To me, flying is like playing Russian roulette. You may crash or you may not. I know the statistics say flying is the safest way to travel; but the more you fly, the higher your chances are of crashing. This is how I see it. Thinking rationally about acceptable risks… just a stroke of bad luck and... boom! You’re gone.
Yet I need to fly quite often. And, believe it or not, I even have a frequent flyer card.
So what do I do when I take a long distance flight? I can’t help getting more paranoid than normal; I start thinking I'm putting my life at risk; I drink until I get sloshed and pretend I’m an educated flyer until I drop dead. Two drinks are enough to raise my blood alcohol level up to moderate intoxication phase: enough to keep me totally out of it for several hours. Then, the procedure needs to be repeated a few times, if necessary, upon arrival. ’Cos if I’m supposed to crash… I don’t really need to know in advance.
This is what I decided after a horrific bumpy flight from Chicago, Illinois, to Appleton, Minnesota, when the plane entered the ‘mother of all storms’ and the trip turned into a scary roller coaster.
It was D-Day, H-Hour, and before the plane took off, I got up to open the overhead compartment, where my iPod was: inside my hand baggage most hidden pocket. Once I succeeded to find it, I stuck the earplugs in my lobes and resigned myself to wait until the electronic devices could be switched on again; I would need some chill-out music to help my two alcopops work better. Suddenly, I spotted Bob sitting five rows behind me. I could say with certainty that he had been invited to the wedding too by his ex.
I quickly slid down my seat, expecting he hadn’t seen me; fastened my safety belt; breathed deep and focussed on relaxing. As soon as the plane took off, I ordered my two drinks and gulped them down. But my evasive manoeuvres were completely useless: he had seen me and he was approaching me.
- Oh my gawd, I see things… and I think I've seen a ghost! –he said, covering his face with his hands-
- Hello dickhead.
- Don’t hide, dummy, I spotted you as soon as you entered the plane. I suppose you’re going to the wedding too.
- I’ve been calling you, twat!!! –I shouted at him-.
- I love you too, baby, and I know you called.
- And why didn’t you answer my calls? I haven’t heard from you for two weeks! What a crappy boyfriend you are! You will never have me again! And I see things, but I’m not nuts!
- Not so sure about that, Len. -he said, calmly-
- I’ve been waiting at your door every single day! - I said, in tears-
- Don’t ever do that again! It makes me feel real bad.
- It’s intended to make you feel real bad! -I cried even louder-.
- You're wasted. Now finish your rant and sleep it off!
I was seriously considering the possibility of punching his nose real hard when I heard another familiar voice near me.
- Hiya Leni… and company. -said Ed Davies-
- Bob Gausman. Her boyfriend. –he interrupted me, very unfriendly-
- Ed Davies. Her editor. -he replied abruptly-
They shook hands with hostility.
- You’re okay, Leni? -asked Ed-
- I’m fine, thanks. And what a nice coincidence, by the way. -I smiled, already tipsy
- I have some business to attend to in Orsinia.
- We’re going to a wedding in New Calexico. My ex is marrying his ex. -I said, poiting at Bob-
-Fascinating. Sounds like a B-movie title with a happy ending.
I had enough sharpness and sarcasm and concluded I'd better move before one of them would fly across the floor with his feet over his head.
I got up immediately, as if I had been spring-propelled. Ed stepped back and left some room for me to reach the corridor. I went to the bathroom and then quickly staggered back towards my seat. I was already under the first effects of my therapy against fear of flying, when Ed sat on the empty seat next to mine.
- Hey, Leni, are you sure you’re okay? You don’t seem too comfortable.
- I don’t like planes.
- You’d better try to relax, baby. We still have a long way to go.
He tried another conversation subject, probably to distract me and help me chill out.
- So you’re going to a wedding. -he said-
- Yeah, strange how people still do these things in 2008, eh?
- What things?
- Getting married.
- Yeah, some people still do. What would you say if a guy asked you to marry him? Sorry for the strange question, but you're pissed and you're supposedly telling the truth.
He surprised me a bit, but I was able to give him a quick answer:
- I’d say ‘go to hell’.
