I love aviation. I am an out and out fan of airplanes, rockets, space shuttles, the Wright Brothers, “Rocket man” by Elton John, and Chuck Yeager. I love all of that.
What I don’t love is actually being a passenger on an airplane that is flying anywhere.
I get it, “it’s the safest form of travel.” And getting from say BWI to ALB (Albany international to you) in less than an hour is far better than 7 or so hours of highways in the eastern corridor. Which is a nightmare all its own: Baltimore drivers, Delaware drivers, Philly drivers, New Jersey drivers, New York City drivers, and a lot of Quebec drivers who seem to operate the way they think we drive in the United States…. Badly.
Bookmarked by several tolls that slow everything down, fooling your body into “oh we’re stopping to use the bathroom?” I’m looking at you Delaware Toll Plaza, if we were to get wiped out by a giant meteor, I hope it hits that Delaware toll first.
And then after battling all the way through New Jersey, you slide into an almost sleep-inducing i87 journey through the hilly regions of what folks in New York City refer to as Upstate, which to everyone else is southeast New York state. Past Connecticut just over the hills to the east with a mental middle finger–seriously Connecticut is what would happen if New Jersey and Delaware had a kid.
You pass the picturesque college looking campus on the right which is Attica then you drive through Slingerlands running the name “Slingerlands” through your brain over and over because even in your own head it’s impossible not to. “Hey hon, look it’s the Ironweed house.” And finally, you’re at mom’s house where I’m still not allowed to touch anything; even at 40 years old I’m not allowed to open her fridge without permission.
I would much rather fly over all of those highways and Quebec drivers.
Air travel is the Holy trifecta of everything that gives me nightmares. I’m scared of heights, claustrophobic, and generally pretty chickenshit about anything that makes loud noises.
This is why I try very hard to get an aisle seat on a flight. Yes, looking out the window is somewhat calming, but to hell with calm when you want to use the bathroom. Climbing across just one person, let alone two can be a real pain. And there have been plenty of times I would get up to go without realizing the beverage cart was blocking the aisle.
Geez, it’s less than an hour flight to Albany NY, why not hold it in? Which would be a valid point for someone who doesn’t enjoy using airplane lavatories. I learned in my early teen years that taking my Gameboy and playing a marathon round of Tetris takes the edge off being 27000 feet in the air hurtling somewhere as pedestrian as home or back to my military boarding school.
Something as pedestrian as using the toilet, even in the sky, is fairly calming. Besides shitting on an airplane is just too fantastic an opportunity to pass up anyway, why aren’t you doing it? You labor about your business, and when you finish, you get to watch it all vanish loudly down a hole in a flourish of blue liquid. It’s the Mona Lisa of toilet flushes.
So as my calendar inches toward flight days, I start preparing. Putting aside comic books or actual books, I’ve been meaning to read. It’s always wishful thinking as I usually revert to gaming.
Deciding which portable gaming device to carry-on and with what game is basically the most important decision I make leading up to a flight. My Nintendo 3ds loaded with Animal Crossing is a usual choice these days, delightful with no airplanes (or spaceships) that could crash in-game and jinx the entire trip. No Grand Theft Auto, no Tenchu, no Metal Gear, nothing that might destroy my karma. When I was younger, it was only Super Mario Land or Tetris on my original Gameboy.
Being young and naïve, I would also prepare myself internally by laboring to number 2 as little as possible in the days leading up to my flight, to hopefully load up on biological ammunition. I’m positive now that I hadn’t ever actually been storing away shit reserves for my trips, but at the time I was pretty convinced it worked.
And so, for the sake of preflight ritual, I still sorta’ do it.
Once that fasten seat belt is off, I bolt upright with the “bing.” Down the aisle, before anyone else can get ahead of me, fumble with door and into the micro closet-size room. Wipe down the seat, build a vast bird nest, pop on the Gameboy or whatever, press start, and then let my body start making magic.
It’s happened where I’ve false started the fasten seatbelt, “bing.” I bolt upright as usual, and then the light is back on. And I’m standing there, muttering, “oh, I was just kidding.” And sit back down.
There is absolutely nothing more magical than making waste with Mario or traversing my strange animal crossing village while I shit almost 30000 feet over all of your heads.
Oh man, there was the one 2005 nightmare redeye from MDW to ALB where the fasten seat belt sign never turned off. I sat there in my prized aisle seat gripping at my N-Gage QD, holding my breath between the rumbling turbulence. We were over the lake, so there were no lights I could see by looking out any of the open windows in my vicinity and a young boy near me kept pleading with her mother to “get off.” “We’re going down! We’re going down!” He yelled over his mother, trying to calm him. I really felt for the kid, I mean I was that kid, I was still that kid, but I wanted him to shut the hell up. And the couple next to me clasped their hands and started praying. And all I wanted was to retreat with my N-Gage QD to the lavatory and play my Tony Hawk Pro Skater.
The N-Gage QD was technically a cell phone that played cartridge games and was a bit laughed off in the pocket gaming community as a gimmick and not a great gaming device. I loved it. It had some legit portable games I still wish I could play on any device in Pathway to Glory and Snakes.
I tried unsuccessfully to raise my high score in the warehouse level before abandoning my QD to the magazine sleeve, I wasn’t in the lavatory it was a waste of time. Pulled out the Skymall “magazine” and thumbed through the pages nervously.
While paging past the R2D2 rolling trashcan, I started praying, too—hoping to get in better with God while window shopping the Skymall. The prayers being of the usual, I will be a better person when we land, variety. Oh, and for the love of you would you please tell the kid across the aisle to stop yelling that we’re going to crash.
I’m not religious, not unless I’m on an airplane. On an airplane I am Mr. Religion, I could probably run for Sky Pope.
Looking back at it now it was basically a choppy flight with some poor spooked kid that raised my internal threat levels. It really felt as if I had survived something at the time.
When we touched down I had to rush to a stall in the Albany airport, I wiped down the horrid looking metal seat and flushed down the wads of paper. Built a bird’s nest and sat dejected on the pot while the man in the neighboring stall smoked. There was grunting further down and someone loudly on a cell phone.
That’s about the time I realized I had left my N-Gage QD on the plane.