Back on the Chain Gang

[bak awn th ee cheyn gang]: This is a tribute to James Honeyman-Scott, the Pretenders guitarist who died of a drug overdose in 1982 at age 26. Scott’s death was followed by bass play Pete Farndon’s 10 months later.

This is a rough draft of chapter 2 of Saved by Zero.

“Welcome to Flight 201,” said the brown haired stewardess as she boarded the plane. “Today you will be sitting in row 40 seat A, you can find it a few rows back there in the cabin,” as she pointed down the aisle.

She was beautiful and plastic at the same time. Her brown hair neatly in place and her uniform fitting her like a glove. Her teeth like white porcelain toilets glimmering under the cabin lights, there was nothing that could be wrong with her.

“Her life must be perfect,” I thought while walking to the isle.

I slowly lifted my bag into the carry on container and pushed my backpack under the seat in front her. My backpack was filled with all the supplies I would need to get through the next 16 hours. Books, headphones, telephone and her usual extra snacks for the plane.

A few minutes the engine roared as the flight attendants went through the safety briefing. I love to look at the book of instructions watching the passengers filled with terror as they were to glide down emergency exits and have seat flotation devices.

The book makes me laugh because I read somewhere that the airlines have researched how to make the faces look as diplomatic and not fearful as they open doors and slide down the ramps.

Everything is researched and filtered by focus groups, everything from the bad articles in the travel magazines on flight to what should be offered some special discounts on the duty free.

The airplane is our secret world, and we are just guests on it.

Uncomfortable guests. I try my best to keep to myself, but the lady next to me wants to talk on and on about her vacation:

“It was so beautiful in your country,” she blabbered on.

I pretended to half understand her and shake my shoulders so the conversation would rescue me from the hell of spending six hours getting to know Mrs. Tourist with digital camera in her hand.

The guy decided to recline his seat all the way back to my knees so I was stuck in some odd position in my chair.

I hate flying. I really hate flying when it is like this.

We are now up in the air and it already felt like torture.

If there was one thing I always love about flights it is that when you see those perfect looking flight attendants roll forward that big heave cart and start giving you things.

I really fucking love that cart.

It is like Christmas and Santa is bringing all sorts of fun new toys for children to play with. Free cokes and little packs of pretzels make me smile as the woman I say getting on the plane hands me the little can, napkin, and plastic cup. I hold on like the last person on Earth to that little plastic bag of pretzels with the name of the airline written on it.

Even in my chair being smashed by the guy in front of me and the woman next to me who talks too much; I am in my paradise zone for a few minutes at least.

I sip that cola like it is a fine wine. Not wanting it to run out. When it does I am one of those people who wants to push that button and ask for more, but I never do. I know the flight attendants probably get irritated by that and I do not want to be one of those customers they make fun of behind those thick blue curtains they hang out in.

I have seen all the movies on the flight, I have eaten my pretzels and I do not want to read the book I have; so I sit there and think back.

My grandpa Culver always came and picked me up at the airport when I came home.  He would always show up in these thin worn jeans that were not really jeans, but some threadbare pants that he probably had owned from the eighties or something. His buttoned down shirts that were worn just the same. Soft and old. He always also had this straw hat he wore.

He would see me off on the plane. Walking with me to the open gate. Times have changed. Now it is all about security and grandfathers are not able to see their grandkids off at the gate.

I flew a lot as a kid, back and forth from Arizona to Texas. The perfect example of children with divorced parents. Christmas with my father, but the day after my grandfather would meet me standing at the gate in his old pants and worn shirt ready to pick me up.

He always had special things for me when I would take off or land. Once again this was before Departments of Homeland Security. Instead it was the “Department of Grandpa and his snacks.”

My mind drifted to another airport. My father picking me up in sweatpants and a leather jacket. The image of his blue sweatpants and brown oiled jacket made me wonder;

“What on Earth was he thinking?”

I don’t think he was thinking, but at that moment I missed those worn out pants of my grandfather. I missed his hat and his snacks before I got on the plane.

Sweatpants were not the same.

My mind then went off on another tangent. The time my father called me on the phone and told me he got arrested at the airport.

Walking through one of those old security checkpoints and dogs smelling marijuana and cocaine in his boots and on his pocket.

Airport security has changed over the past few years, but I luckily even with all my paranoia going through passport lines and wondering for some odd reason they will throw me into one of those rooms they use to interrogate people for no reason.

I still feel like the world is shifting on its axis as I go through the security checks in the airport. Too many strange memories I guess.

I reach for my little bag of pretzels and take the last one slowly to my mouth and put it neatly on my tongue sucking the salt off of it.

It is going to be a long flight. I feel it.

 

 

 

 

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