Thirty Four

1:30 AM Tuesday, January 18, 2000

I've pushed to my breaking point. I'm there. I'm there I tell ya.

I was just handed my second tube of CLINIQUE. In front of me, a human, approximately 1 year old, was just pushing his head into the 5 inch gap in the middle of the row of seats. Apparently so he could see the rest of me. There was a mad mix-up with the Duty-free boys. I don't know which to write about, the human or the hand lotion. 2 tubes is double the (Sorry, I was mid-sentence when I was handed a hot, steaming towel. Ahhh.) dryness fighting formula you need. The shit is rushin by too fast. The old, round Chinese lady that was sitting next to me a second ago just got up and sat in another seat. I have 3 FULL SEATS. Yeah, so what if I'm on "infant alley"? I got tha plugs. I got shit raining down on me. I'm being "towered over" by a huge video projection. I think this is where I sat during the ABBA documentary. Must I say what's up on the thing? It's hard to believe, I'm sure, no matter what distance you might have. I will not put the headphones on. I will not be a party to the 13 year old Chinese girl being seduced by a couple of Fabio types in soft focus. Pan flute and electric cello, and white dress shirts unbuttoned down to the nasty part. Wholesome in the eyes of this socialist Chinese airline?

Ok, Here's what happened. I jammed into the SFO Duty-free and said, "Clinique, moisturizer!" pronouncing an extra tight "eek", and she bags up the stuff. I say, "No bag." And she says, "Yes, bag you must have." But she still won't give it to me. She grabs my boarding pass, scans it and says, "You pick this up at boarding." So I go, "My plane's leaving now. It's 12:05." But she just says, "Go." So? So! So I go to boarding and they don't peel any bags off me. (Which really pisses me off, it does, when they do that. Like how Southwest doesn't permit skateboards as carry-on.) And I go to the Duty-Free guy, "Where's the lotion?" and he takes my receipt, which had my seat number on it and looks for my bag in the bagrows. They have a shopping cart full of bags from the store and the passengers are all clamoring to claim their bag. Well, he don't find it, to give it to you quickly and to the point, unlike this guy gives it. This guy takes 4-ever. He runs away and meanwhile, the other Duty-Free / pseudo airport official is trying to sell porcelain figurines to an old lady. He pulls the blue head of a swordfish out of the cart and the old lady says, "I want a fish." And he says, "This is a fish." My guy comes back empty handed and I get kinda stern with him and send him back after it. The other guy has switched to selling mermaid figurines. "This one is good." He says. And soon my guy runs up with a bag and I snatch it and run on the plane. I don't know if I realized it when it happened. Maybe there was a special situation and the airport workers weren't really selling unclaimed merchandise. After all, that sort of thing doesn't happen here in the US. Right?

frooti   27461 bytes

So, some couple with a baby want to trade for my seat so I says, "yeah" and off I go to sit with the old lady. That's when stuff hit me so fast in the face that I felt my skin stretching hard. (I think the hulking-beast-747-from-the-east is released. As I write this, we're waddling like a huge cruise ship waddles. The cabin air hisses and screams with high frequency pitches. I feel like David Bowie in my mid-isle spotlight. Ok, I'll walk away bowed over in retreat from that one.)

That was when I started playing peek-a-boo with the baby who's eyes were lidded like acorns. Do we know what acorns are? I'm mostly asking myself cause I'm not too sure of things right now. Just as I'm getting it from all sides and we're about to take off, the flight attendant guys come running back with another Duty-free bag (This one has my official receipt attached. But I let them turn around and leave.) They're trying to find the owner of the bag. They started to look desperate and they ask the guy that I switched seats with if he'd bought something from Duty-Free (Wow, we took off and I don't think I noticed it. I think it slipped by me as I was bearing down on this pad of paper. That's right, flowin ink, torn fibers.) The guy I switched with points at me and they ask me, "Did you buy from Duty-Free?" and I say yes and he hands me the bag. I felt the tube through it and I announced, for all interested parties, "This is Clinique." (with extra-special spice on the "eek") "Hand lotion." And I produced from the bag, a light green tube of goop. I basked in my delight for a bit and then went about stowing my new booty. I throw the second tube next to my first and it hits with a plastic thud, and comes to rest on my rust red shawl from Bombay's Nana Chowk. I feel no guilt whatsoever at getting twice what I paid for once. I feel a little bit like I just solved a problem and helped out the poor airline guys. I'm gonna be down Nana Chowk come Wednesday. (We've been in the air 11 minutes. That is a piece of in-flight "data" that flows across grids of projection cells. It towers. Were taking "the big leap" over the pond, Ladies and Gentlemen, Thank You Very Much.)

I wish I was back at that point where I can remember what it was like to break. The point when I was past the breaking point but still freshly broken. I can't remember even remembering even. I can't tell if I'm misbehaving or not. This is psychosis, boys and girls. I think I just physically geeked-out. Geek as in carnival geek, not like Steve Jobs. I think I yelped in realization and some point and my body may have seized forward.

My old lady, she's got a ring of beads and she's spinning it. One brown lump at a time down a red string. She's praying. Or "what those of the spirit world call praying". We're getting pinpoint-accurate positional readouts. We all must know our location. That's what I say. We used to know it. Indeed, we need to not only know it, but to get used to knowing it. It's been minutes and grandma's still knockin those beads down into her palm. I'm fumbling horribly now. Pixelating.