Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Mid-(delayed)flight journal

Tonight I sat at the only bar in General Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee for a stretch, awaiting a 7:40 flight to Boston that I found, upon arriving at the gate to make my connection from Minneapolis, would not be leaving until 9:29.

(Thanks, Logan Air Traffic Control! Blessings, low cloud ceilings!
Disclaimer:  I wrote this entry before my 1:10 a.m. arrival at Logan .... along with, evidently, tens of thousands of other travelers also delayed. All needing taxis. Since I waited 15 minutes for said taxi. Paid $30 to go 4.3 miles in it. And got out at home to find my long-tended basil plant shredded and dead on the patio, knocked over by the same storm that kept me in Milwaukee. Still smiling. It's all good.)

My default in past flight delays is to take the Times, find an empty stool, find a full wineglass, get mellow. Tonight there was time enough for 2 glasses, sipped over 2 hours.

Not sure why the edge-removing buzz never materialized.

(Should be sad that I’m too old for this particular strategy?)

It would follow, then, that by the time I actually got on the flight, the chardonnay would have dulled into a dry throb behind both ears. The nap I took on the first flight would have banished sleepiness. The length of delay would have ensured that I read the Times from front to back ..... even the sections most often skipped, like the mid-A-section analysis of conditions in the Gaza Strip .... leaving me free of planned reading material. My checked luggage would contain my Advil stash.

And the 2 girls (mid-20s, first-job-ambitious-young-professional types, I’d guess) seated 2 rows behind would choose to start talking before takeoff. And talk through the ascent and the beverage distribution and the Midwest Airlines chocolate-chip cookies. We’ve been together in this space for 108 minutes now and there has been no break. It’s a hum without end. As if the coveted wine buzz skipped me entirely and hijacked their vocal chords. One is doing most of the talking, in a dull roar as if mimicking our plane’s engines; the second is also talking, but responding at regular intervals with a Beavis & Butthead laugh. (Heh-heh! Heh-heh! Heh-heh-heh!)

 Each of them also has a special love affair with the word “like.”
Girl 1:  “Like, you know, she was only like, you know, like not old enough to like, you know, know any better and, like, totally suspicious and like her boyfriend was, totally ....”
Girl 2:  “Heh-heh! Heh-heh! Heh-heh-heh!”
I can’t be the cranky lady who summons the flight attendant to request that she ask my neighbors to use their post-midnight “indoor” voices, can I?

Maybe I am. How did I not bring earphones? A novel? Tolerance of conversation? A sense of humor?


Am glad, however, for this MacBook Pro and its vaunted 8-hour battery life. When writing gets in the groove, even the loudest thought and situational chaos can backseat.

I'm glad, too, for this $5 copy of Time magazine -- paid for in some desperation, running to the gate. Lev Grossman did a lengthy profile of (perhaps my favorite living) American writer, Jonathan Franzen, and did it superbly. So superbly, that reading it is what inspired me to get out my computer and turn off the bitching in my head.

I wanted to go into more analytical detail of some of Franzen's better quotes, but come now -- not at 30,000 feet and a wine headache. You can read the link yourself. But I will share this one that spoke to me, as much as it contradicted the specific situation in which it did the talking:
“The place of stillness that you have to go to write, but also to read seriously, is the point where you can actually make responsible decisions, where you can actually engage productively with an otherwise scary and unmanageable world.”


Anonymous said...

@Karin. Welcome back, Karin. Thanks for the horror story and the Franzen reference.


Karin said...

@squigkato. I was oddly quite affected by Franzen's seriousness about his craft and the focussed energy he brings to it. Has caused me to do some energetic thinking on the subject. (Which is a good thing.)

Meanwhile, I was discouraged to discover that the Time link only shows article excerpts. Blah.

It seems his book's reviews are starting to hit the waves -- here's today's WSJ: