What you’re about to read is a fairly exhaustive account of my experience with Delta Airline’s DL417 flight from NYC–>LA–>Sydney, Australia. I’ve managed to fill about 50 college ruled notebook pages — just on the flight experience alone — which I am now culling through and editing for my writerly and your readerly pleasure. (Note: I tend to use a lot of parenthesis and footnotes — not to mention em-dashes; semicolons are often employed as well.) So far, what I’ve read of my own account includes the following (in no particular order): a reference to a porn star, the ethnic makeup of JFK airport, self-sexual objectification, shake shack, gate changes, flight delays, a significantly pregnant woman, my ambivalence toward the fear of flying, and various death statistics (including the statistic of death wrought by falling vending machines) — oh and an allusion or two to travel-dildos… and that’s just my notebook’s first twenty pages. Consider yourself warned. Anyway, here it is: The Intricacies of Flying Coach: Part 1:
…Car ride to JFK, good bye Dad, good bye NYC — love you, miss you — yada yada yada, blah blah blah… Alright, let’s cut to the part where I’ve already printed out my boarding pass and begin at the baggage-check. Now, to get to the baggage-check there’s a person who inspects your ticket and directs you to the correct line; however, this inspector/director erroneously believes me to be the child of the middle-aged couple in front of me and so instructs me to “just follow [my] parents that way.” Easy misunderstanding. And so I explain: “no, I’m actually not with them, I’m traveling solo,” and so she examines my ticket and tells me to “go right over there,” there being where the middle-aged couple is walking toward anyway, and as I stroll over with my 2’x1′ electric blue rolling bag, I read the flatscreen TVs hovering above the baggage-check’s desks — all the TVs have the triangular Delta logo to the left of the actual company name, Delta (all of them) — and I realize that there’s really only one place in this whole area that I could possibly be directed toward for baggage-checking services anyway (and so why there is a worker inspecting tickets and shepherding passengers to the desks, as if we needed shepherding, I do not know). There was virtually no line, and a check-in assistant lady seated behind a desk to my far right waved me over. This particular check-in assistant lady stood out from the others due to her dyed blonde hair, cocktail-cherry colored lipstick, and navy blue floppy hat.
I approached her smiling:
“Ah I get the stylish one, lucky me,” I said. At that, she tilted the brim of her hat whilst slightly pursing her lips (in a posing-model sort of way), and then she laughed a bit.
“Oh, don’t even get her riled up like that,” her co-worker told me.
“Why not,” I said, “y’all can have some fun on the job.”
“Yeah, but she’ll have too much fun.”
“Come on now. I already know what you do: when the airport’s not busy and the lights go off, I know you two be partying on that conveyor belt behind you.” They both laughed at that (Style with more of an enjoyed laugh; Co-Worker with more of an oh-my-god laugh), and Style said, in a kind of epiphanic way:
“Oooh, you’re funny!”
I heaved my bag onto the scale, slipped my passport onto the counter, and I continued talking:
“That conveyor belt isn’t just for bags. Bags go out to the right and the bottles come in from the left — I know, I know.”
Style, who was admittedly very cute, was looking at my passport when she asked how old I was, to which I replied:
The co-worker then said:
“Oh so you can’t be drinking legally. Wait, do you drink?”
“What’re we talking about? Like Patron, or like apple juice?”
“Aha, see I told you he’s funny.”
Style ripped some things, handed me my passport, boarding pass, and luggage receipt, and then pointed me in the direction of the security check-point.
“Have a good flight.”
“Thanks, you too.”
2: The Line to Get to the Security Line and Then the Actual Security Line
At the security check-point junction, there’s a short beetle-like man who inspects my ticket and directs me to the appropriate station, where I wait on line between the queue-forming retractable belts of several snaking stanchions. While on this line-to-get-to-the-security-line, I take a few moments to study the structure of Kennedy. The ceiling is supported by these large, white, ribcage-of-a-whale-type beams that have nets webbing from one to another, lending a vaguely nautical aesthetic to the interior design.
There’s that stop-then-go-then-stop pace to the queue.
There’s the people who pick up their bags and put them down, and there’s the ones who just opt to kicking their luggage across the floor.
