Tuesday, October 25, 2005
Whenever I fly, I select a window seat. You get to see beautiful skylines, breathtaking sunsets and have first glance if the engine suddenly starts shooting flames. Whenever I fly alone, I still select a window seat but preferably one that neighbors an empty middle seat. As personal space at 30,000 feet dwindles, I’m all about having some elbow room or at least having some access to the armrest wedging me in place.
Last Friday late afternoon found me standing in the security line at Terminal C of the Philadelphia International Airport. I’d done the nouveau chic online check-in before dashing to curbside and as of 3pm, it was rather certain I’d have no neighbor for my Atlanta bound flight. The security line was quick, I found a seat at the gate, boarded early enough to stow my carry-on in the overhead compartment and smiled the whole way through.
Toward the final stretch of boarding, I noticed a crabby wench, her mute of a mother and her oversized ogre of a husband. They were well past the front of the plane and heading right in my direction. “Please, God. Don’t let me be seated next to the wench,” I silently prayed. And God delivered. The ogre flopped down next to me instead.
For the next two hours, I was stuck next to a line backer type of guy. The wench was in the aisle seat and her mother was in the middle seat of the row just in front of us. I wanted to stand up and scream at her for selfishly hogging an aisle seat when her 6’5” behemoth of a husband failed to remain within the invisible parameters of a middle seat. She was maybe 5’4”. Yes, she had hips like an elephant but his legs were so long that his knees were rammed up against the seatback in front of him.
I tried to be nice as he looked for the seatbelt. I even made a comment. He spoke back to me but I didn't have a single clue of what it was he said. It was like having a conversation with my 2 year old nephew. Only every third word was identifiably English and pieced together, there wasn’t a single sentence to be found. I don’t think my neighbor was foreign. I mean, the wife had no problem berating him in English a few moments earlier when he couldn’t find overhead compartment space for the beyond regulation suitcase he trudged up and down the aisle. When she yelled at him to make the bag fit into a square inch worth of space, he obliged. This meant only one thing. I was officially sitting next to the human equivalent of a Golden Retriever. He didn’t understand his own size and he was dumb as a doorknob.
Over the course of the flight, I found myself leaning closer and closer toward the window. This guy was so big, his shoulders didn’t even fit within the space his ticket allotted him. Unable to withstand further cramping in my hip, I finally shifted back to the center of my seat. A mere inch a half away was the guy’s head. He had fallen asleep and started leaning. It took all of the strength in me to not awake him with a rant about how if I was going to spend $282 for a roundtrip ticket to Atlanta, I expect to have the fucking seat to myself, jackass! In my meditative deep breathing phase to stave off an explosion of words, the ogre awoke and resettled himself in another direction. Touch down and disembarking the plane couldn’t come soon enough.
My trip to Atlanta was a quick one. I spent my time hanging with my sister, watching Thomas the Train with Anders and trying to make Olivia giggle. As Sunday drew to a close, I found myself back in the car and en route to the airport for my return flight.
I checked in at the kiosk this time around and adjusted my reservation to the only window seat left that had an empty middle seat as a neighbor. “Please God, spare me an ogre or even better, leave the seat empty,” I said as I confirmed my new seat assignment.
I settled into 15F, my bag safely tucked above me. After getting through 10 pages of my new book, I glanced up to watch the rest of the people board. In the distance, I saw the ogre, the wench and the mute heading my way. Had I changed my seat only to be stuck yet again next to an oversized freak? Worse yet, am I possibly going to be stuck next to the wenchy wife? Yet again, they were focused on finding overhead bin space so I couldn’t tell where their asses would ultimately land. Finally, an impatient flight attendant informed them that their effort to fit a square peg into a round hole was holding up the flight’s departure. She said it nicer than that but you get my drift. The bag was gate checked and they took their seats far away from me.
As we taxied the runway, I turned around to see if my original seat was anywhere near the ogre. I couldn’t get enough of a look without appearing suspicious to the sea of faces I was glancing over. Maybe this time I saved myself. Or maybe God repaid me for surviving the trip down without having a meltdown. Either way, I was happy as a clam when I lowered the tray table of the empty middle seat next to me and used it as a coaster for my tomato juice, hold the ice.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
Me: Call me if you have any questions!
Client: I will. And thanks for your help!
Me: Sure thing.
Client: Take care!
Me: You too!
Client: Talk to you later!
Why is it that getting off the phone can take five attempts? It’s so rare that the spoken word “Goodbye” is immediately followed by a click of the receiver. Even though I really like most of my clients, more often than not, this go around is reminiscent of an end to a tortuous first date. He talks too loud, there's spinach in his teeth and the chemistry is non-existent. You have to find a way to depart without just bolting for the door and you do it by tossing around polite varieties of goodbye.
