A Reason to Believe

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I’m about to get on my flight from Philadelphia to Prague. Besides the fact that I’m leaving my family, everything is grand. I have had two beers which totaled $23. But the bartender was a nice guy and I got to watch football before being shipped back to a place where football is played by a bunch of guys kicking a ball and falling down in tears at a nearby gnat.

I’m used to being annoyed at the airport. People seem to leave a great deal of their IQ points in the car that dropped them off. But today, everything is smooth. The lines are curiously short, nobody has tried to cut in front of me in said lines, and everyone has been very nice. Hm.

As they begin boarding, I decide I would like to see if a change to my seat is possible. I am a middle seat and boy am I ticked about that. I am the only person in line. I approach the woman. I smile. The two beers I’ve had were made exponentially stronger by their price.  

“Any chance I can be moved to an aisle?”

She looks.

While she looks I explain that I don’t really mind if they can’t move me, it’s not a big deal. I am lying.

“Well sir, they’re going to charge you to change seats…”

“Ah.” I am already shrugging and raising my eyebrows to show her how cool I am with that news.

“But,” she says, casting a glance hither and yon, “it’s not a full flight. The aisle seat next to you is empty, so just sit there.”

“Oh, thank you.”

One can see instantly that the plane will not be full. The groups are tiny. The man boarding the flight has to double up groups 3 and 4. He looks a little embarrassed, as if he’s having a party nobody has shown up to. The guy in front of me is roughly sixteen feet tall. He turns to me.

“Man, am I missing something? Nobody’s here.”

“I know.”

We are on the plane in a matter of minutes. I am so relaxed I forget to do my flying ritual wherein I kiss the plane and say a little poem to her. I take one step backwards off the plane and do that. But it’s a bit forced.

The sixteen foot tall guy is sitting directly in front of the aisle seat in which I’d like to switch. He’s already got his seat leaned as far back as it can go. If I sit in the seat behind him I’ll be able to braid his hair on the way to Prague. Aha! Something to be annoyed about! The flight attendant sees this conundrum and stops.

“Oh…” she scans a tablet. “Sir, why don’t you go up to seat 12C. It’s an aisle and it’s free.”

“Thank you.”

The rest of the flight goes better than planned. I am in a row of four seats with one other guy. We lounge, taking over the free seats next to us. We take off early. I am eating and drinking wine in an hour. I put my chair back (nobody’s behind me, so no braiding worries) and I watch movies.    

An hour into Harry Potter. “Sir, would you care for some more wine?”

Inner answer: Oh you guys are trying to provoke me now, aren’t you?

Outer answer: “Oh yes, please, thank you.”

I sleep during the landing.

In seven hours I am home. My new place is a 25 minute bus from the airport and the bus drops me off a two minute walk from my house. I greet the cat, let her smell me and rub her face on me for an hour of what will be six straight hours of face rubbing. I look in the fridge and become disappointed as all people do that neither the cat nor the flat elves have stocked it while I was away. I walk to the store.

It’s here that I begin to decline into a heady case of jet lag. To boot, the stock guy is doing what he does best, which is stock the floor during the rush times. He has huge crates and pallets all throughout the produce section and he casts dirty looks and head shakes at anyone who has trouble squeezing past him.

That’s right. I knew they wouldn’t disappoint. I begin to sweat. I squeeze past the guy and he rolls his eyes.

“Hey jerk, it’s been a month of cheesesteaks and pizza. You wanna lay off?”

He blinks at me.

The unmistakable signs of jetlag are encroaching. Slightly feverish, sweaty, blinks are lasting a few seconds. I get to the taco section. But the taco section is no longer the taco section. Was there ever a taco section? The coffee isn’t where it used to be. In the one month I have been gone, the store has been completely renovated and its contents switched around.

I give up on what I want and just buy a random assortment of things that sort of look edible. For the first time in my life rice cakes seem reasonable.

By the time I get to the self-checkout, I am drunk with the lag. The checkout stops its progress a number of times while I try to make a ¼ ounce bag of pepper weigh something. The sun is beating down on me now, my underwear has lodged itself somewhere inside of me in what seems to be a retroactive wedgie. That’s it. That’s it. I knew I’d finally have a reason to be annoyed if I just waited long enough.

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