There’s a woman who’s standing a few spaces ahead of me on line, and every time I swerve around one of the stanchion poles we make eye contact. This happens three times and the reasons for this are: (1) if you just so happen to make eye contact with a person once, you tend to glance over at said person subsequent times to see if they’re glancing over at you (which they probably are for the sake of discerning whether or not you’re glancing over at them), and if you both happen to be glancing over at one another at the same time, then your glancing pair of ojos’ll tend to meet almost magnetically — let’s call this the Mutual Glancing Principle. Reason number (2) for the repeated eye contact is: this woman bears a fucking uncanny resemblance to a porn actress named Rachel Starr [sic]. And, apparently, at least for me, seeing someone who you suspect of having salacious videography that you’ve masturbated to on several occasions is highly conducive to reflexive ogling, and thus, due to the Mutual Glancing Principle, subsequent eye contact. To give you some details about Ms. Porn Star Doppelgänger: she is about 5′ 5″; tan; brunette; busty; kind of has a horse-face; is wearing skin tight black cotton leggings that are stretched just enough to be not-really-all-that-opaque-at-all, allowing for the sight of some flesh to come through which concordantly enables one to discern the exact color and type of underwear she has on; and she is also donning a skin-tight T-shirt with the phrase Why U Mad Bro? emblazoned on it (the U Mad being severely distorted by the curvature of her breasts). And/but/anyway on the third time we make eye contact, she gives me a vaguely xenophobic um-do-I-know-u? furrowing of the brow which makes me realize that my incessant ogling is incredibly overt and probably coming off as kind of creepy; and/but, hey, she’s clearly looking at me too, so I shoot her a reciprocal um-do-I-know-u? brow furrow, after which I avert my gaze.
At the end of the line, there is a passport and ticket inspection lady (also very attractive and classy looking (see FN 3), with hair like a conch shell) who is seated atop a black stool. She opens my passport, looks at the contents, shoots me a quick bureaucratic glance, looks back at the passport, scans it, and circles the gate number on my boarding pass before signing it with a little blue squiggle.
In the security line, there’s the customary procedure involving zips of bags and clacks of trays (and I’m still not quite sure why it is that you have to put your laptop in its own separate container). Everyone in the security line has the exact same flat faced expression (myself included, I imagine). It all seems very procedural — I kind of feel like a toy rolling through an assembly line; the security people are the assembly line workers checking the made in USA thing, that is me, for defects. Everyone seems to know the drill, no one seems to like it, but like hey it’s what you got to do, you know. And/but/still why is it that everyone has the exact same insipid expression on their face? I start to attribute this solidarity of dull visages to everyone being tired in the AM, but I realize that it’s 4:45PM, so early morning exhaustion doesn’t explain it. Perhaps it’s simply that procedure has a way of zapping individuality.
There’s two cookie cutter flight attendants on line. I wonder if the red lipstick and light amounts of eye shadow are mandatory aspects of uniform for them, or if the identical make up is a matter of choice — probably the former.
There’s the security person signaling people through the large metal detection chamber, and I hear him compliment Porn Star Doppelgänger on her Why U Mad Bro? T-shirt.
A woman in a wheelchair with a black knee wrap gets helped up and skips the line. I make a bad “no fair, I wish I was handicap” joke in my mind.
I enter the metal detection chamber, hold my hands above my head while a contraption swipes from left to right making a mechanical hum, and I almost get away scott free afterward, but they give me a quick pat down — one that, to my gratitude, leaves my balls ungrabbed — before letting me head to the conveyor belt to retrieve my items. The opaque eggshell colored x-ray trays are all backed up and so I have to take the empty ones and start stacking them to free up some space. One of the cherry lipped flight attendants helps and gives me a nice contrived smile — it’s the kind of saleswoman-like rictus which always manages to generate on my face a reciprocal rictus of equal phoniness.
