Fear of Flying?
by rock oakeson
Gawd, I hate the winter holidays. Whether it is my own people’s celebration of Hanukkah, or all my friends’ Christmas hubbub, this time of year simply means that I am somehow obligated to spend money I don’t have on people I don’t care for. Even worse, I gave in to a request to fly to the relatives for a visit during the holidays. My Aunt Esther and cousin Hershel in Brighton Beach wore me down after at least 20 phone calls on the subject since October. But the hell of flying home is often as bad as the hell of being home. This year’s plane trip was a good example.
I walk onto the plane, looking for my seat. “17B.” No window or aisle seats were available, so I am sandwiched between two strangers. To my left, a very large man with a mostly bald scalp and five chins, reminding me of what a hobbit might look like if he were six-feet-tall. To my right, an anorexic woman with no chin at all, reminding me of an ostrich. Wow, two of the most unattractive humans I have ever seen, I think to myself. Whatever either of these goobers are, I thank my stars I am not.
Before placing my backpack in the compartment under the seat in front of me, I pull out the book I am reading: The Gay Jewish Man’s Complete Guide to Gay Jewish Sex. Fatman on the left eyes the title and decides the time is right to begin what he no doubt had planned anyway—going into an autopilot of his own.
“Horrible, isn’t it, how our American family values have gone right down the toilet! And these so-called ‘gay’ people have rejected our lord and are now going around trying to snare our young people into their satanic lifestyle.” I pretend that he is not talking to me, but he continues anyway. “Hundreds of thousands of normal young people are being converted to that lifestyle every single day.” I almost laugh as I imagine doing the math. “And don’t let them or their use of the word ‘gay’ fool you. They are the most miserable people on earth. They lay awake nights in agony because they are blatantly rejecting the plan of salvation for their souls.” He looks a bit closer at the book’s title and adds, “‘Gay Jews?’ Imagine, being twice removed from salvation!” He chuckles in his cock-sure certainty while I blatantly turn the page to one of the many illustrations in the book—this one showing two erect penises touching each other and being stroked by one male hand. (Both penises are circumcised, of course) I tilt the book at such an angle that he is sure to see it. After protracted glances at that and all other illustrations in the book as I turn its many pages slowly (do I see longing in his eyes?), he stops talking for a while. Praise the lord! Now I figure I can continue to enjoy my book in peace. But not so fast. Birdwoman on my right is now compelled to take her turn.
“My great-grandmother on my dad’s paternal side was one-eighth Jewish. So I like to celebrate the Jewish part of me by lighting Hanukkah candles every year at Passover.” What the hell is she talking about?!?! Hanukkah? Passover? This ostrich needs to pull her head out of the ground. “And I have tried to talk my Bishop into letting our ward celebrate Christmas in its true fashion by purchasing draydles for all the kids in Sunday school. As you probably know, a draydle is the toy that Jesus used to play with when he was a child.” Holy shit! I know the locals are used to making up their own religious mythology, but I am genuinely stunned anyway. Her attempts to impress me only get worse:
“Also, I have two female cousins, an uncle and a nephew who all turned gay when they were in college at the BYU.” Turned gay? “The family has pretty much ostracized them, but I have decided to do the Christ-like thing and accept them totally, even though I would never think of doing such filthy things as they do. The Bible condemns it, you know.” I see. So much for total acceptance.
“And we didn’t know what to think when my nephew took on some black guy as his partner.” By now I can tell that I have had it. I learned in the past that I have a very low bullshit threshold, and the two brands of ignorance surrounding me on this plane trip will only drive me prematurely crazy before I even get to Family-Insanityville. (Perhaps there is a small comfort in knowing that it isn’t only the members of my own family who are clueless about life, I suddenly tell myself, until I realize that it isn’t a comfort at all. It’s an all-out consternation at our human race in general) I turn to Birdlady, smiling a smile that is a triumph of hypocrisy, and say, “Thank you for sharing, but I don’t think I’m interested.”
Any fear that I might have just insulted her disappears as she grins a huge little bird-grin at me and says, “Oh, I bet you will be!” What on earth is she talking about? She reaches at the underseat compartment in front of her and begins to pull little bottles out of her oversized handbag below. “Once I tell you about how you can be financially secure for the rest of your life with American Right Now nutritional supplements, you’ll be thanking me!”
Silly me, and just when I thought we had already hit a new height in human stupidity. “Tell me,” I challenge her, “are you financially secure?”
“Oh, not yet, of course. I have only been doing American Right Now for one week. But if I sign up nine more distributors beside yourself, then I will have the first ten I need to be on my way!” But it only gets better.
Fatman to my left suddenly perks up at all this. “You know, God has provided us with a marvelous system for being good stewards over all our material blessings. Multi-level marketing is truly His way of letting God-fearing people reap the harvest. My wife, 12 children and I have been involved in six other multi-level schemes in the past, and although we haven’t done very well at any of them, I knew the day would come when God would guide us to the one He wants us in. I just this moment had a revelation, knowledge that American Right Now could be the one! Will you tell me more about it?”
So, for the rest of the trip, I get to sit between this pinnacle of human conversation as Birdlady signs up Fatman as her first of 10 distributors of little bottles of tablets that are going to make them both financially secure. When I refuse to sign up, and even offer to exchange seats with Birdgal to make the conversation easier for them (and hopefully nonexistent for me), she claims that she must retain the aisle seat because of personal bladder control problems. Perhaps a bit too much information, thank you. I am not even going to pretend I can exchange seats with Fatman. I don’t know how he fit himself in his seat in the first place.
Let’s face it. I am stuck. A sudden impish thought occurs to me that I could pretend I am Jerry Springer, and that I have brought these two lowlifes together for other lowlifes to witness on nationwide TV. How about an infomercial about this amazing nutritional discovery? Then I realize I don’t have it in me even to pretend such nonsense. I am suddenly thankful that I am not stupid. I can tell by looking that neither of these humans are financially secure, nor ever will be. Neither of them will ever know what my own spiritual path is (nor even think to ask me). They may never have anything worthwhile in life, but they will always have their multi-level dream, and they will always be right. Theirs is a world of absolute surety of knowledge and total certitude. After all, it is obvious which religion is correct, which skin color is superior to all others, which sexual orientation is the only one endorsed by God, and that the earth is flat.
No wonder I have a fear of flying.