K.S. ANTHONY: No One Flying Nowhere.

20 May 2021

No One Flying Nowhere.

(Originally published 2010, the predecessor to "6F")

I am no one on an airplane. 

If I was someone, I might not like it. 

Air travel is sitting in a metal tube with your legs cramped and your feet hot and your elbows tucked close to your body as you try to saw a piece of barbecued chicken or eat a bite of iceberg lettuce from the tiny square bowl covered in plastic that was brought to you. Your elbows are tucked in so you don't disturb the person next to you. 

That person doesn't give a damn about disturbing you. That's why his iPod is turned all the way up so you can hear it over the white noise of the engines and that's why he's eating like he's at the trough at whatever local buffet he usually frequents. Rotten bastard. You hate him for an hour or two and then you forget all about him. 

You never remember the faces of strangers on a plane. 

Air travel is sitting for twenty minutes with a full bladder waiting for the flight attendant to clear your neighbor's tray and your tray so that you can get up, walk unsteadily down the aisle, and then cram yourself into a closet-sized lavatory, steady yourself against the wall, and piss into the stainless steel bowl filled with the bluest liquid you have ever seen, trying to not miss out of courtesy to the other passengers. 

Or at least that's how it is if you're a man. I feel bad for women: they have to contend with dealing with actually sitting on the damned thing. 

Air travel is the boredom of reading about the best steak houses in Charlotte or the top day spas in Seattle in the in-flight magazine. The flight attendant will tell everyone that they are welcome to take a copy with them when they leave, but judging from the half-filled-in crossword puzzle (how could the person before you not know that number four down was coral?) and the torn out sudoku page, no one ever does. You're sure that you'll never want to buy a ring with the birthstones and initials of your children because you don't have any, so you leave the relic in the seat pocket in front of you along with the safety information card that nobody ever looks at. I never take the damn thing, anyway. Maybe other people do. People who want rings with birthstones and initials. 

I always sit by the window. I used to sit in the aisle because I hate trying to pass people sitting next to me. I got tired of people jostling my elbow or my shoulder, though, especially with the drink carts. A lot of airlines don't have drink carts anymore. This plane is an Embraer RJ135. The only really good seat on this plane is 11B: the exit row aisle seat. I'm sitting in 6A. This is a pretty good seat because there's no one next to me: there can't be on this plane because it's a 1:2 configuration. I'll be among the first out of this big metal tube and although I don't have the leg room that I would have in row 11, I'm closer to the door. 4A was available, but the number 4 is synonymous with death in Japanese so I never sit in the 4th row, even though I am not Japanese. 

I like not having anyone sit next to me because then I don't have to make the small talk that people seem to make when the plane is about to land. Few people talk to strangers in the air or during takeoff. During the descent, everyone seems relieved and wants to make small talk with their neighbors. The conversation always starts the same way: "so, are you coming home or here on business?" I always want to say something strange, just to see what their reaction might be, but I don't want to call any attention to myself so I grudgingly play the game with them. I usually say that I'm in town for a wedding. That way I don't have to talk about what I do for work. It might be fun to say that I'm in town for gender reassignment surgery, but again, I don't want to call attention to myself. Not having a seat neighbor solves the problem before it starts. 

The plane takes off. The plane lands. I get out into the airport. 

I know airports very well. All roads lead to dead ends or baggage claim. Baggage claim is always on the same floor as ground transportation: cabs, buses, limos. You put the big gate numbers behind you and walk straight and fast. Avoid the moving walkway: there's always someone who is standing perfectly still on the left-hand side. Stand right. Walk left. Simple? You'd think so. Avoid it. I get in a taxi and tell the driver where to go. I have everything written down on an index card. Flight number, flight times, hotel address, hotel reservation number: everything contained on one piece of paper. If I lose it, that's ok. I have it in my phone, too. 

I get to my hotel and check in. I get in an elevator. The elevator doors open and close and open. There is a mirror above a small table with a phone and some flowers on it. There's a placard on the wall indicating two series of room numbers and two arrows pointed in opposite directions. I feel a sense of control returning to my life as I slip the plastic key into slot above the brushed steel doorknob. A red LED light turns green and I hear a small click before I push the door open and walk into my room. The layout is identical to every other mid-priced hotel I have been in. Toilet and shower are immediately to the right. There is a small closet with 4 hangers, a bag for laundry and a bag to put your shoes in if you want them shined. There's an iron and a small ironing board. In the bathroom is a small coffee pot and filterbags of Starbucks Pike Place. There are three rocks glasses covered with paper coasters and a miniature bar of soap. In the main room, there's a desk next to the television which faces the bed. There's a lamp and a landline. The room smells like some type of cleaner and cheap linen. I know that the room attendants probably didn't put fresh sheets on after the last guest left. I try not to think about it. I hang up my jacket, loosen my tie and I sit on the bed. It is cheap and comfortable. Predictable and uniform. 

 The room is anonymous. 

 So am I.