As I’ve mentioned before, people in Los Angeles talk about transportation the way people everywhere else talk about the weather. Because the weather here doesn’t bear discussion – saying, ‘Wow, it sure is nice today!’ is like saying, ‘Boy oh boy, how about all that hydrogen in this water, eh?’* - but traffic patterns and how long it took to get to the Westside from the Valley is always of interest. You can count on the sun to shine all the time here, but it’s anyone’s guess how slow the 101 is moving today.
*After watching four seasons of Breaking Bad, this is still about the only chemistry-related joke I’m capable of making.
What I’ve found, though, is that this extends beyond simply driving – just about everybody I meet seems to have some kind of fucked up brand loyalty when it comes to airports.
Oh, I only fly out of Burbank.” They’ll say, sounding like they’re discussing their preferred brand of douche-scotch or something. It’s so much nicer. There’s no lines, no waiting, it’s such an open terminal…
No way, man! Somebody else will inevitably chime in. Long Beach all the way! You can get there, like, half an hour before your flight and just breeze on in!
Me, I’m an LAX man. People will tell you that LAX, with its massive crowds, pervasive filth, and decaying infrastructure, is like Abu Grahib, and to some degree they might be right, but I really don’t care that much.
The way I see it, no matter how nice your airport’s terminal is, there’s still an airplane on the other side of it, and that’s going to be horrible no matter what. The difference is that the airplanes at LAX tend to fly directly to the places I want to go for less money, while the ones from Burbank and Long Beach will take you there by way of every crap town with an airstrip on the West Coast – as a matter of personal preference, I tend to pick whatever option maximizes the amount of time I spend not on a plane.
I hate flying with a hard, gemlike flame – it combines my fear of heights with my hatred of crowds and strangers who want to talk to me, mixes in my claustrophobia and germophobia, and then activates the latent racism I want so desperately to believe I don’t have every time I see a Middle Eastern guy getting on the same plane as I am.
Of course, while I hate flying, I also hate the 16-hour drive from Los Angeles to Portland – when I fly, though, I’m only hating my mode of transportation for two hours as opposed to 16 when driving. So here I am, shoehorned into coach on an Alaska Airlines flight as I write this, trying really hard not to be freaked out about that Middle Eastern dude in first class because he’s probably an American citizen who loves his country right I mean that makes sense you were probably just imagining that shifty eyed look oh God you do this all the time now that you’ve seen United 93.
In spite of my all encompassing fear/hatred of most things involved with flight, I’ve come to be very professional about the whole affair. I’m back breakingly polite to everyone, from the person driving the airport shuttle right on up to the flight attendants – especially the flight attendants. I even make eye contact all through the safety demonstration, even though I know it back to front. All I’m saying is, if we crash and the flight attendant only has time to rescue one person before the plane explodes, I want to do everything in my power to make sure they pick me and not some fucking toddler who’s been crying the whole time.
As soon as I’m in my seat I’ve got my phone off, bag stowed, and seatbelt fastened, as if to say, I’m ready, flight crew. Let’s do this shit. And you know what else? I go to the fucking bathroom before I get on the plane, because I don’t want to be one of those people who jumps up and charges down the aisle to form a line at the bathroom the second they turn off the fasten seatbelt sign, then immediately get trapped behind the beverage cart on the way back.
Really, though, what’s up with that? We’ve been away from a bathroom for literally 20 minutes. Do these peoples’ bladders contract at a certain altitude, or have they been consciously holding it all day because they enjoy the sensation of urinating in the sky? I mean, I guess it’s a pretty neat concept when you think about it, but pretty much every person who gets up manages to clock me in the shoulder with his giant ass on the way back to his seat. If they could find a way to go about their business without doing that, or if the only people hitting me with their asses would be more on the Christina Hendricks end of the spectrum, I guess it wouldn’t bug me as much.
And on top of that, I wear actual clothes when I fly – I don’t just shuffle aboard the plane in my jammies and slippers like seemingly every girl between the ages of 12 and 30. We’re already packed into the plane so tight that it may as well be a clown car; if you wear multicolored pajama bottoms and bring a stuffed animal with you, you’re only inviting the comparison.*
*This is not a joke. The girl across the aisle from me, who is approximately my age, brought a stuffed dog, and has so far spent the entire flight looking at pictures of dogs on her laptop. She is not fucking around.
Go ahead and call me uptight if you want to – as far as I’m concerned, I’m just treating air travel with the reverence it deserves. You’re getting into a piece of metal filled with jet fuel and fat people and relying on science and a couple of mellow dudes in clip on ties to save you from any number of really horrible deaths – I, for one, take that shit seriously. I treat every flight like it could be my last, because in my mind, given how intricate and complex the miracle of flight is, it’s pretty much a statistical certainty that it will be my last.
And if I’m going to die, I want to go down strapped securely to my seat, having used the bathroom recently, wearing the sort of clothes I’d want rescue workers and search dogs to find me in.
Truman Capps is going to feel really bad if that girl turns out to be mentally handicapped.