I’m in Washington D.C. this week for a conference, though not one of those fun ones where “convention” is shortened to “con” and prefixed with “Comi” or “Manimal.”
I took the laid-back approach to travel, this go-round. Sometimes before a trip I will agonize for days before my departure, making lists of everything I need to bring, packing three days in advance, and spending the hour before my departure doublechecking to ensure I haven’t forgotten anything. Other times I drag out my suitcase the morning of my flight and just leave it on the dinning room table in the hopes that it will, epiphyticly, absorb clothes and toiletries from the atmosphere. Whenever I happen to walk by the luggage carrying a clean pair of socks or whatever, in it goes. Several hours later the taxi arrives, and I close the luggage without a review of its contents and hope for the best. Remarkably, this system tends to work for me more often than not, although I always run the risk of suddenly realizing — halfway through my flight, at an altitude of 30,000 feet — that I have not only neglected to pack any pants, but that I’m not even wearing any at the moment.
When I arrived at the Sea-Tac I marvelled, as I always do in the airport, that such an enormous building can eb entirely populated by people who don’t want to be there. People waiting for their flight to depart so they can get out of there, people waiting for a loved one to arrive so they can get out of there, people waiting for their shift at The Six-Dollar Cheese Sandwich Emporium to end so they can get out of there, etc. I think airports are the closest earthly approximation of purgatory, a huge holding cell for the unhappy. And why are people always dressed so nice? I don’t even bother to comb my hair before travel, but the airport is always packed full of men in suits and women enveloped by make up and Wonderbras. Is everyone flying to some prom that I was not invited to? Or perhaps the airport is just one of the few places in Seattle where you can see large groups of people who are not from Seattle, i.e., people not perpetually dressed like they are an extra in a 90′s-era Mudhoney video.
My flight was uneventful. As as was boarding I could see, hovering over the space next to my assigned seat, a black leather cap festooned with shiny steel buttons. I expected it to be atop a stereotypical gay man straight out of the Village People, but when I arrived at my seat I discovered it actually contained an ancient woman, ninety years if she was a day, sitting by the window and clutching a copy of “The Christian Traveller’s Journal.” We exchanged some pleasantries before the twenty-something girl who got stuck with the middle seat arrived and filled the space between us. At several points during the trip the old woman, in a quavering stage whisper, told the girl that I was delightful young man and she was lucky to be married to me, while I stared at my book and pretended not to hear. The third time this happened the girl stopped correcting the woman and instead said, yes, married life is grand.
After we arrived at Dulles and had taxied to our gate, everyone leapt to their feet and began wrestling bison-sized carry-on items out of the overhead bins. Suddenly the entire vessel lost power and we were plunged into complete darkness. “Better now than ten minutes ago,” someone observed. After a minute or so the captain came on the intercom, assured us that the problem would be solved momentarily, and suggested that we “not go anywhere.” As they hadn’t yet opened the doors to the plane “going anywhere” wasn’t really an option in the first place, unless someone was planning to crawl into their luggage for a quite jaunt to Narnia. When the lights came back on I was nearly overcome by an urge to give out the piercing, womanly scream and shout “My pearls! Someone has stolen my pearls!!”
The shuttle from the airport to my hotel was entirely too crowded, though this seemingly worked to my advantage. All the back benches in the shuttle were full when I arrived, so I took the shotgun seat up front. That was pretty sweet, until I later realized that being next to the driver allowed me to watch in horror as he simultaneously exceeded the speed limit, tailgated, and devoted both his thumb and his attention to punching text messages into his cell phone for the duration of the trip. For most of the journey I felt the way was I did during the final 20 minuets of The Blair Witch Project.
Anyway, that’s how I wound up in D.C. Technically speaking, I’m actually in a small town called “Church Falls,” although, judging from what I saw on the ride out here, I’d estimate that for every church that fell at least four rose to take its place. (Aw shit — I just looked at the hotel stationary and discovered that I’m actually in “Falls Church.” Joke = ruined!)
Anyhow, if my posting is sporatic this week, that’s why. Although, to be honest, for my posting to become any more desultory than it has been in recent weeks I think I’d have to post on Leap Days only. So if you don’t notice any difference, I’ll understand.