Sunday, December 20, 2009

Where am I?

This is the worst nine-dollar beer I've ever had. I'm 1/3 of the way through my annual trek back east to spend Christmas with the family, and once again I find myself lost in the airport vortex. I'm holed up in the farthest, darkest corner of Wolfgang Puck's crown-jewel of express dining establishments, hiding behind sunglasses and headphones and trying to avoid prolonged exposure to the general public. I'm out of my element; alcohol and Toots and the Maytals are the only things keeping my wavering sanity in tact right now.

I think I'm in Denver. Yep, there went a pair of cowboy boots and a Stetson holding hands with a tight-panted cutie wearing giant bug-eye shades and a leather-fringe jacket. Only in Colorado. Or Missoula. All I know is that I'm glad to be back on the ground for now, because if I hadn't gotten off that plane as quickly as I did, I may have had to strike the fear of God in to the little rugrat sitting behind me. Screaming. Kicking. Constantly. At one point I turn around and ask dad, who didn't appear to be the brightest light on the Christmas tree, if we can stop playing the "Let's kick the seat in front of us" game? He gives me a blank stare that only generations of inbreeding and Budweiser can produce. Man, one burns out and the whole string won't work.

I generally dislike children. I particularly despise air travel. Unfortunately for me, it seems that exposure to one generally leads to an ample dose of the other, this time around with the added bonus of some indifferently stupid parents thrown in for good measure. My sister's kids are adorable and related to me, but I really can only tolerate even them in limited doses. I entertain them, they entertain me, but when bath time, or bathroom time, or tantrum time comes around, I promptly return them to their rightful owners. Being forcibly crammed into an aluminum can to have some redneck's stinking, screaming parasite kick the back of my head for two hours has almost driven me to sneak in to the airport bathroom and perform a self-vasectomy with the sharpened lid from a can of Copenhagen.

I don't fly very much. There's a reason I live in western Montana and actively try to isolate myself from as much of the American population as possible. I'm happy where I am. I find little need to fly anywhere, unless saltwater or the other hemisphere are involved. To paraphrase John Gierach, I don't travel to get away, because my everyday life is not something I need to escape from.

But I sure do enjoy spending time with my family, and I figure those little ones should see me at least once a year, lest they grow up to be even more unfamiliar and uncomfortable around Uncle Evan than they already seem to be. Given the distance between my little sanctuary and the East Coast, airplanes become an unfortunate necessity for me every year at this time.

I've always held a slight underlying fear of commercial air travel. Something about the whole thing kinda freaks me out. 9/11 didn't help. Being vacuum-sealed in to one of those unlikely birds with 150 of my closest friends, only to be flung across the continent at the hands of faceless pilots who may be drunk, gives me an overall feeling of helplessness. Thanks to the modern airline industry, flying domestically in the U.S today has to be one of the most uncomfortable travel experiences in the civilized world.

It's in all likelihood going to get worse before it gets better. I'm killing a three hour layover here...where?...and assuming (hoping?) my plane leaves on time, I will once again be teleported and emerge from the metal tube in Washington D.C., where they're just now digging themselves out from under two feet of snow. Less than ideal conditions, a fishing guide would say. I don't know if you've ever been to the commuter "A" terminal at Dulles, but I'm pretty sure it's where you go if you couldn't land a job as a pirate in the Gulf of Aden. No one speaks English and they have to be some of the rudest, least-helpful people to ever work in the service industry. The thought of spending any more time than is absolutely necessary in that drain gutter of human existence just motivated me to switch to bourbon.

Maybe if I reek of whiskey by the time I get on the plane, thick-headed parents will get the picture and steer their spawn away from the sketchy-looking ginger in the corner.

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