So, I'm in Birmingham. Writing this at 11:10 am local time, 6:18 am my body time. So suffice it to say, having not slept on the plane, I'm in that dozy temporal space where nothing seems quite real.
Air travel. I know it's a time-honored wheeze of standup comics, but for good reason. It's hellish. Really, it's like, the 3rd circle of hell. The circle of seatrest-stealers and seatback-kickers.
Hyperbole? I think not!
I was on a discount airline, because, well, I'm poor and it suits my pocketbook. Very tight quarters. I got shuffled around here and there, seat to seat—there was a large family who all wanted to sit together, and I understand that—and ended up in the second-to-last row of the plane beside this old guy.
I like old guys in general. They're cranks, sometimes, and I like that. Or storytellers, and I like that too. I think old dudes are fun. I hope to be a fun old dude one day.
This old dude wasn't all that much fun.
This old dude kept farting.
On me, pretty much, because where else is the smell going to go?
Maybe I'm being unkind. I haven't slept in nearly 24 hours. Maybe I'm a little punchy and vitriolic. I mean, maybe he couldn't help himself. It was a long flight. But, I mean, man—come on! He was even lifting himself up, aiming, like passing wind in my direction was preferrable than into the aisle, where it might harmlessly waft around.
I'd discovered the 4th circle of hell: a window seat on a crowded airplane with a gassy, devious old man blowing hot rancid wind at you.
Anyway ... is this gross? You don't want to read this, do you? The travails of your intrepid blogger under assault from a cruel old farter. You should stop reading now. But I mean, what could I do? I'm asking because I've never faced this particular dilemma. What if he really had some kind of condition? If I'd said: Sir, your flatulence is alarming, and I'd prefer you visit the lavatory to void your demonic winds—and he'd collapsed, weeping in shame and horror?
Perhaps I could've returned in kind, Guns of Navarone style. But that's a very dark road to go down.
I'll probably delete this post when I wake up. Maybe I will. I'm so tired I'm seeing into this weird 4th dimension. Things are licking and snapping around the peripheries of my sight ...
Then, behind me, this woman ... they've got these touchscreens on the seatbacks now, of course. They've added games. So instead of a little tappy-tapping while the person selects a movie and watches it for a few hours, followed by maybe a little more tapping ... you've got this person playing I-don't-know-what-the-hell, a game called Crazy Pokers perhaps (not the card kind, oh-ho-HO no, this is the finger-poking craze that's sweeping the nation!) or maybe Poke-tastic Pokeriffic Pokers, the game where you poke the screen real hard like you're stabbing it to death!
You ever wonder how it might feel to be a weevil inside a dead tree with a woodpecker hammering at it, trying to get inside and eat you? I sort of do, now.
I did end up rearing up over the seat and saying that to her, pretty much. She feigned ignorance and said: "Oh, is that bothering you?" And I said: "I thought you'd tire of it, but you really really like that game."
Of course, the danger here is that the person doesn't lay off. Then what? You've got to escalate matters, don't you? In the end, when she went back to Pokeroo and the Pokey-Pokes, I put my seat back—which I honestly didn't want to do, seeing as she was up against the bulkhead and couldn't recline herself—and I guess that rendered her poking angle less than ideal, because after a few cholicy attempts the poking stopped.
The farts? Still going great guns, sadly.
So I get to Brussels clad in a terrible miasma of old-guy poots (or so I assume), find out my connecting flight's cancelled. I can either zip onto the early flight and say bye-bye to my luggage until it finds its way to me, or take a flight 8 hours later. I take the early flight. I have to fill out this immigration card. It asks my profession. I'm always a little weirded out by that. I depends where I am in my life. I could've written "student," but at my age that seems sort of sad. At other times I've written whatever I was doing to make money: Bus Driver, Librarian, Magazine editor, Derelict, Carnival roustabout, etc.
So this time I go with "writer," because hell, for the time being it's the truth. I'm making my living at this, long may that persist (it likely won't).
Of course, it can lead to conversations like this:
IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Writer, yeah? Anything I may have read?
ME: Ah, I doubt it. They made a movie out of my first book. Rust and Bone.
IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Oh! I know that movie! Didn't like it at all!
[Who SAYS that? Oddly, more people than you'd think. Writers get slagged a lot. Or I do. What can I say in return? I've seen your work, Mr. Immigration Officer, and I find it lacking. Your stamping technique is piss poor—piss POOR, I say!]
ME: Ah. Well. Sorry for stealing two hours of your life then.
IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Come on. It was more than 2 hours.
ME: Okay, two and change.
After filling out a form to have my luggage delivered WHENEVER, I moseyed on over to my lodgings, only to discover that I can't check in until 2pm. Makes sense! Hey!
Where the hell is the pub? I hear this country is lousy with them.
All best, Craig.