Hazards of a Frequent Flier

It’s 5:13 AM Portland Time.  That’s the same as Pacific Time.  I am in Portland.  We are in Portland.  Veronica is the only one who is still gainfully employed during the recession so she is up to catch a flight to another job.  The light from the bathroom slips into my mostly closed eyelid, passing through eyelashes still clumped with mascara and lash glue from the show the day before.  Another ten minutes slips by and I wake up as the door jams shut.  “Bye bye, Veronica.”  I slur into my pillow but the noise doesn’t travel far and she doesn’t here me or respond.

Our hotel room is hot and stuffy.  It used to be a motel but someone has turned it into a hip place that provides complementary condoms for possible one night stands and ear plugs to sleep through the late night of raging going on around the patios downstairs.  This place wants you to party, but party responsibly.  I sense the people that truly enjoy The Jupiter Hotel are those that get disastrously hammered – screaming and bawling and laughing their way through the night – and then black out face-down on the comforter with their clothes still on.  The people that need ear plugs to drown out the fun by said drunkard might not appreciate the care that is taken to condone restful sleep and prevent the spread of chlamydia in Pacific North West.

That brings me to my point.  No matter how hip you make a motel, motels still have some tragic design flaws, one of which is the inability to open a window allowing fresh air to reach you in the middle of the night.  Around 3 AM, I resort to turning the air conditioner on HI.  The temperature reminds me of when my mom’s Toyota Landcruiser was having coolant problems and heat would occasionally sputter out of the AC vents in the middle of June.  It was uncomfortably unrefreshing.

After Veronica leaves I realize I am writhing around in my flannel sheet bed, dying of heat.  And then I realize that I feel quite sick, possibly on the verge of throwing up.  As an adult, I find this vomitous sensation quite bizarre.  It’s as though I’ve been able to control most all bodily functions with the exception of this.  And I like to be in control.  When you throw up you are at the whim of a force of nature seemingly unknown and unwilling to negotiate.  At 5:45 I am forced to get inappropriately intimate with The Jupiter’s white porcelain toilet.  And at 7:00 AM, I relive the experience.

I walk the AstroTurf stairs down to the driveway, past the patio, through the doors and into the Doug Fir diner.  Danika, Kelly, and Karen are there eating breakfast.  I think of what my mom would have made me eat when I was 9, around the time I stopped getting sick like this.  Toast.  Then I order orange juice.  Mom wouldn’t approve of its acidity but I think that maybe the Vitamin C would be good for me if I’m to get rid of this thing.

“Do you want coffee?” Danika asks.

“Good lord, no.”

They know it’s serious.  I rarely pass up an opportunity for a latte.  The waitress who probably doesn’t like us returns with my dry toast and orange juice.  I slather on some strawberry jam.  Bad move.  The sweet overcomes me.  I decide that a better route would be to lightly spackle the toast with a dusting of jam every inch and a half or so.

“Are you pregnant?” Danika asks.

“No.  Absolutely not.  No way.  Uh uh.”

If this is pregnancy, I’ll adopt.  We finish breakfast and stand outside.  I feel sick again.  We get in the cab.  I feel really not so nice.  We get to the airport.  Karen and I are in the security line.  This is a most unfortunate situation.  I lean over my bag.  I pray I don’t get sick all over these people traveling to different states with their roller bags and their vacation hats.  Ever so slowly I end up on the other side of the x-ray machines and the FAA man with the bored face and the blue latex gloves.  I put on my silver Converse.  We walk down the hall.  I call my mom.

“Are you pregnant?”

Everyone thinks this is a humorous thing to ask.  I demure.  Mom tells me to go buy a 7 Up and sip really slowly.  I know she is going to tell me this because this is what she’s been telling me to do since I was little.  I gave up soda in the tenth grade and I never liked 7 Up because I only ever associated it with being ill.  Nevertheless I hobble over to the sundry store and scan the cooler for 7 Up.  Sprite.  Damn it.  Pepsi apparently has a strong hold in the Portland Airport.  I buy a Barq’s Root Beer.  I haven’t purchased a soda since 2000 and it feels liberating, it feels like being a real person.  I walk back to my seat and have a sip.  I look at the amount of sugar per serving.  I put the plastic bottle on the floor and lay down the span of two chairs, my feet by Karen and her US Weekly.

The feeling overcomes me again.   I get up and walk as quickly as I can, eying the round silver trash cans within sprinting view for the worst case scenario.  I make it through the bathroom and into a large handicap stall.  Barely.  There’s no one in here but I try to be quiet.  I’ve overheard someone getting sick in the loo before and I generally bare no empathy, only disgust.  My toast and orange juice never happened.  I walk out.  I feel better.

We board the plane.  It is small.  Two people on each side.  6C.  I am surrounded by eleven models, most of them friends.  Karen sits next to me.  The only foreign entity is an older gentleman who Nicole moved away from when he snorted loudly in the way that old people do.  The plane takes off.  I get cheeky and imagine I am cured.  The 1/3 left of a Peanut Butter Cliff bar gets eaten with a half bottle of tap water I filled up once I got through security.  Immediately I regret my hubris.  We are air bound and approaching our cruising altitude, a number that never means anything to me but certain death if something were to happen.

DING.  DING.  The seat belt light ceases to illuminate and I run to the back of the airplane to the only restroom available.  There’s a gray haired man waiting in the aisle.  I am sure he sees the panic in my face and in my voice when I squeak out, “Are you waiting?”  He obviously is but I am hoping he is telepathic or chivalrous.  He is neither.  I turn to walk back to my seat, grabbing a white paper bag from a chair-back in front of a sleeping girl.

I’m back at row 6.  Karen looks at me.  I look at Karen.  My mouth waters.  I grab the bag.  I will myself to not be sick.  I will.  I will.  I will.  My mouth waters.  I heave silently.  Karen rubs my back.

“Are you sure you’re not pregnant?” Danika asks again.

Again, I feel better.  I am relieved.  I dispose of my bag discretely in the now inconveniently available restroom.  I return to my seat.  Thirty minutes creeps by and like a wave, it returns.  I grab yet another white bag – things I have only ever previously used to doodle notes on and stick wads of chewed gum into.  Karen rubs, I am sick, I produce another bag full of shame.

The rest of the flight continues uninterrupted but I feel wasted and tired and ready to be home.  Traveling used to be fun.  I used to park in the $30 dollar lot and walk over a bridge to the airport.  I used to be able to keep on my shoes and listen to my Sony Walkman while staring out the window.  I was not scared.  I did not hate the experience.  Now I am a frequent flier with a penchant for immunity deficiencies.  I don’t stare out windows, looking wistfully at the dusty topography below.  I think about recycled air and swine flu and premature wrinkles and terrorists and engine malfunctions.  I loathe.  Actively.


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