Apathy

“Mommy, when is this over?”

“Not for another two hours. Hold on sweetie… Only two hours.”

Kids. Such a shame I’ll have one of my own, soon. Hopefully my child isn’t as, let’s say, “disruptive”, as this little guy. We just took off from Midway and he’s making being making nothing short of a racket, his eyes swollen like an infected knee, drops of rain dripping onto the ground that was his cheek. I felt bad for him, a little bit. No, I actually don’t: he’s ruining my plane ride. Why me? Why couldn’t I be the grumpy looking business guy in a way too expensive suit, fooling around on his MacBook? Sure, his hairline’s receding, and his job’s probably boring as hell, but his suit’s very nice, and most of all, he doesn’t have to sit next to this kid, who’s moaning about everything; his ears popping, how the seat’s uncomfortable, how he has to sit next to a grumpy man like me, how the plane ride is so long even though it’s only been going on for a half hour now.

The mother, a pretty woman who can’t have been older than 28, was constantly consoling her rambunctious son, saying reassuring words for every time her son whined about the duration and the discomfort of the flight, and brushed her lengthy brown hair out of her eyes about as often. She, although clearly frustrated with her incorrigible three year old, met her son’s perpetual complaining as well as the glares of disturbed passengers (such as myself) with equal grace, responding to the latter with a small frown, a shrug of her shoulders, and a tired look that said, “I’m incredibly sorry that my kid’s a total menace right now, but I still have hope that he’ll fall asleep later.” She was a good mother, and hopefully Julia will be as adept at handling our child as this woman was.

“Alex, please be quiet, okay?” the mother said, controlling her emotion like a master, though some strain showed in her voice. Note to self: do not, under any circumstance, name your kid Alex. The mother kept on trying to quiet her son, to no avail, and in an effort to shut her and the spawn of Satan out, my look passed to that businessman again, 5 rows in front of me, still typing away on his laptop, and occasionally talking to the man next to him, who was probably his business partner. That was, still, a nice suit. Probably cost at least half-a-K. You are not your khakis.

That’s what they said in Fight Club, right?

You are not your khakis.

Maybe there’s a lot of truth in Tyler Durden’s anarchistic, neo-luddite train of thought; he may have the cash to buy an expensive suit, but I’m still young, decently attractive, have an alright paying job, and have an awesome wife. This business loser doesn’t have a ring on either hand, does he? Unlucky, or didn’t have the looks to get a lady. Or divorced. And I love my job. Not many people love their jobs, as they’re often swept up in office-politics: how Richie screwed up his quarterly report, how Sandy has been out sick for a week and nobody’s filled in for her share of the work, and how Peter didn’t put the cover sheet on his TPS report. I have no office politics, really. Well, besides my editor —

Alex’s griping grew louder. The mother was fighting an uphill battle, and she was fully conscious of that reality. I felt worse for her than I did for myself, and that was saying something: I was about to vacate my seat and inquire if I could move because this god awful child was making my flight awful. But, perhaps, I was in a position to help:

“Troublesome, isn’t he?” I put on the warmest smile possible, but, considering my mood, it probably looked more like a smirk rather than something with any semblance of comfort.

She looked over, smiled herself, God does she have a nice smile, and said, “Is he ever! He doesn’t want to be here, at all. We’re headed over to Portland to see some relatives, and he doesn’t like them — I don’t particularly like them myself.”

“Ah, in-laws. I know the feeling,” I replied cordially, raising my right hand to show my wedding ring.”

“You bet,” this time, she genuinely smiled, as she had something to distract her from her inconceivably annoying son. Conveniently enough, Alex the not-so-Great started to calm down a little bit, seeing that his mother was talking to someone. The gap in the conversation seemed to last an eternity, and she started to say something, stopped abruptly, and then started again, “Though this is pretty strange, want to just talk about anything, like–”

“Politics?” I inquired, knowing that was what she wanted to ask. How often does a stranger ask you to talk politics? I know it’s just to pass the time, but still… It’s odd.

“Yes,” she blushed, and shades of red and pink crept to her cheeks and spread like wildfire around her face when she saw my stunned look. “Politics. I read this excellent piece in the Cacaphony yesterday about the irony of the religious right proclaiming that our freedom is the best thing we have, all the while trying to convert people of other religions who are exercising their freedoms,” she said, holding up a copy of yesterday’s Cacaphony, flipping to page C2, where an article called, “The Double-Standard of the Religious Right”, with my name under it. “Why don’t you read it? It’s incredibly compelling,” she said, looking up to see a large grin on my face.

I gently took it from her hand, scanned the page for a few seconds, and announced, flatly, “Done.”

She was doubting whether I read the article, and, furthermore, if I was interested in even pursuing a conversation with her: she seemed a little embarrassed and her face telegraphed a feeling of disappointment. Eager to dispel that feeling, I said, quietly, “I know everything that’s in that article because I’m the one who wrote it. I’m Max Porello.”

The mother gasped in surprise and said giddily, “You’re Max Porello? I love all your work… You’re really the only good reason to read the Cacaphony, in my mind. Your article Monday about foreign policy — awesome.”

And people like this are why I am still a journalist — people who appreciate my work.

A massive, high pitched, tearing sound enveloped the cabin and took hold of everyone onboard. Alex started crying, and screaming, and everyone started to join him, screaming in fright and because they knew that whatever was causing this dreaded sound would play a hand in their deaths. The plane started shifting uncontrollably, and people were thrown out of their seats, bleeding from their broken noses. I heard the pilot announce something over the intercom, but it couldn’t possibly overpower the yelling of frightened passengers. The oxygen masks came out — more Fight Club. As Tyler Durden said:

Oxygen gets you high. In a catastrophic emergency, you’re taking giant panicked breaths. Suddenly you become euphoric, docile. You accept your fate. It’s all right here. Emergency water landing – 600 miles an hour. Blank faces, calm as Hindu cows.

I put on the oxygen mask, wanting to be a Hindu cow, a sheep, ignorant of what would be a cataclysmic, all too abrupt ending of my life. Somehow, I was totally placid, when I knew in my mind’s eye that I all the dreams, my future child, my wife, would be left without a father, without a husband, due to bad luck. I grabbed Alex’s mother’s hand, and yelled, over the dissonance, “What’s your name?”

She turned to me and said, “Isabel Leftwood. Pleased to meet you.”

* * *

“…and this is a tragedy that will be remembered by our nation for quite awhile. Our condolences go out to all the families of the passengers,” a voice said through the speakers of Ryan Savard’s TV.

“Isn’t that awful, honey? I feel terrible for all the passengers on the plane,” said Sandy Savard, a middle-aged woman who had a little bit too much on her mind, and fed her cynicism about the world by watching the news.

“Yep,” said Ryan Savard, her husband, dejectedly.

“Well, I guess it’s time to make dinner, I suppose,” Sandy said flatly, rising from her recliner and continuing to her kitchen.

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  1. Good piece, Sir!

    I’ll introduce you to some others on Idiosyncratica, Brett.

    http://idiosyncratica.wordpress.com/

    Bob a post on there in a few – I will do a post for you.

  2. Gripping piece of writing.




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