Thursday, July 16, 2009

San Diego (#1)

His face was streaked with dark, gritty lines, a warrior prepared for battle. Hidden from me by the wall between us, I was unaware of his presence. Unaware, that is, until he spun around, stared with a fierce malevolence, and shouted a primordial scream. Then his fists were on me—clutching, grabbing. Would I survive this assault?

“Tommy, let go of that man's computer,” the woman in the row in front of me said to her son, who looked to be three or four years old.

Four years: the age at which a young man's fancy first turns to murder.

I had been politely sitting in my veal fattening pen, working on Made in China, when I saw this face peering at me from the the row in front. He was sitting in the aisle seat, and his little face was streaked with Oreo. His hands, too, and as he looked at me, and I at him, he suddenly reached back with his fat little fist and grabbed the screen of my netbook, trying to yank it into the air.

It was in fact, lifting off the seatback table when Tommy's mother (aka "the warden") intervened. "Shouldn't the boy be shackled?" I asked, quite politely.

Okay, I didn't actually ask that, but it seemed like an entirely reasonable question.

Fifteen minutes later, it happened again, the suddenness of the assault only matched by its savagery.

Primitive peoples, when faced with this kind of bad omen so early in a voyage, would turn back, steering their bamboo raft back to the island where they were born. Clearly, our sacrifices to the gods had been inadequate, and we would need to slaughter another sheep (or several) to guarantee safe passage.

Unfortunately, we did not have this option, as the tickets were non-refundable.

So welcome to The Big Family Vacation 2009, and I only hope we all survive.

Our first mistake, in retrospect, was locating San Diego so far from Austin. True, this is more of a geographical mistake than one we made ourselves, but if San Diego (and the West Coast in general) were only three hours away by car instead of three by plane, we could have driven.
Flying these days seems to be increasingly difficult for me to handle. I think airlines could just bundle all the passengers together with twine and stack us in columns and it wouldn't be any more uncomfortable. Even though the airlines appear to be the greatest losers of capital in world business history, the last empty seat on a flight to or from Austin was in 1985 (estimated).

Plus, we fly so seldom now that we didn't realize Southwest has online check-in. Because of this, we wound up with boarding passes numbered so high that I believe we were supposed to board from the parking lot. Since we were the last people on the plane, we were forced to wander the aisles like hobos, looking for someone to move so at least two of us could sit together.

Just when it appeared we would all forced to sit apart (I really wanted one of us to sit with Eli 7.11), a stewardess darted an uncooperative passenger and Gloria and Eli were able to sit together. Meanwhile, I sat down next to two people (man and woman) who belonged in Vogue magazine and were impeccably polite, thus setting the scene for my confrontation with Tommy The Destroyer Of Worlds.

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