short minutes left until the doors were scheduled to close. One of the stones came out to meet me and examined my boarding pass.
“Miss. Oates? You’re next on the list. Hang in there.” As I smiled briefly, my mind’s mouth said Get fucked. I don’t have much fucking choice, do I, you twerp? I mean, I’ve had four hours sleep and I appear to be gripping my ankles. Oh? And I just got my period, so fuck you. Oh, and your relatives. Dipshit cockhead.
The neck returned to the counter to remind them that he had his ticket to share. To cut a longer story short, he and I ended up trading places. He wasn’t fussed which flight he would be on next, or where he would be sitting. He just suggested that they get me sorted out then worry about him.
I patted him gently on the arm as I said thank you, as we parted ways. “Enjoy your flight,” he said. I looked down at my boarding pass, and noticed a gold tinge to it… 1800-BEST-SAMARITAN! I was the last to board, and waltzed in to 10C. There was so much legroom I hardly knew where to put them. Sadly, I wasn’t able to have the omelette like the other business people before me, but I did squeeze in a cheeky Kir Royale before the morning meal. (I’m enjoying my
As I settled in to begin The Colony of Unrequited Dreams: A Novel, I watched silently as my formerly snoozing neighbour totally stole my “personal media player” from our shared counter space and proceeded to use it immediately. No matter. At least he doesn’t smell, or invade my (enormous) personal space.
We find ourselves listening to James Smallwood, a young boy in early twentieth century Newfoundland, jostling into his lucky place at the town’s boarding school, and at this moment listening to a lecture from his principal, Mr. Reeves...
“Think of it,” [Reeves] said, “many of you are descended from people who couldn’t even make the grade in Ireland, a country of bog-born barbarians, or in Scotland, whose culture peaked with the invention of the bagpipes. My God, it boggles the mind. If you lot are the elite of Newfoundland, what must the rest be like? Smallwood here we may think of as the riff-raff’s shining star. Try to imagine someone in comparison with whom he would seem to be a shining star. No, the mind balks, it is beyond imagining. The riff-raff are out there, we know by extrapolation from Smallwood that they exist, but luckily for us, we cannot picture them.”
My reading was disturbed somewhat by the bloody-mary-sipping couple across the (enormous) row. I overheard their banter. I couldn’t quite tell if they were workmates or friends, or even if they had just met on the plane. Talk was mainly about work. Suddenly, the man said, “What I like to call ‘organizational fatigue’,” and I had suddenly had a story. I hate it when people declare their own personal jargon. It’s what I call the “smouldering intelligentsia” because I’m preaching to my thousands of disciples and therefore must continually spout my priceless wisdom.
For a moment, I thought perhaps they were mother and son. After prolonged strange business-dirty talk, I finally realised they were lovers because they started stroking each other after the third Bloody Mary. The conversation, however, did not seem to improve: Me-Me-Me-Man punctuated by Agree-O-Woman. Then again, I may just be a rude bitch who can’t quite hear because we’re at 33,000 feet. They’re probably so happily in love Barbara Cartland should document them, and they probably both have deeply, deeply fulfilling lives, and probably most of us love it that way. (I think it's a work romance.)
“Pride goeth before a fall, Mr. Smallwood,” he said. “I was myself once full of pride. And pride is the greatest of all sins, the sin over which the first war was fought, the sin because of which Lucifer and his rebel angels were driven out of heaven and cast into the pit of hell. I want you to remember that. You can go now.”
Or, is it envy?