- You’re such a sweet girl. –he laughed-
- Are you married, Ed?
- Hrm. Twice divorced.
- Gosh, not only married but divorced, remarried and divorced again… this is beyond my understanding.
- To be honest, when I got married I thought it was for life.
- That’s just crazy. Nothing is for life.
A sour-faced stewardess pushed angrily her trolley beside me.
- Excuse me… could I have two Glenlivets, please? Double, if possible. -I asked-
- I don’t drink Glenlivet, Leni. –said Ed-
- They’re both for me.
- You’re already pissed.
- So what?
That sounded like a good reason to stop pestering me.
- Ok. Let’s talk about something more interesting then. Like… last time we met, you didn’t tell me what you do for a living. Is this a good moment to ask? - he said-
- I was hired four years ago as a chief of staff by Dumbass Industries plc’s Big Cheese. -I answered-
- Wow! It sounds very cool.
- I know, but before you start asking for favours, let me tell you that I have no personal or positional power of my own. I only act on BC's behalf and with his authority. Out of this context, I'm a nobody.
- But you must have some privileges coming from your position. Dumbass is a big corporation.
- Oh, yes I'm right in the first place when Big Cheese is mad and gives everybody hell; but I have my own parking place, company laptop, free internet, e-mail and intranet remote access and also a Blackberry to be available at anytime, if that’s what you mean.
- And how do you like the company?
- Dumbass Industries is full of old stick-in-the-muds who passed their competitive examinations forty years ago and therefore think the whole company is their own damned business. Any attempt to change their inefficient fucking system, as shitty as a thousand years in the making, is doomed to fail.
- Oh bureaucracy and inefficiency. They're good at it.
- They have massive amounts of papers, most of them useless. They still use floppy disks, supposing they're able to use a computer. They use stuff like typewritters and liquid tipp-ex…
- So they’re reluctant to change or innovate…
- Sure. And I must be the youngest person there among all these fossildicks!
- Oh, are they? –he laughed-
- Yeah. They enter my office forty times every morning with one little paper each time, instead of seeing me once with the forty bloody things.
- Don’t blame it on them, baby Leni, You’re a sexy fox. You sure keep them rock hard all day. –he laughed, sipping from my glass of Glenlivet-
- Heeeey! Don’t you drink from my glass!!!–I protested-.
- Why? Is that just for Bob? Like calling you Len?
- You’re too young to drink that much –he said, taking no notice of what I said and drinking the rest of the Glenlivet.
- So nowadays… to enter the job market and find yourself a good job, you normally have to finish your college studies; go on Erasmus; do a master course; probably Phd too; speak ten languages fluently; and be young and gorgeous.
- Yeah, and I would add you must pass the competitive exam every day. At least this is how it goes with Big Cheese. But you don't need all that if your dad is the CEO.
- I’m not surprised you hit the bottle.
- Man, I'm not a drunkard! I told you I only drink when I fly!
- Good for you, then.
I gazed into his deep blue eyes with an evil smile.
- My turn to ask now.
- How old are you?
- Is that all you want to ask me?
- Acid trips? –I stared at him-
- I’ve been twisted on drugs, but I’m clean now.
He stared back.
- Obviously, there’s a mini-generation gap between us.
- How old are you? -I insisted-
- Old enough to want you, babe.
He left me dumbfounded but I tried to act as if nothing happened, which was quite hard being drunk as a skunk.
- I was a rebel in school. So naturally, when they told me to get my hair cut, I grew it. –he said, laughing-. I slotted into the strong subculture of these days. It was a magical time. But now it’s over. The shit’s still going on.
- So this is basically the reason why you let your beautiful black hair grow long. –I said, stroking gently his shiny long jet black hair-.
- There’s some pleasure in age and wisdom. I definitely would have shagged more women. Oh, but of course baby, we both know that’s not what life is about. –he laughed-
- But you haven't answered me yet... how old are you?
- Listen, Leni. I’m a bit shy about my things. I'm 45. Old enough to want you badly. Now finish your Scotch and sleep it off. I’ll wake you up before we land.
(To be continued)
“Russian roulette” (Jesse Malin)