March 28, 2007
So I’m sitting here in the Portland, Oregon, airport, waiting for you to show up. All around me I can listen to people talking on their cell phones, and I continue to be amazed at how people will carry on–at a level that we can all hear–about stuff I guarantee you nobody wants to be hearing. It’s not eavesdropping that I’m doing; it’s the unavoidable sound of talking that I’m absorbing. Hey everybody! You don’t turn invisible when you use your phone! Lady! I know your daughter screwed up her flight from spring break in Panama City, but you don’t need to have your family therapy session directly behind me–I’m not even a licensed therapist. But come on–she didn’t miss her flight because she is getting back at you; she missed it because, OBVIOUSLY, if she’s in college and she’s in Panama City, she is “hung over.” She “blew it.” She was chasing the Naked Cowboy down the beach; she was not printing out her boarding passes ahead of time.
The one thing I’m sure about is that the cell phoners are all bored out of their minds–just deliriously bored, because they complain about it in baroque language and with conviction. I think we all know what the antidote for that is. I finished a good foot or so of knitting yesterday, and it was 100% soul-savin’ good times all the way. I’ve never knit so fast in all my days.
I sat next to a pilot on the way out, a chatty guy who was going home after flying ten flights in two days. A cross-country flight to him is like me taking a forgotten backpack to school. Just a little adjustment. He could show me on his cocktail napkin map where we were, based on the landscape out the window. He was happy to tell me all the gruesome hydraulic problems that can happen to planes which are not Southwest Boeing airplanes. I hated to tell him that the fact is that sometimes I fly on those other, “Nintendo” airplanes.
On a Southwest flight, the rule of “open seating” is the law, and none of the seats are assigned, which adds a little drama and potential for disappointment if you’re in Boarding Group B. Group A is all smug and “oh I printed out my boarding passes last night”; back in the day, they were all student council presidents and extra-credit suckups. Group C is the Land of the Lost–a more fatalistic and resigned group you’ll never see. They’re all going into the middle seats. One guy said to me, “I just want a seat inside the plane.” But Group B, my group, are the Strivers, the ones looking at Group A and kicking themselves for not printing out their boarding passes twelve minutes earlier yesterday. The Strivers hope against hope that they don’t get stuck in the middle. The Strivers want only to be Not in the Middle. They want to be Group A, yet they are not.
So my suggestion for fellow Group B Strivers: sit down in that aisle seat, that coveted aisle seat which you miraculously scored, and start winding yarn. That middle seat beside you will be taken only when the other 174 seats are filled, after the Crying Baby seat is taken, after the Guy With Many Tattoos seat is taken. It is apparently deeply alarming to think that the woman next to you is going to be swinging yarn around for four hours.
More later. I’m already loving Portland: they pour coffee in the ventilation systems. Everything smells like coffee! You can drink coffee by breathing!
PS We had a hard landing in Portland, and my ball of yarn launched like a cannonball, shooting under the seats ahead of me. Four rows up, a burly guy holds up the ball and says, “Yarn?” which launched an admirable effort to return the ball to me. It was like lassoing a renegade guinea pig.