December 29th, 2021
The Art Of Missing Flights
It starts with relapse. A victim in the driver’s seat. Then resolves towards my departure that begins the escapade that I will now relate to you.
There was some confusion about our positions. Hers and mine. And then as we neared the airport I lost it (In anger I speak in tongues ((Something I’m not proud of)). I become a serpent with a hot breath of vulgarity and pain from somewhere deep in the belly of my being and it lashes out in a heat without coherence and consideration for those on the receiving end ((Naturally those I’m closest to (((Guff being one of them))) and it is an embarrassing act and actually saddening matter that I lack the mettle (((When I’m triggered))) and cannot be settled until the flames have been reduced to a smoldering heap and slower to an even coolness of understanding))).
A story became too big in my head. It got built up until it gave out and left us both in ruin
(A DeLeon’s breakfast burrito fell apart in my lap in the process). Afterward I take responsibility and apologize for my behavior. Right my wrongs. Then have an emotional breakdown, shedding the skin of my ego amidst tears on both of our faces (I am no saint. No perfect being. Yet I become a purified creature baptized by the realization of my wreckage with a clear horizon over my shoulder. Hindsight always twenty-twenty if you look with both eyes open ((Remember what you do to others. Remember what has been done to you. Remember the love and the light and the warmth and the laughter. Remember the good things now and then))).
Guff and I hug and I wipe my wet eyes (No doubt red and swollen) as I get out of the car. I throw back 10mg of THC as I pass through the roundabout doors and head towards the terminal. I’m an hour early. Enough time to sit and relax and collect myself. Soon there are murmurs all around me and I hear rumors of delay. The display on the screen confirms it. My flight is another two hours out. I put on my headphones. Call Guff. Tell her about it. I choke-up and apologize again. Ask her for forgiveness. She is strong and loving and does so. We talk for another half-hour and I begin to feel heavy and drooping like syrup in my seat. A mass of flesh puddled. I can feel my voice slowing too. It baritones in my ears.
You sound tired.
I tell her I took an edible.
Francis! You’re going to fall asleep before your flight!
Panic sets in. My heart races and I realize this might be a possibility as my eyelids hang low and hooded over my eyes.
Oh shit. This isn’t good . . . I thought I’d be on the plane by now.
Want me to stay on the phone with you?
No. That’s ok. I’ll go walk around the airport and get some water. Try to keep myself awake.
We hang up.
My mouth is a desert. My heart a racehorse. Around me there are only eyes lulling about, glowering out from behind different colored masks. Bodies pacing. A baby cries amidst the babel. All of judgement at Eppley Airfield. A police officer scans the perimeter. Moves about the place. Eyes me. I nod. Get up and try to buy coffee. Scooter’s is closed. Only the bar and the little convenient store are open. I buy a water and go sit back down. My heart cools. My mouth too. Waves of euphoria spread throughout my body.
I’m going to make it, I tell myself as all around me are complaints and a sense of entitlement from an instantly gratifying world
(A group of people who did not invent nor invest their minds and bodies towards the progress of aviation and stake claims and demands from the inconvenience ((I mean, really, it is incredible that we get to purchase tickets to be launched into the sky at hundreds of miles an hour and fly above the clouds, hurl through space, and arrive at another location within hours (((A daunting task that once took days, months, years ((((Some even suffering illness and death in the process ((((((You remember The Oregon Trail, right? The Donner party?))))).
I’m going to make it, I tell myself as the hordes of people gather round like hungry dogs, eyeing the newly arriving flight (As if that will get them to their destination sooner). They swarm the gate impatiently waiting to board. Then we are ready and the plane hurls us towards Phoenix.
At Phoenix Mesa its now 2 in the morning. A large group stands around the baggage claim. I look for a place to lay my head and look over the schedule of my next flight. It doesn’t depart until 9 (At this time ((In fine print mind you!))) I see a message at the bottom of the ticket that states I have to provide my own transportation.
Transportation to where?
Then I see it. I’m at the wrong airport. My next flight doesn’t leave from Mesa but thirty miles west out of Sky Harbor. My heart drops. My body too. I let the information sink in and then let my legs give out as my body slides down with my back against a pillar to sitting position to try and figure this whole thing out. What next? In my state of fatigue there is only one answer. I make arrangements for an Uber. The driver is thirty minutes out. I go to the vending machine and buy a bag of chips. Move through the crowd still standing impatiently around the baggage claim. Theirs legs and bodies shifting. Shoes shuffling. Bodies bobbing about. I go outside. Pull the mask from my face. Breathe in the cool desert air. Feel it against my face.
When the driver arrives I get in and soon we are on the freeway towards Sky Harbor.
My driver is a gregarious sort. He tells me that he’s lived in the Phoenix area all his life. How he was a construction worker (Large machine operator) for years until making the shift to Uber driver. It fits his schedule better since his divorce and gives him more time with the kids. He gets them on weekends. Takes them to school during the week (Since he drives all through the night and then goes home to wake them up and make them breakfast and drive them to school before coming home and going to bed). He doesn’t mind the late hours. The drunks from bars. The back and forth between airports. Prefers it even to the hustle and bustling clamor of traffic in the day.
