Very Good Seats

On the way back from XpTwoThousand, I had the pleasure of sharing a plane with UncleBob and LowellLindstrom.

UncleBob is, of course, an expert at dealing with the OneWorldAlliance minions of darkness. Standing in line at Fiumicino airport in Rome, he pulled some kind of JediMindTrick on the harpy in charge and obtained an upgrade. Lowell too. I'm next in line.

Smiling sweetly and doing my best to appear human to a professional cattle herder, I try too. "Do you think there's any chance of an upgrade?" I ask.

"There's a good chance. We'll put you on the list, sir or madam. Please don't worry, however, you have VeryGoodSeats." Then she did that NLP routine that makes you forget she's had you waiting 45 minutes and makes you personally responsible for the vast frustrated line behind you. Fiumicino, just by the way, is the last airport on Earth you should let yourself get routed through. The very epicenter of the OneWorldAlliance.

But off I march, consoled by the possibility of the upgrade, and content that, at least, I have VeryGoodSeats.

"How'd you do?" asks UncleBob.

"Great! I'm on the list for the upgrade, and anyway I have VeryGoodSeats."

"Great! What's the seat number?"

"Um..." I pore through my newly randomized passes and tickets. "41G. Say, that's quite a large number, isn't it?"

"Yes, and right in the middle row on the aisle. You should always remember to ask to sit next to the emergency exit, or as far forward as possible, before you try for an upgrade."

"Well, anyway, I'm on the list."

UncleBob just smiles.

We're on the plane. Bob and Lowell have bedded down in business class. Fully reclining leather seats with footrests, free drinks, gourmet food, and personal video screens. 41G, I find out, is in the second last row of the plane, on the aisle, in the center, right next to an Italian man built very much along the lines of ErnestBorgnine.

At least it's not the last row, I comfort myself. It's true the space is so tiny I can't bring my knees together. It's true Ernest sweats no small amount. It's true the lady on the other side of the aisle has a deaf grandmother who insists on standing in the aisle bellowing at her. It's true the stewardesses slam their hips into my shoulder every time they squeeze by.

And it's true I'm right by the toilets. Do you know that airplane toilets have a little bell attached to them so people know when they're free? "Bong", is what it sounds like. "Bong", then someone full of gas slams their hips into your shoulder. "Bong", every 5 minutes, for 10 hours from Rome to Chicago.

But at least it's not the last row. Say, I wonder who's back there?

Two ten year olds who like to scream and kick seatbacks, that's who's back there.

I resolve to make the best of it. Things even begin to look up. It turns out the ErnestBorgnine clone is a lovely man named GiuseppiDeGaetano. A prince among men and an engineer for GE. We get to chatting and have a great geek conversation. It starts turning into a pleasant trip after all.

Still the OneWorldAlliance isn't giving up. My trip is not smooth enough. Their attendant of evil decides to smooth it more by spilling orange juice in my lap.

"I so enjoy a little swim before dinner," I observe to Giuseppi, who is also splashed. "And the waters, they have such a tropical scent," he agrees. The Italians never lose their aplomb in times of crisis. Neither do I.

Dinner is served. Chicken, which looks almost acceptable, or beef, which is strips of leather and gristle covered with nasty brown sauce [http://web.archive.org/web/20020112205009/http://www.smh.com.au/news/0010/09/national/national10.html]. If it actually came from a cow, there's no way the animal was sane. Well, what do you think comes next? I have a pretty good idea, but I'm ready. I have a secret weapon. OneWorldAlliance plainly perceives my journey still isn't smooth enough, so Giuseppi gets the last chicken. "We apologize for the inconvenience, sir or madam, but here's your beef."

"No, thank you. A glass of water, please."

In my carry on luggage I have the secret ready. I'm no UncleBob, but I'm no piker either. I carry two 3mg tabs of melatonin, plus a good dark sleep mask and earplugs. "Good night, Giuseppi!" "Sweet dreams, gentle stranger!" I'm out like a light. The shoulder slams and bongs still register at some level, but that level can't communicate with any other level. OneWorldAlliance is powerless. I sleep.

And when I wake, something wonderful happens. I come to 2 hours out from O'Hare. Giuseppi is asleep, his arm touching mine, warm and hairy. I haven't felt an adult male arm asleep next to mine since my father died 17 years ago. It's a sensation I had thought lost from the world. Now suddenly here it is, and I have 2 hours to enjoy it.

The last leg over the big lakes into Chicago is bumpy as hell, but I arrive rested, secretly delighted, in touch with the world, not to mention smelling tropical. UncleBob and Lowell meet me at the baggage carousel looking haggard.

"What a dreadful flight!" says UncleBob, "I feel totally wiped out."

"Not me," I say, "I had VeryGoodSeats." -- PeterMerel


Peter - I laughed. I cried. I nearly peed my pants. (Makes a good acronym - ILICINPMP) Thank you. -- Kent


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