The car rounded the bend and parked up alongside one of the tall red “Terminal 1” signs. I never liked airport terminology much. Words like “terminal” and “final destination” always struck me as odd, due to their death related connotations. I gave a deep sigh and unbuckled my seatbelt. My stepfather had already opened the trunk and was pulling my bag out. I opened my door and leaned down to hug my mother.
“Call us when you’re through security and when you board. Text us when you land. We’ll probably be asleep when you do.”
“Got it mom. Love you.”
“Love you too.”
I hugged my stepfather, grabbed my suitcase, put my carry-on on my shoulder, and walked towards the automated sliding doors.
Inside, the cool AC smacked me in the face, and banished the humid air from my person. I composed myself, and approached one of the many kiosks in front of a great banner proclaiming “Southwest.” I pulled my phone out to remind me of the confirmation code, input it, and then walked over to the woman at the counter. Her name tag read Laura.
“Evening Laura. How are you today?”
“Just fine sweet pea. How’re you? You going to Philly?”
“Yes ma’am.” I put my bag on the scale, and she put the tag around the handle. I showed her my driver’s license, and she stifled a laugh at the terribly trimmed hair, the obviously fake smile, and how my eyes weren’t looking at the camera. She then pointed me towards security. Another heavy sigh, and I was off.
The security line was long but I managed to get through it, and the security checkpoint, with most of my dignity. I hastily put my belt and sweatshirt back on–like a content lover trying to leave an unfamiliar apartment–and walked my way up the row of terminals. Along the way I procured a bottle of cola, exchanging money for goods and services, and sat down at one of the many benches with outlets inside them. I put the bottle of cola on the table, plugged in my laptop and phone, and pulled out one of my hastily packed airport snacks, a turkey sandwich. I chased down the taste of poultry with a swig of my soda. Twist, fizz, ahh. I know I’m a soda addict, but I really don’t care.
The gentleman next be me perked his head up at the quiet, yet audible, sigh which emanated from me as the cola hit my tongue.
“Y’know, soda is terrible for you.”
“Yup. I know. Don’t really care, mate.”
“Well you should. It’ll rot your teeth, and–”
“Yeah. I know. But soda doesn’t make me lose my inhibitions and punch people.” I said staring at the beer in his hand. This shut him up.
I set to work on my laptop. I had about two hours to kill before I boarded. Headphones in, word document open, twist, fizz, ahh.
“Now boarding group A 31-60 for Southwest flight 687 to Philadelphia.”
I packed my laptop back into my bag, and walked towards the line, throwing out my long empty cola bottle, and the half a dozen Ziploc bags that at one point contained the sandwich and other snacks.
“Now boarding group B 1-30 for Southwest flight 687 to Philadelphia.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw the beer drinker stand and get in line. I breathed a silent prayer hoping he wouldn’t be sitting next to me.
I handed the nice woman my boarding pass (why aren’t they called tickets? Bus tickets, boat tickets, but plane boarding passes?) and proceeded down the jet way. Apparently the humid Florida air had heard about what the AC did to me earlier and was back. The jet way was filled with air so thick with moisture it felt like I was drinking my oxygen. I got onto the plane, found my seat, and sat. Isle seat, row eighteen. Just dandy.
Several minutes passed until beer drinker boarded. I saw him pass the first stewardess, and then the second who was standing in row fifteen, and then stop suddenly at row seventeen.
“Hey kid. I’m on your window. Row eighteen seat A. The window.”
I sighed and stood. My prayer had been unanswered, or maybe it had been and the god I pray to is a capricious one.
He sat down in a heap breathing heavily as though the leisurely stroll down the jet way had been a marathon. The rest of the passengers filed in, and to my luck it was just myself and beer drinker sharing a row. How fantastic.
“Looks…like…we’re in this…for the long haul…” he wheezed in my general direction.
“Yup. Two hours and forty-five minutes.” I replied. I’m sure it wasn’t what he was looking for as far as replies, but how does a sane individual respond to that banal question?
The plane took off. We ascended quickly to our cruising altitude. A smartly dressed stewardess meandered her way through the cabin until she got to me and beer drinker. I ordered a cola, obviously, and he ordered two beers. This guy was going for the hypocrisy record.
The beverages were brought to us. The can’s exterior was cool, but the contents were no doubt room temperature. With a grimace I snapped the can open and took a sip. The grimace remained for a few moments.
Beer drinker looked at me. “Ha! Not a fan of that soda?”
“Not overly. It’s room temp. How’s your beer?”
“Meh, it’s alright. Room temp too.”
“Sorry to hear that.” We each took sips of our respective drinks.
“You know what the problem is, kid? The problem is the entitlement. Your generation is all about how they’re entitled to everything! Good paying jobs, cheap school, cold soda,*hic* the works!”
“It’s the sense of *hic* entitlement that your fucking generation *hic* has. That’s the problem! See I’m content with my *hic* room temperature beer. You’re over there grimacing the can to *hic*death!” He stared at me, his nose red, his eyes a similar shade. It looked like he should have been cut off a good bit ago.
“Really? That’s the issue, mate? Well if that’s the big overarching problem, who taught us this sense of entitlement you seem so sure my ‘generation’ has?” I smiled, or rather smirked, the way I do when I box someone into a corner. It’s the debater in me. He stared at me, and was fuming. Part of it was because of the alcohol, and another was because I was making good points. He finished his beer, and turned towards the window. Only another two hours of this, I thought to myself as he began sipping the second beer.
I pulled a book from my bag and began reading. Whatever it was beer drinker was doing had been beyond my line of sight and interest. The stewardess collected our trash and asked if we wanted anything more. Beer drinker responded with his previous order.
She returned with his beers, and he looked at me. “Whatcha *hic* reading?”
“A book by Erikson. Gardens of the Moon.”
“What’s it about?”
“That’s complicated. The book is split into several smaller books, and each one has their own plot.”
“Why can’t you people just read normal books?”
“Y’know! Your generation! It’s all Game of Thrones *hic* this and Lord of the Rings that and Twilight this and the fucking Fifty Shades of Grey crap that my *hic* wife keeps reading.” He flailed his beer with every book title spilling droplets of beer across his creased suit jacket. I couldn’t help but laugh. “I just don’t get it! In my day I read books about sports and *hic* business, and all that good stuff that *hic* helped me land a good job, two beautiful children, and a great wife! You’re sitting over there talking about gardens and moons and swords and shit, and there’s nothing you’re going to do with that! How can Lord of the Rings help you in life?”
He did it. He hit the Tolkien button. You don’t hit the Tolkien button. I breathed a heavy sigh, and looked at him. I figured it’d be smarter to leave him be.
“I don’t think you want to have this debate, sir.” I picked my book back up and continued reading.
Beer drinker huffed a big sigh, finished his beer, and closed his eyes. Soon the sweet embrace of sleep took him, and his snores acted like a metronome to which I counted the remaining hour and a half of the flight in relative peace.
Edited by: Sabrina Loftus