Tuesday, January 04, 2005



Where the heck am I?

I mentioned previously that I've been traveling. The lack of internet access discouraged me from blogging (though I guess I could have written directly to Word Perfect and then uploaded later), so rather than a chronological travel narrative, I'll give you a few random memory snapshots.

New Years Eve day, 12-31-04.
I booked tickets to San Francisco on the theory that New Years Eve is a good -- meaning light -- travel day. You know, short lines, plenty of empty seats on the flight. People have already gotten to where they're going so they can take a long disco nap in preparation for New Years Eve partymania.

That turns out to be a myth: New Years Eve is a big travel day. The only difference I notice is the unusual number of babies on board. There is a baby in, like, every other row. Okay, by "baby" I mean child under the age of seven. But still, that's a lot of screaming and kicking of seats. A harried mom has just boarded and is trying to get herself settled in the row in front of me. She carries her baby like a large sack of flour, wedged between her forearm and her belly. You know how this goes with the sack: once it slips to where more than half the weight is below the forearm, the slipping, sliding and eventual plop to the floor is inevitable. Dad arrives, also looking harried, and becomes very preoccupied with jamming the baby bag and (it seems) more than the allowed number of carry ons into the overhead bin. The baby crawls between his legs and out into the aisle as passengers continue to board. Mom and Dad are both fussing with inanimate objects and don't seem to notice. We're close to the front of the plane, mind you, and I'm wondering whether etiquette discourages me from saying, "excuse me, is that your baby there in the aisle?" At what point does a public-spirited concern for the welfare of the child outweigh the awkwardness of suggesting to someone's face a charge of negligent parenting? Before I have time to conduct an internet poll on this question, Dad scoops the baby up and puts him in Mom's lap.

I'm seated directly in front of a seat-kicker. At fairly regular intervals, I feel a dull thud in the small of my back. I ponder the "four stages of having your airplane seat kicked by a small child."
1. Hope. Maybe Daddy will realize that junior is irritating the shit out of that nice man in the seat in front of us and get junior to stop.

2. Self-righteousness. Daddy is a self-absorbed breeder jerk who is, in his own way, as oblivious to those around him as his four-year-old. He's negotiating with his kid, and losing badly at it.

3. Rage. I would like to change places with the elderly lady in the seat behind junior, and see how much he likes having his seat kicked every ninety seconds.

4. Resignation. The flight will be over in, what, four hours.
I'm reading a historical novel, The Last Citadel by David L. Robbins, about the battle of Kursk on the Russian front during World War II. It was the largest tank battle in history, and a turning point of in a brutal and devastating theatre of that war. I imagine the Russian tankers driving their T-34 tanks over the steppe, cramped into a steel hulk whose bumping, vibrating and fumes must have been nasty indeed before even getting into combat.

In one of the more memorable lines of the novel, one of the characters, an SS officer caught out in the streets of Berlin during an air raid observes, not without irony, "war is the ultimate inconvenience."

I live such a cushy comfortable life compared to most other people in the world, now and throughout the history of our species. The tsunami is just the most recent reminder of the kind of privation and suffering that I've so far been so consistently spared from. What's a little kicking in the back?

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]