3: Kennedy Gates
As I’m heading to the gate, I kind of like freak out internally when I see that, yes, there is a fucking Shake Shack there! And there’s no line. And the one cashier on duty (tall, thin, dark-skinned, demurely attractive) is being chatted up by a tall, white, curly headed guy, and she has a rictus which seems to be genuine, and I maneuver my voyeuristic eavesdropping self nearer so that I can get a better look and a closer ear, whereupon I hear him ask for her number, to which I hear her reply, “yeah we can be friends,” and then, after a slightly awkward so-what-now pause, she says, “here, I’m gonna write down my number on your receipt.” The guy walked off having only purchased a bottle of Abita beer, and he sort of just lingered in the area thereafter sipping on it. The guy was at least twice her age and had these like lumps along his neck which I speculate were the result of sloppy shaving — but who knows? — and he’s kind of disheveled and just really ogre-esque and was wearing a white button down shirt, the left side (and only the left side) of which was tucked into his black jeans. There was a vague rocker vibe to him — 1 part too-cool-for-school, 2 parts washed-up-white-dude; I think he was trying to masquerade the latter as the former, I don’t know.
I order a cheeseburger and grape Fanta and go to gate B37 to sit down and eat. To my right, there is guy who appears to be around my age incrementally imbibing water from a bottle of Aquafina — for some reason, after each sip, he shoots the bottle’s label a studious look for a few seconds. Across from me is a mother who looks kind of worn down and exhausted. I figure this is from having to take care of four children. And as I’m watching one of them tug on her sleeve, I see another start to wonder off from the pack. And the mother seems to be lacking in attentiveness as the boy meanders away. And I was almost going to say something, but then I saw another woman — who, BTW, was just italicizably significantly pregnant — trudging ostrich-like, with both her hands pressed against the small of her back, chasing after the wandering boy; it was only moments later when this significantly pregnant woman emerged from the right side of my periphery, dragging her reluctant son behind her by the wrist.
I was so wrapped up in the scene that I didn’t consciously process the announcement on the PA system, but I noticed that people were starting to get up and move, and so I looked at an LCD in my vicinity and saw that the gate for DL417 was changed from B37 to B34, and so I finished my burger and transitioned.
The new waiting area is immensely populated with electronics.
I sat there and did some writing. Among other things (most of which you have just read), I write that the ethnic makeup of this place is such that perhaps 90% of the low-level workers in the airport are either African-American or Hispanic, while maybe 90% of the passengers are White. This hugely disproportionate Colored-worker-to-Non-Colored-passenger ratio is almost impossible not to notice, and, if you’re like me, such observations are liable to arouse some feelings of White Guilt.
There’s an announcement for first class passengers to board, which is not-too-long-after followed by an announcement for zone 1 passengers (that’s me and what appears to be half of the plane).
4: Boarding Delta Airline’s Giant Flying Metal Tube (Complete w/ TV, Beverages, and Statistically At Least One Person Who Has Packed a Dildo) From JFK–>LAX.
My seat (28G) is in the row adjacent to the wing and is a window seat. When I look out, I can see that the hinges lining the wing have these brownish rusty streaks — which, frankly, look diarrhetic and give the plane a sort of worn and torn aesthetic that’s simultaneously comforting and mildly perturbing (comforting because this plane has clearly been used many many times and hasn’t yet fallen apart; perturbing because this plane has clearly been used many many times and so is overdue for falling apart). Another way you can tell the plane isn’t all-too-new is that in the bathroom there is a sign that says “federal law provides for a penalty of up to $2200 for tampering with the smoke detector installed in this lavatory/No Smoking in Lavatory” followed by a symbol of a smoking cigarette encased in a red prohibition circle — this alone being no indicator of the flying vessel’s age — but, literally about two feet away (left of the sink) is a smoking cigarette symbol, sans prohibition circle, embossed on a brushed metal ashtray, the presence of which means that this plane was once smoker friendly and thus dates the DL417 vessel back to at least 2000.
Now, I’ve probably been on over a hundred flights in my lifetime, and so the sheer level of repeated exposure to flying that I’ve had has managed to condition out of my nervous system any aviophobia. Emotionally, flying is not a problem; intellectually, however, I’m still ambivalent. See, on the one hand, the number of variables that have to coincide in order for the fucking miracle of sustained human flight to occur is so vast that it takes very little mental effort to concoct numerous hypothetical situations in which any number of things go wrong, landing you, not on a tarmac, but beneath a “Here Lies _____” gravestone. On the other hand, flying is statistically the safest form of travel. At this point, I am reminded of a cab driver whom I conversed with once on my way from Wesleyan to New Haven, and whom I here officially give a tip-of-my-hat to. I mention him here, because, during our conversation, he apprised me of the fact that cabbing was merely a weekend vocation for him; his main job was as a quote jet-turbine construction auditor (or something like that), which entailed, he explained to me, ensuring that workers who assemble jet engines follow procedures and don’t like fuck up the rivets and whatnot. When he told me that, I said to him, “yeah all you need is a guy to have a fight with his wife one night, come in stressed the next day, and accidentally leave a bolt unscrewed.” “Funny you mention that, spouse trouble is one of the top things we check out for,” he said before informing me about his recent divorce. Anyway, it’s guys like him who are partially responsible for your and my safety on a commercial flight, so I must pay my respects. Not to mention the fact that he was just overall a fine-seeming individual; I wish him well.