He tells me about life in the Phoenix area. How he’s sick of the city life. Would prefer to live somewhere rural. Away from it all. The dream of land and a quiet place to live and raise his kids. The peaceful desert his only neighbor. The red rocks and cacti and pale sky. He tells me his thoughts on COVID. How saddening it is to see people divided. Friends. Families. He rides the line of what some might consider conspiracy but never crosses it with his mind open and honest in bewilderment about the whole thing.
He says he has zoomed out and seen how everyone acts as if their position is right, that both sides are signaling with virtuosity.
Neither one wanting to listen only be heard. He has lost his confidence in their want to understand. Both sides fueled by righteousness, by pride, by the swaying polarity of its politics.
That’s why I want to move away from here. Just get away and go live in nature.
I let him talk. Hear him out.
You know what Stalin said, don’t you.
What did he say? I ask.
One million deaths is a statistic. One, a tragedy.
At Sky Harbor I get out and thank him for the ride. By now it’s three in the morning. I am a shell of a man. Somehow my legs are moving beneath me and they carry me up to the second floor and to the gate entrances. The shops and restaurants are closed and there are a few people moving around up there, a few sprawled out on seats, sleeping until their flights arrive.
I find a quiet corner and pull my jacket up over my head and go to sleep only to wake up two hours later to ukuleles strumming in my ears and a tumult chatter and clattering soles on the tiled floor as if the the whole place had been revived in an instant. I shake off my exhaustion and get up. Check the time. It’s five thirty. I get up and collect my things. Look to procure some coffee to wake up and write my OM…AHA! for the week (see entry from December 22nd).
By 8 Pacific time I’m slumped in a chair with my back to the gate revising the whole thing. The gate next to mine starts to board. I get back to work. Change this. Edit that. Exchange one word for another and then when I’m done I get lost in a daydream. Space-out at the open space before me. Look up at the clear light of day slashing in through the glass. The sun illuminating the world. I watch the people moving about. Wonder where they’re going. What worlds they inhabit. I turn around to check on my flight. There’s no one there. Not a soul. The gate door closed. I get up in a panic. Look at the screen. The departure time says 8:57. I look at my phone. It reads 9:02.
I run to the window. Look out. The plane is pulling out towards the tarmac.
I ask an employee at the kiosk about the flight. His face is grey and dull.
I missed my flight, I tell him.
You’ll have to go back downstairs to the ticket counter.
I sprint through the terminal towards the entrance. Make it to the Frontier desk in a pool of sweat. The woman behind the counter is sweet and patient and listens to my dilemma.
Let me see what I can do.
Her fingers hit the keys to the beat of my heart. Click. Click. Click. Her fingers a thing of wonder.
It looks like I have a flight to Ontario tonight at 9 . . . Oh . . . Nope. I’m sorry. That flight is sold out . . . Let me see what else I can do.
I stand there and hope for good news.
I have a flight to LAX tonight.
I need Ontario.
How about San Diego.
I’d prefer Ontario.
She clicks. Scrolls. Clicks some more.
The next flight I have to Ontario is tomorrow night at 9.
Shit. That won’t work. There’s nothing else you can do?
No. I’m sorry. That’s the earliest flight I have.
It’s either a day and a half in Phoenix with a nonrefundable ticket or I get the hell out of there. I look online. Google flights. Find one with American Airlines leaving at noon (There goes trying to save money on a cheap flight ((Could’ve gone direct at this point with the extra costs))). Only two hours until takeoff. One seat left. My hands are shaking as I enter my credit card information. I book the ticket, only I’m in the wrong terminal. I rush upstairs to the train. The clock is ticking. I pace the waiting room until the train comes. Soon it arrives. The doors slide open. I get in. It takes me to terminal 4.
I glide through the place like mercury in a clenched fist. Moving. See my gate down the long corridor. I’m going to make it! I do. I eye a seat close to the door (Where I can see it!). I sit. Beside me I notice a black leather wallet tucked between two seats. I hold it up to the kid next to me. He points to the gate door. It’s shut. I go to the kiosk.
I think someone left their wallet.
Oh no, the woman says behind the counter.
She grabs it and takes off through the door and down the ramp towards the plane. When she comes back she returns to her station. Resumes her procedures. I sit there hoping I might get some kind of reward. My money back for the new flight. Something for the troubles I’ve gone through in the last twelve hours (This is my reptilian brain wanting to say, “GIMME GIMME GIMME”). Something to balance out the scales. Even things out a bit for my good deed. For my misfortune. But as luck would have it nothing happened (As far as I know ((Since we can never know where we stand in accord to the weight of these things (((Who’s up and who’s down)))).
I sit and look around me. At the other passengers in their seats. Waiting. Mulling about. Fidgeting. Fingering their phones.
The world is spinning at an incredible rate at just the right angle and distance.
No, I am no different than the rest of them. I am a passenger like everyone else left to the capricious whims of serendipity, waiting. The best I can do is be patient about the whole thing and not lose my composure again. Just one breath at a time. Even. Cool.
This is my reward.
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