A blade of grass grows through a sidewalk and inspires a recovering drug addict to write a symphony. Unhappy about the price of tomatoes, an old woman spits on supermarket conveyor belt and calls the clerk a robber baron motivating a nearby annoyed PhD candidate to develop a plague that preys on this country’s elderly curmudgeons to resolve our Social Security issues. An Austrian mother disapproves of her son’s artwork and forty years later six million people are exterminated. The little things can have huge impacts.
Tranquil, quiet, and near baby-free, be they colicky, messy, or otherwise: the airport isn’t so bad before sunrise midweek. The security line has taken on a funeral-like quality. Pensive glances off into space are utilized to avoid any eye contact. Everyone mutters and shuffles, respectfully waiting to be told where to go sit quietly through something we all know will be painfully disinteresting. The crowd goes through the motions with minimal effort; we all just want to get this over with as soon as possible. And, like most funerals I attend, I’m underdressed, under showered, and a little morning drunk. It’s nice not to have to feign sadness here though.
Grunts and gestures are exchanged in lieu of actual words. No one has any qualms about the body scan machine. Listen, if you need to peep hard on my fun zone to prevent potential civilian casualties, by all means, peep hard, government workers. Really, it’s a moot point. It’s way too early for me to care about anyone noticing the juxtaposition between my circumcision bearing a striking resemblance to Harry Potter’s scar and my pubic hair embodying more of Tom Riddle’s dark, coiffed, parted look.
I don’t know which one of the businessmen in line is the fucking tattletale, but my bag of wine is immediately discovered and confiscated by TSA. That three-ounce rule is the absolute worst. My teeth grit. This might be tied for the third angriest I’ve ever been with the terrorists. In retribution, the agent shoots me an understanding look that lets me know his hands are tied in literally killing my buzz. He’s just doing his job, and I suppose that’s okay. I shoot him a shrug right back that says, “It wouldn’t be a game if I always won.”
Staggering towards the gate, I’m passing herds of business types flocking to the single open vendor and clamoring to pay four dollars a piece for dirty muffins. Fortunately, my plane is already boarding. I join the line of suits with all the other undiagnosed alcoholics and plod aboard.
Window seat in the back of the plane, hour-long flight, partially-completed Sky Mall crossword to take full credit for finishing in the seat pocket — this is perfect. The aisle spot next to me is occupied by a man in a suit whose eyes stay transfixed to the spreadsheet displayed on his iPad through the entire boarding process. His profile’s a little slimy; it’s the kind of mug that lets you know he’s been thrown out of more than his share of Tallahassee-style strip clubs in his lifetime.
I couldn’t be happier — his style and demeanor convey he has no intention of speaking with me. He looked out his peripheral to my bathrobe, then to my sweatpants, and finally to the wad of Sour Patch Kids in my mouth that’s large enough and gooey enough to choke a grown horse (not that I had that as an intended purpose, but, you know, if I need it I’ll have it) and consciously thought, “Eh, yeah, I don’t need a friend for the next hour.” It was beautiful. Someday the French will produce a silent film relishing the refined elegance in the non-verbal, communal understanding of our mutual veto to engage on any social level.
The flight progressed normally. I picked a scab for a solid twenty minutes during the pre-flight checks and safety presentation. The stewardess was, yet again, unwavering on my request for “early-bird liquor specials or booze loopholes” during the in-flight beverage service. And I figured out two more clues in the crossword puzzle before ripping it out of the Sky Mall in a fury of frustration, conceded defeat and an instinctual desire to hide my intellectual shame. It really wasn’t until the last ten minutes or so the plot thickened and my attention was piqued.
I didn’t think too much of it when the man next to me stood up to use the lavatory during our final approach. Sure, it was a little unorthodox to pick that specific moment. It was late in the game. It seemed any emergency would have occurred already and a non-emergency could have waited the ten minutes. He didn’t strike me as the snack packing type, therefore, the only food in his system could be one of those dirty muffins, and those grainy atrocities looked like they’d gum up anyone’s chocolate railroad concourse more than expedite their schedule. I’m no doctor, but you eat one of those muffins and I foresee you facing a lot of delays at Butthole Junction. Hypothetically he could be weathering the spontaneous poonami induced from eating old Sbarro’s out of one of the terminal’s trashcans, but that tie clip and cufflinks told me that wasn’t his style. Bottom line, it all looked like poor time management.
From what I could tell, things went according to plan for his bathroom excursion until it came time to unlock the door and step out. He pushed, but the sliding partition only shook, keeping him confined to the stink-filled coffin. His urgency heightened. A frenzy of fists battered the door and I began to suspect he’d forgotten how latches work. Frozen in excitement, I remained in my seat, agape, never wanting this show to end.
It was like watching a flaming van smash into an orphanage—you can’t look away, you know it’s going to be bad but you want to know exactly how bad the damage is and you want to know and if they’ll ever be able to replace that van’s flamboyantly homosexual paint scheme. The thumping continued. Soon I could hear him scratching and clawing at the door, like he had regressed to some sort of feral child unable to use language or tools to resolve problems. Five minutes of errant pants and failed attempts at unlatching and a stewardess finally recognized his struggle and effortlessly freed him.
The show was over. There would be no encore. He stood there in the gaping doorway, his tie undone and hair frazzled. It was the same blank, relieved expression I remembered seeing on the trapped Chilean miners after their rescue. He had been reborn in this world. His face was still dripping in a nervous-fear sweat, the true placenta of his renaissance. A few stared. He took no questions. He lumbered back to his seat, acting as if he hadn’t just locked himself in the bathroom.
Somewhere in America there’s a corporation footing the bill for this guy to travel and represent them. It was that epiphany after this episode of poor time management, worried moaning, and a shameful inability to operate door latches that made me lose faith in the business world. My money wasn’t safe with them. How can I have confidence in my investments any large companies after that disgraceful display of ineptitude and panic? He was an ambassador from the business world and single-handedly pulled back the curtain on their now-apparent incompetence.
No longer will my vast fortune of nearly three thousand dollars be invested in the conglomerates of this country. If he can ‘t figure out a bathroom door or recognize that the final descent isn’t the opportune time to dump then how can I expect him, or any of his likely just-as-useless colleagues, to figure out the free market or recognize unsound investments? Sorry, Fortune 500s, you won’t have my money to kick around anymore and I know you’ll feel the hit. I’ll take my fathers advice and invest in a stable, timeless commodity. Dad made a fortune through steel, but I’ll make my fortune even faster when I put all of my money into those commemorative cups from Burger King for the Spiderman movies.