After taking my seat, a girl entered my row, but moved to 27E once her bag got put up. It quickly becomes clear that there’s going to be a lot of empty seats on this plane. This turns out in my favor — I luckily have both 28F&G to myself. DL417’s vacancy also turns out to be beneficial for Ms. 27E’s travel companion, who has just now completely ditched her in order to sit in the empty row 30. This guy is tall and jacked, but the most noteworthy thing about him is the American Psycho T-shirt he is wearing, which features the giant blood-flecked face of Christian Bale as fictional psycho-serial killer Patrick Bateman.
The air in the plane is chilly and has that — what shall we call it? — mile-high smell (which is kind of similar to new-car-smell, but less leathery), and I prepare for our scheduled 6:05PM takeoff. Unbeknownst to me at the time, we wouldn’t be leaving JFK for about another two-and-a-half hours.
Stay tuned for Part 2.
 You’ll get used to it. BACK TO TEXT
 Let’s give her the moniker Style. BACK TO TEXT
 I’ve noticed that there’s a considerably sizable portion of attractive females in the airport workforce — all tall, thin, dark-skinned, and just like very classy looking (which fairs even that much more nicely when you juxtapose these real-life ladies with the media-propagated stereotype of African-American women as like trashy or quote ratchet (a stereotype which, at least in my experience, is severely misrepresentative if the female black population at large)). BACK TO TEXT
 That’s right, I said, “you too” as in “you have a good flight as well.” It’s instances such as these that make me realize how much of social interaction is purely reflexive. When someone says “have a good _____,” the customary reply we’ve learned is, “thanks, you too” — most of the time, you don’t really even think about it; it’s just one of those inculcated communicative conventions. All of our daily social interactions are fraught with these sorts of tics.* BACK TO TEXT
*I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve greeted people in the elevator with “Hey, do you know what time it is?” and had my interlocutor respond with, “I’m good, thanks, and you?”
 Apparently on line is a New Yorkerism that sounds weird to non-natives — as it should, because it technically doesn’t make any sense unless you’re like a tightrope walker who’s literally standing on a line. However, in this particular case, the linguistic descriptivist* in me trumps over the linguistic prescriptivist.† I’m sticking with on line. BACK TO POST
*These are your go-with-the-vernacular-flow linguists. “I don’t care if it’s ‘by accident’ or ‘on accident,’ insofar as I understand what you mean,” these people will say.
†Your Grammar Gestapos who will tell you, e.g., “it’s ‘I feel bad,’ not ‘I feel badly,’ because ‘badly’ is an adverb which in context would imply that your actual capacity for feeling is poor (as in: I am a bad feeler), instead of the actual emotion you’re experiencing being a bad one.”
 All this architectural scrutinizing, BTW, is to the annoyance of the person behind me, the nudge of whose bag against my achilles tendon reminds me at least twice to move forward. BACK TO POST
 Black thong. BACK TO POST
 The self-perception of creepiness-wrought-from-ogling was deepened when I found myself later having to resort to massaging the corners of my hairline with my left hand in order to occlude her stretched-legging covered callipygian buttocks from my sight line when she bent over to take off her shoes, this being a necessary measure (the hairline massaging) because I was really having trouble exercising self control over my eyeballs and just not looking — an accretive, post-pubescent problem for me. BACK TO POST
 I would apologize for the blatant sexual objectification of Porn Star Doppelgänger that I have thus far partaken in, however, in this case (and feminist writer Ariel Levy (who’s book, Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women and the Rise of Raunch Culture, I’ve admittedly only read a few excerpts of) I think would agree with me), I think it’s fair to say that she objectified herself. So, seeing as I’m a GDHB (God Damn Human Being) with sexual proclivities, no apologies* for my ogling here. BACK TO POST
*Not that you, my dear reader, necessarily want an apology anyway; however, I do know some people who would.