When it comes to my personal phone calls, the goodbye usually has a “love you” tossed into the mix. It is more out of habit than sincere emotion. Sometimes I do really love the person and sometimes I have little tolerance for the friend at hand. I just don’t bother to exercise “love you” discrimination.
The problem arises when I use those words where they are not and never would be appropriate. I was in the early stages of dating some guy when I said “love you, bye” at the end of the chat. I didn’t even realize I said it until I took the ten seconds of complete and utter silence from his end to backtrack. As soon as I realized my faux pas, I scrambled together a sorry-about-that and hung up. The relationship never panned out and in the back of my mind, I have a sneaky suspicion it was linked to my love slip.
Beyond the “love you” wording, I never get off the phone any quicker with friends and family.
Me: Gotta run!
Friend: Okay, Ms. Important. Catch you later!
Me: You wish!
Friend: No, you wish!
Me: Whatever! I’m outtie!
Saying goodbye is so darn draining. It isn’t any wonder there are so many songs, mostly country western, written about it. You should start to pay attention to it. Seriously. There are at least 27 minutes I lose each and every day simply saying goodbye on the phone. It is amusing, curious and concerning. Over the period of a lifetime, I'm shorting myself a good week or so and for absolutely no good reason.
And with that thought of the day, I bid you adieu!
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
During my freshman year of college, I took classes based on my access to an A grade. As a result, I spent a lot of time in the Women’s Studies department. There was a she-man of a teacher who didn’t believe in grades or bras, not that breast support is relevant to academics. If you came to lecture and wrote the requisite three papers, you received an A. Her theory was that learning shouldn’t be driven by your GPA but based on genuine interest, open dialogue and participation. In all honesty, it was utter brilliance. It was the first time in life that I didn’t take notes solely because I feared the detail would be part of a future test. Most of the information was a little extreme for my liking but the method of learning was fantastic. I eagerly signed up for one of her other classes for the second semester.
A liberal arts college ritual is to sit down with your assigned advisor at the start of each academic year and plot out your textbook path. I was a new transfer student at Smith College my sophomore year and I was eager to get the lay of the land. Meeting with my advisor, a government professor, was actually exciting. I was certain I wanted to be an attorney and no better place to start then a tenured PhD.
My excitement turned to suspicion when I knocked on his office door. I was met by an older man with hair that had been styled by electricity and a beard reminiscent of those worn only by the Amish. Behind him, wedged amongst overflowing bookshelves, was a twin bed like the one in my new dorm room. Either Professor Greene was just like me, a big time cat-napper, or he was the kind of guy who favored office hour romps. Either way, I bypassed the bed and went for the only chair, other than his, that wasn’t piled high with papers and texts.
He sat down, looked over my first year transcript and said, “So you are a women’s study major.” I quickly denied the accusation. I shaved my legs, liked boys and in no way was to be affiliated with those people. To recover, I shared my delusional aspirations of becoming an attorney with the possible focus on women’s advocacy. Maybe I would prosecute rapists or represent women subjected to sexual discrimination. No matter what, I was studying to become a lawyer. The female stuff was ancillary.
At my advisor’s urging, I declared a double major of government and women’s studies. He said the double up would be impressive to future employers or graduate programs and, according to my first year transcript, I wasn’t far off from completing the major. I followed his suggestion.
Admittedly, I hated the rest of the classes required for the major. The professors weren’t so terrible but the students were so off in left field. I’d stroll into class with my pearl earrings and plaid scarf only to be met with tongue piercings and armpit hair. I knew I’d made a questionable choice when we were given free reign for a presentation about the perception of women in the media. I recycled a sociology paper about how the cigarette industry targets women with their advertising. After I held up examples of print ads from Kool’s and Virginia Slims, the class sat through a classmate’s presentation. It was a homemade video of girl on girl porn. She wanted to show that porn could be made for the female gaze. I was much happier before I had visual confirmation that her nipples were pierced, the hoops connected with a chain. Her parents must be so proud.
In the end, my academic advisor was completely wrong. People always bypassed the prestige of government and went right for the women’s studies jugular. Socially, men found it the perfect opportunity to either mock the major entirely or use it as an excuse to start questioning me about possible lesbian trysts. Future employers and graduate programs sidestepped the major on my resume as if it were a booby trap, no pun intended. I eventually removed it from my resume altogether, an act any of my women’s study professors would gasp at.
Sometimes my inner feminist still appears. Just the other night, I wandered over to the Women’s Studies shelves at Barnes & Noble. This area is like kryptonite for men, representing greater threat than Self Help or a box of tampons. I picked up a few books, read some of the blurbs but didn’t find anything worth buying. A few minutes later, I headed to the register with the latest issues of W Magazine and Vogue. What? You can be a feminist and still dress in the latest fashions!