Even the slightest introspection illuminates in us the understanding of our frailty and how little control we have over our fate. This is a burden gloriously lacking in many celebrities and politicians, who are arguably better off because of it. Perhaps they should be envied their ignorance. Or not. In any case, this lack of self-awareness often results in their spreading wide a cloud of insufferable jackassery. A cloud comparable to that of the silent-but-deadly gas that emits from your roommate’s ass after he’s made a run for the border and eaten three bean burritos. Celebrities and politicians assault our senses like so much digestive trauma, which in both cases becomes magnified in the closed space and shared atmosphere of an airplane.
Turbulence is a scientific fact. Hot air rises to meet cold air in its descent, at which point they decide to dance for awhile sometimes in the vicinity of flying hunks of metal. During a particularly turbulent waltz, I found myself seated next to one of the most well-known pieces of digestive trauma that our pop culture had expelled in recent memory. Despite the fake tan, their complexion had turned a pale gray with knuckles whitened by the death grip being inflicted upon the armrest.
First, I knew this person. Well…..knew of them, anyhow. Second, I loathed this person and all they represented as the totem of our backward society’s voyeuristic excesses. Third, I’m a sucker for scared or wounded animals. So, I leaned over and whispered, ‘Try to relax. This will all be over soon enough. Turbulence occurs in small pockets and planes are designed to withstand much worse than this. Planes want to fly. We’ll be fine.’
Looking at me as if I’d just shot his mother with a dart gun, this person choked a reply through gritted teeth that went something like, ‘Who the hell are you and why the hell are you talking to me?’
Having successfully morphed from a scared animal back into an arrogant dipshit, this person elicited from my inner monologue the line, ‘Okey dokey, then’, whereupon I leaned closer and in a low voice began to explain:
‘I used to be a pilot. Let me tell you how these things fly and why you don’t matter. Thrust is what pushes a plane forward, enabling air to pass over and under the wings. When you push a wing forward through the air, the speed with which the air passes over and under the wings determines lift. Lift is what makes things go up. Turbulence is just air being an asshole. You know how that is. But as long as the plane keeps moving forward, it’s going to keep flying. Because planes are designed to stay in the air until we tell them not to. I guarantee that the two people in the cockpit are doing everything they can in order to perpetuate the status quo of our not being dead. Know why?”
The person looked scared on many levels at this point, but was still capable of squeaking out a pathetic, ‘Huh?’
‘Because as pilots, they know that if this plane crashes, they’ll likely be the first to die. The price you pay for having such a great view, a spiffy uniform, and being surrounded by instruments is that you’re also the first to hit the planet in the event of a *air quotes* catastrophic loss of altitude *air quotes*. So, you should take solace in the fact that up here, right now, you don’t matter at all to the people in control or for that matter, anyone else. You’ll survive because the pilots want to survive.’
Having said my piece, I leaned back for a couple seconds to allow the moment to sink into the person’s well-moisturized forehead before suddenly turning back and adding, ‘Unless they know you’re on the plane, in which case they may just nose dive into oblivion to do society a favor! Let’s hope they didn’t read the passenger manifest! HA!’
For the IndieInk Writing Challenge this week, Lance challenged me with “You or your character is seated on a plane next to celebrity you hate and/or have no respect for. ” and I challenged Michael with “You remove your fear of the abyss by spending time looking into it.”
Sir @ April 12, 2012