 I don’t know why I’m being so judgmental of this guy. BACK TO POST
 I’m not sure what he was studying when he looked at the label, but I can tell you it wasn’t the nutrition facts or anything like that. I know this because the nutrition facts were facing me. I don’t know why I’m lingering on this dude’s drinking habits, but it was just kind of weird — it seemed as though he was an alien in a human body trying Aquafina for the first time (i.e. it was as if he’d never encountered anything like it before). It was water. BACK TO POST
 The man sitting to my left had earbuds in that plugged into a black iPhone 5 that was charging atop an iPad with a key lime green case that nestled atop a Macbook Pro. The woman to my right was reading something off of an iPad that had a case featuring a Composition notebook’s marble-esque pattern skeuomorphed onto it, which I thought was a cute design. Everyone else who was in my area was on an iPhone.*
*I remember when ownership of an iPhone was the apex of technological neophilia; now it’s the opposite. I wonder how long it’ll be until, say, owning Google glasses will be commonplace. BACK TO POST
 The thing about my particular brand of White Guilt is that it’s difficult to distinguish as anything more than plain old vanity. I.e. the apologetic feeling stemming from the sense that my race has wronged another’s’ (i.e. White Guilt) is one that, at least in my case, primarily functions to satisfy an egoistic desire to perceive myself as a decent human being. So, what happens is that I see racial inequality, feel a subsequent measure of guilt, and allow the guilt to act as confirmation of my decency — ’cause hey, at least I care, unlike some schmoes who don’t even take the time out of their day to think about these sorts of things, let alone feel guilty about them. So my White Guilt is mostly vain. But, guilt as vanity isn’t really a problem. The problem is letting yourself believe that feeling guilty is in and of itself enough to make you a truly decent person, because, IMHO, it’s not. It’s not enough to feel guilty. It’s not enough to care. You gotta take action, you know. Meanwhile, all I really do about inequality is sit and write about how I feel guilty about it (which I guess is taking action in my own way, but — I don’t know, though — it mostly just feels like a cop-out on my part (this very FN is a cop-out (in a way, this is just me trying to seem decent by acknowledging that my desire to seem decent is egoistic))). BACK TO POST
 A small 4’x3′ cubicle whose toilet lets out a screeching eeeeh before emitting a flinch-inducing sunctiony roar when you flush it. I defy anyone to clog a commercial airplane toilet. BACK TO POST
 Seriously, it would take two seconds to cover over the ashtray with a sticker or something — why has Delta not done this already? BACK TO POST
 Yes, it was not until the year 2000 that smoking was banned on all US Domestic flights. BACK TO POST
 The fuel tank leaks. The landing gear malfunctions. Birds fly into the engine. The pilot has a nervous mass-homicidal breakdown. The in-flight microwave (do those exist? they must) explodes causing a potentially lethal fire. A passenger on the flight witnesses a mob murder and is on his way to testify, so the mob loads the plane with poisonous snakes. Etcetera, etcetera. I’ll stop now for your sake. But just so you know, I’ve filled about a page and a half of my notebook with more ridiculous scenarios, the most lengthy and nonsensical of which takes place in a person’s luggage in the cargo section of the plane — here, I guess I’ll just give you the abridged version — and involves a nitroglycerin suppository being warmed up by a heat therapy pad and concordantly becoming sensitized and unstable and liable to explode from physical shock (e.g. shaking too quickly), and, in this hypothetical (that I’m pretty sure actually makes no scientific sense), the necessary physical shock is provided by the immensely powerful undulations of an accidentally switched on vibrating dildo. BACK TO POST
