Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Airplane Bathrooms and Other Works of Satan

I am traveling alone, carry-on only, and speed through security like a bullet train.  Oops, I probably shouldn't say "bullet" in an airport.

They wave me on, approving the boarding pass that is displayed on my phone.  Completely paperless.  I am impressed.

I see a mother pushing a stroller, and a father laboring over a cumbersome carseat.  However will he fit it into the sardine-like seats of the airplane?  I hope he's not my seatmate.

But I feel sympathy.  I feel his pain.  I never travel without my husband and four kids, with bribes and protestations in tow.  We are the family that people fear in the security line.  What they do not know is that we have traveled enough to be adept at taking off our slip-on shoes, folding the stroller with the flick of a wrist, and not packing liquids over three ounces.  In and out, we make it through faster than most.

Even so, today I relish the solitude.

I am stopped by security, as something was flagged in my bag.  I wonder what it is.  I had tweezers and a razor in there, but I hadn't been stopped last time with those.  It borders on humiliating to have your things checked so thoroughly.  But, alas, he gets to the feminine products and quickly zips my bag, handing it to me. I once snuck a camera into a U2 concert, hidden by such girly necessities.  Forget the box cutters.  The terrorists could wreck havoc with items intelligently disguised in a box of tampons.

It turns out that I have no seatmate, at least not one sitting between my aisle seat and the man at the window.  He is blessedly odor-free, unlike the unfortunately flatulent one on the first flight.

A pleasant aroma wafts into my direction just after takeoff.  It smells like steak;  maybe it is.  It's coming from first class, just two rows ahead.  I'm remembering the McDonald's breakfast burrito from a few hours ago.  If I tilted my head to the right, I'd see what they were eating.  We are separated by transparent blue netting.  It doesn't actually provide privacy, but sends the clear message that there is a distinct difference between the elite and the coach.  What glass ceiling?  The blue netting is the barrier to break.

Halfway through the flight, emaciated from hunger, we are offered hot dogs.  I take one, having no other options.  It is wrapped in plastic, and a scorching spray of steam momentarily blinds me when I open the package.  The hot dog is shriveled, unappetizing.  I look for a packet of ketchup to mask the taste, but they only provided mustard.  This is America!  Ketchup with hot dogs is as necessary as apples in pie.

I douse the crunchy white stems of the iceberg lettuce with room temperature Caesar dressing.  The package says, "Keep refrigerated".  But there is salvation.  The bottom of the box provides one more surprise, a little brown one with my favorite word - "Hershey".  Anything can be forgiven with chocolate in my world.

Inevitably, it's time to go.  You know, to the airplane bathrooms that are coffins in disguise. I check the aisle.  It is clear, as the flight attendants have already served our meals and taken our trash.  I'm in row six.  Although the nearest one is just two rows ahead of me, I am separated by that blasted blue netting.  I wonder if the toilet seats are lined in gold.  Instead, I walk with trepidation down the long and skinny aisle, achingly aware that only a few feet of cargo separate me from miles of nothingness over the geometric farm patterns of the land.  I try not to think about it.

It is ironic to me that my biggest passion is travel, and yet I am afraid of heights and flying.  The travel wins out by a hair, so I endure the turbulence and think about my destination.  It is for this reason that I drink just enough water to stay hydrated, but not enough to have to use the restrooms on board.  It never works. 

I am the second in line for two lavatories.  (Why do they call them lavatories?  Too elegant a name.  They are just one step up from a Port-o-Potty.)  My co-waiter and I avoid contact with each other, and with everyone, in fact.  Private space is extinct on an airplane and you have to hoard every scrap you can get.

The lock clicks and the perforated door opens within seconds.  A guy comes out, and I'm glad that it's not my turn.  I hate going in after guys.  The toilet seats are usually up and they ignore the sign on the mirror asking you to please clean up before the next guest comes in.

I give the briefest of glimpses to the back row.  Two passengers are sleeping, so I feel my eye space radius loosen up.  I dare myself to peek out the window and glance away as soon as I see that we are far above the clouds.

I turn my attention to the flight attendants.  They are the bell weathers of a flight.  If they are calm, all is well.  If they look shaken, bring out the rosary beads.

At last.  The VACANT light goes on and the lavatory door opens.  A guy walks out. Great.  I instinctively breathe through my mouth.  But he has been considerate.  The seat is down, the cubby is clean.  I exhale, a silent blessing for him escaping my lips.

I slide the latch.  The lavatory is OCCUPIED.

1 comment:

  1. I had no idea you didn't like flying Camille! I guess you never said anything to me knowing how much I dislike it as to not scare me more than I already was. And, I do the same thing with "measuring the mood" of the airplane with my eye scan around the cabin. It's so funny because I am the same way when i wait in line for the bathroom.