I tapped my feet impatiently while concentrating on the sound of the rubber sole against slick, sterile linoleum flooring inside our local airport. Even though it was early afternoon, the monitors showed the schedule a little light on flights.
Perfect for me—less of a delay means less chance to mull this over. Ah, what the hell else am I gonna do anyway? Go back to work? Besides, if you strip humanity down to its core, aren’t we all nomads?
Small-town airports still carry the fury of larger ones when it comes to safety details. The line was thin, no more than six or seven people going through one security gate, yet some obscure higher authority deemed a horribly obese man a potential terrorist threat. As I watched the fat man get pulled aside and patted down by a security guard with the apathy of Nancy Grace—gloved hands like a proctologist—I marveled at how far we’d been suckered into giving up that which is most sacred to us, just to protect ourselves from a danger that may or may not lurk around any given corner.
At what point did fear become such a profitable market?
As several contestants passed through the gates of the Airport Guessing Game with no trouble, I decided it was time to do one last mental check.
ID? Check. Money (ha!)? Check. Backpack of random items and clothes? Check.
My turn came unexpectedly fast, and I hesitated for a moment, unprepared and feeling the weight of all eyes on me. My stomach rolled with nervousness and a thin line of sweat broke on my brow.
This is it. No matter what I am on the inside, if that signal goes off when I walk through, I’ll never be able to shake the stereotype it creates. An entire plane ride with people shifting uneasily, flight attendants giving me the stink eye, a gray-haired man near the lavatory flashing his Marshal badge with a cocky grin…
It seemed the only real thing I had to worry about was the fat man orbiting back into pedestrian traffic flow, nearly turning me into an ink spot in the process.
Whoa, easy there, big fella!
I braced the ham of his shoulder in a vain effort to help establish balance. He turned back and wheezed something, either an apology or a fuck you, and began to fumble with the knot of his tie as he lumbered toward the airliner. I grabbed my few personals from the conveyer belt, slapped on my bucket hat and had no choice but to follow.
These airline companies already have us by the balls—an extra charge for baggage, limitations on what we can and can’t bring, price-gouging, and our only option is to not travel.
It came as no surprise when seat F2 came into view that the fat man would be my direct companion.
Even after all those exorbitant taxes are paid, these bastards can still dictate where I sit!
Upon reaching the row, I tossed my bag in the overhead compartment and patiently waited for the fat man, who of course took an aisle seat to let me in. Instead, he sat unmoving, totally immersed in a crossword or Sudoku or some fucking mind game. I waited for a polite amount of time as the line filing in continued to back up, hoping that he would notice and make an effort. He didn’t budge. He was a fat mountain. I had no choice but to squeeze by, but like a fly to an elephant, I went unnoticed. He was the immovable object, and I needed to get to my seat. It was time to pull the gloves off. Arching over, I stuck my ass as far into his view as possible crinkling and folding his paper. I hoped that the temporary disruption would be a catalyst for the downfall of his day. Sure, it was petty, but that’s airplane justice.
Taking my seat, I stared, over-soaking in exactly what it was I’d be dealing with for the duration.
Lord is he fat! He is stationary yet sweating! Business traveler for sure.
The suit gave it away: frayed at the edges, tight in the seams, and a dab or two of some foreign sauce that was faded but not cleaned. It enlightened me that this monster was budget conscious. He sported a comb-over that Hitler would’ve been proud of and a thick moustache like whiskers of a walrus completed his massive frame.
As I adjusted to the cramped confines in my little corner, the remainder of the passengers took their seats. Looking around, the plane was full of all generic types: vacationers, tourists, a student or two and, from the looks of it, several who’d wish for a different destination. None of their expressions resembled what I felt inside.
How many of these people wish they’d thrown their world away today? No substantial income, loss of direction, panic over bills, worries that would send most over the edge. But what I choose to embrace is sacrifice of the contemporary. All that I’ve lost cannot be measured against the acquisition of freedom. Without those losses I’d never be here, surrounded by the fat man and on a quest for the American Dream.
Over the intercom, a faceless captain mumbled jargon, and the plane jolted and slowly inched backward.
No turning back now.