Wednesday, March 28, 2007
L'Être et le néant
I should have known something was up when I changed planes in Houston. If you've never been to George H. W. Bush Houston Intercontinental Airport, you don't really need to go. If you've been to any other major metroplitan connector hub, you know what it is; if you haven't, imagine your local indoor shopping mall, except about four times as sprawling and with an International Arrivals gate. It's very techno-now and window-y and shiny, outfitted with all the latest inconveniences of modern air travel.
When I left my 170-some-odd passenger 737 at the gate, I made the long trek through the moving sidewalks, past four gift shops and at least seventy book stores, two escalators and one train ride(!) away to my connecting gate. There, sitting, waiting for me was the most adorable little flying can of certain death I had ever seen.
Look, I'm sure little planes are just as safe as big planes. I don't recall hearing a whole lot of stuff in the news about the little ones falling out of the sky like Old Testament frogs or anything, but still, if you're a city guy like I am, you're used jumping from international airport to international airport, which means volume passengers, which means six people to a row, minimum. It's not that one way is better than another, it's just what I'm used to. When I fly, it doesn't feel right if I don't feel like I'm the only survivor under a four-ton pile of dead bodies. It's all very overwrought and inappropriately Middle Passage of me, but I'm an American. I tolerate what I've been conditioned to tolerate by the commercial necessities of mulitnational corporations. Any instance where I am not forced to tolerate such conditions--overcrowded planes, nutritionally bankrupt fast food, Nickelback--I can be very put-out. Testy even.
Plus the size of the plane I was about to board (after the requisite layover, naturally) also served to underline the reality of what I was doing and to where I was going. I was leaving the world of "international" and headed to a Panhandle. I was going regional.
The flight was short, but it was a white-knuckle affair the whole way. It's not that it was particularly bumpy or in any way physically harrowing, it's just that... it's hard to explain, but I was in seat 1A. There was no First Class, so on this particular plane, I was a) up front and b) IN A ROW ALL BY MYSELF. To my left was the window. To my right, the aisle. Right of that was a little cubby where the one--one--stewardess kept her little drinks trolley. All I could think of, with no one next to me, was that if we were to veer drastically off course and crash in the Andes, whom would I eat? There was no natural choice for me to make. Or alternately, who would eat me? Everyone else behind me was happily paired up with a row-mate for their emergency dining pleasure. But me, I was destined to be left, shunned, alone, frozen to death, completely untasted by an otherwise starving mob of motley cannibal survivors.
Out of desperation I asked the stewardess to lick my forearm. She would not.
I was grateful to land at the regional airport, which was, let me just say, regional. Instead of those tow-carts they use to push planes off from the gate, they were using two-by-two teams of what looked like yaks, which seemed geographically inappropriate. And the guy on the grounds crew who directed us in used glass lanterns filled with some kind of either lightnin' bug or incandescent salamander. It was hard to be sure, but all I know is electric light doesn't spook like that.
The rope-ladder down to the hardpack dirt runway was a little tricky, but when I reached the bottom, there was a welcome crew just like if I'd arrived in Hawaii, except instead of a lei, they present you with a plug of chaw and a styrofoam cup. I was just about to refuse it when the shooting started.
Some of the regional people, apparently, ain't too keen on the flyin' machines and the "outsiders" they bring with them. Luckily all the meth and moonshine makes them really shaky and not particularly good shots. In total, I'd say no more than four of us were killed.
A long walk, one pontoon skiff ride down a "crick" and one detour to get treed by a bear later and I reached my destination. It wasn't much, but they were family. If they wanted to live in corrugated iron geodesic dome using only a brood of overly friendly coonhounds for both mattresses AND the only source of warmth, well, that was OK by me.
I stayed at the Holiday Inn.
This post on the Narcisssus Scale: 10.0
PS- Solidarity, brother. There are such things as good lies.