 Here’s the thing, in pretty much any situation, there’s a myriad of possibilities that can lead to your already inevitable death. When you go to a restaurant, you don’t know whether or not the chef is healthy or mentally stable and has thus deliberately or unwittingly infected your food with some insidious virus, the etiology of which you’ll never even think to trace back to that particular meal. Or when you drive, all it really takes for a crash to occur is for the trucker to your right, who’s been on the road for 18 hours straight, to doze off for half a second and swerve into your vehicle causing a side collision crash that pushes you past the median strip into oncoming traffic, resulting in a head-on collision that ultimately ends with the stick shift lodged into your frontal lobe. Hell, even you reading this right now are liable to suffer from a perhaps-unlikely-but-not-impossible stroke or heart attack…. You still here? Good. Anyway, sometimes you really gotta stop and appreciate the sheer complexity of the universe and just how fucking easy it is for anything and everything to go wrong at any moment, whilst acknowledging that the fact that you are still here reading these words right now is indicative of an almost infinite multitude of variables coinciding and essentially conspiring to perpetuate your existence. Even at the atomic level, valence bonds, and the stability and reactiveness of those bonds, have to be such that they can form complex carbon-based polymers that enable you to — well, that enable you. When you consider this, all the imperfections of our world are temporarily dwarfed by the fact that things ultimately do kind of work. Yes, there is war, poverty, injustice, inequality; yes, the gap between rich and poor is insufferable, as is the gap between my two front teeth (which is just wide enough to let food get stuck between them, yet just narrow enough to not let that food escape, so I’m left at the dinner table trying to suction out the pulled pork to no avail); yes, there is so much that is wrong. But, just for you to be able to do something as simple as peruse these words that you’re perusing now, so much has to be right.* BACK TO TEXT
*Think about the screen you’re reading from right now in this moment. Consider how many things throughout time had to cumulate in order for you to be able to read this right now. A person had to design the device you’re using. Someone had to assemble it (if a machine assembled it then someone had to assemble the machine (which someone had to first design…). Someone had to make the battery. Mine the materials. Someone had to install the electrical socket which enables you to plug your device in. Someone had to discover electricity. Another person had to figure out how best to apply it… Etcetera, etcetera… All that I have just mentioned and much much more was necessary in order for you to read these English words that you are reading now. Speaking of which, consider the cumulative creation of the English language. The formation of words and their meanings. The syntactical rules. The very word “word.” The letters. L e t t e r s period. The sounds of letters. Es. Oh. Yoo. En. Dee. Es. The Wernicke’s area of your brain which processes language. The cells in that brain. The experiences (all of your experiences) that have accumulated to shape that brain. And the millions and billions of years that went into the biological evolution of that brain. Consider your parents, and all that had to happen for them to meet in order to produce that brain.† And all that had to happen for their parents to meet. And their parents. Etcetera, down to the Big Bang. And what about the atoms in the tennis-ball sized pre-bang universe. And the quarks that make up those atoms. And the space between them — nothingness. The very concept of nothingness. And our capacity to perceive that concept (via the brain)… Etcetera, etcetera… Anyway, I’m fuckin’ hungry — ugh, but there’s like no places around here that deliver 24/7 — OMG, that’s such bullshit! FML!
† My father ended up meeting my mother because he had 15 minutes to spare before a business meeting and went to go shine his shoes, whereupon they happened to converge. Had he not done that, no marriage. No me. No blog post.
 You are almost half as likely to die from shopping on black friday (~550 people a year) as you are from a plane crash (~1,200), and approximately nine times as likely to die from a lightning strike (~10,000). I have these statistics memorized. Another fun fact: 13 people are crushed to death every year by a vending machine.* BACK TO TEXT
*Imagine this notso unrealistic dialogue:
“Hey, I’m so sorry to hear about Shelly. If you don’t mind me asking, how did she die?”
Sniffle. “She was killed.”
Sniffle, sniffle. “A vending machine.”
Gasp. “Oh my god, that’s horrible.” Pause. “Wait what?”
Grrr. “A falling vending machine murdered Shelly, dammit!”
Grrrumph. “Well, you should sue the company for not putting a Beware of Falling Vending Machine label next to the 99¢ bag of Cheetos! (Not to mention suing Cheetos as well for deceptively filling half the damn bag with air — I want my money’s worth!)” Sigh. “Anyway, again, sorry to hear about Shelly. She was a good girl.”
[Editing Note: Since publishing this, I have been apprised, by the good Marshal Lawler, that the reason for all the air in chip bags is to protect the chips from getting crushed in the manufacturing/shipping process.]