Personal Pieces postsWednesday February 02, 2011
Frontier Airlines: New Babysitters Club
Do airlines no longer handle suits? I mean the clothing kind. Just last May, on a Delta flight from Seattle to Minneapolis, the flight attendants took care of my suit—hung it in a closet—but this past week, flying to a memorial service in Minneapolis, both US Airways (to) and Frontier (from) had nothing for me. “You can lay it on top of the suitcases in the overhead bin,” I was told. “If there's room.” On the last leg, I didn't even get this option. I was told, because I had a bag in the overhead bin, to stuff my suit under the seat in front of me.
This wrinkle, so to speak, fits the way airlines increasingly treat customers: as children rather than suit-wearing adults. The Frontier flight attendants in particular, on both legs of the journey, had a kind of hectoring, head-shaking attitude toward its customers. Listen people, keep moving. Stay in your seat. Hey! I said stay in your seat, young man!
Admittedly we're an unruly crew in this country. Admittedly it's a tough, cramped job. But is it necessary to resort to the methods of the worst babysitters? We were given a single chocolate-chip cookie and essentially put in front of the TV set. Each seat, on that final leg of the journey, came equipped with a TV screen, which you could dim into nonexistence, but which few people did. Thus everywhere you looked: a multitude of screens watching a multitude of shows. I know Louis CK has mocked modern complaints; but that last leg of the journey, stuck on the Denver runway for an hour before takeoff (de-icing), with a baby wailing and 180 people channel-flipping and landing on crap, well, it felt like a new circle of hell.
My own fault. The book I brought (“Freedom”) was digital, on an iPad, and had to be powered down for the hour we were on the runway. I'm sure my report card would've read poorly: “Erik tried to read while we were on the runway and he refused to watch TV. Plus he brought a suit along. But he did eat his cookie.”
Finally makes sense why they keep showing us how to use a seatbelt.
Viddy well, little brother. Viddy well.
Monday night, the last night of the three-day weekend, Patricia was reading in bed while I was taking off my shoes on a nearby chair. I was a little down. Friday night, with all its possibilities, seemed but a moment ago, and here it was, Monday night already. It had been a fairly productive weekend but it was still Monday night. I sighed. Patricia looked up from her book.
“Three day weekend,” I said, then pantomimed a small explosion with my hand. “Poof.”
“Although I suppose no matter what I’d done,“ I said, ”we’d still be at this point in time.”
It wasn’t until I said it that I realized I was actually feeling guilty. Not about anything that had or hadn't been done; simply about the passage of time. If only I’d been more careful or attentive, I was feeling, this three-day weekend wouldn’t be over just yet. But I hadn't been attentive enough, and here we are, and I’m sorry, I’m sorry.”
Long way of saying I turned 48 yesterday. And I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
My friend Doug's birthday party, circa 1969. I'm the leftmost kid, wearing what looks like a tennis sweater. In front of me, in shirt and tie, is my friend, Mark. The birthday boy is center stage, holding a small flag.
Scene: Small family dining room. Five adults in postprandial conversation as a six-year-old squeezes by after using the bathroom.
Mother: Hey hey. Did you wash your hands?
Mother: Go back and wash your hands.
Son: Mom! I haven't finished eating yet.
Cue adult laughter.
Scene: A larger family dining room. Six adults in postprandial conversation as a nine-year-old plays with the potatoes on his plate. The adults are talking about opera. He looks bored. He looks at his uncle.
Nephew: What's opera?
Uncle: It's a form of music. Like rock n' roll. You know.
Nephew: Oh. You mean like the Opera Winfrey show?
Cue adult laughter.
Scene: Target Field in winter. Two families are being led on a tour by a 78-year-old man, my father, Bob Lundegaard, who began his career as a tour guide earlier this year. One of the familiies is ours: Patricia, my brother Chris, my sister Karen, her husband Eric, and their two kids Jordy and Ryan. The other family—an upbeat woman, a really knowledgable baseball guy, and three kids—is from...Iowa? I forget. They arrive last-minute, don't know the tour guide is our father, and keep us on our best behavior. They keep us from being us. Partially. Early in the tour Dad shows off a shot of Met Stadium, where the Twins played from 1961 to 1981, and the really knowledgable baseball dude asks about all of these empty seats along the third-base/left field line. The place is almost filled but these seats, bright orange, are all empty.
Dad: Good question. I'm not sure why those seats were empty. I believe there was some construction going on.
Me (feeling cheeky): I wouldn't be surprised. I know the seats just above those were among the cheapest in the park. I know because my father, a notorious skinflint, always made us sit there.
Dad (without missing a beat): Sounds like a very intelligent man.
How I'm Like Dick Cheney
This morning I had an epiphany: I realized I was like Dick Cheney. Not a pleasant thing for a lifelong Democrat and fervent Obama supporter to realize. But helpful nonetheless.
I realized I was like Dick Cheney when I was making a sandwich before work. Patricia has been sick for four days now, and I’m a bit of a germaphobe, and so for four days I’ve been extra careful about touching things around the house, and washing my hands after I touch things around the house, particularly if I’m going to make something that goes in my mouth—like a sandwich before work. But it’s been four days now, and Patricia is feeling better, and I’m hoping that the cold germs have passed through our home like a bad wind.
Even so, as I was making that sandwich, I thought, vis a vis the cold germs that might be lingering: They only need to succeed once.
And that’s when I realized I was like Dick Cheney. Because that was his attitude after 9/11. Terrorists were germs, they only needed to succeed once, and once they infiltrated our body they would make us sick.
It helped me better understand Cheney. Yes, “understand,” a word that the extreme right likes to sneer at, because they feel they already understand it all, and anyway understanding often leads to sympathy and they want none of that. To them, sympathy and understanding make us weak. And in a way they do. My epiphany this morning about Dick Cheney, for example, weakened some of my hatred for Dick Cheney. I saw him in a new light. “Oh. So Dick Cheney’s like me when Patricia’s sick.”
Here’s the key. I don’t like myself when Patricia’s sick. I don’t like being super paranoid about everything I touch. It’s no way to live. I’ve said this often. I try to change. Paranoia gets in the way of living my life. It upends my life. My fear of getting sick actually sickens me—not physically so much as mentally and spiritually. We’re scared enough already, but to be that scared? That’s really no way to live.
And that’s Dick Cheney. The left sees him as a monster, and in a way he is, but at the same time it must be awful to be Dick Cheney. To be so fearful and paranoid all the time. It must warp your mind and sicken your soul. Cold germs, after all, pass.
What Did You Dream About The Night After You Saw “Inception”?
I'm curious if people's dreams were more vivid after seeing “Inception,” the movie about dreams. I don't know if mine were but here's the one I remember. Apologies in advance for doing something so dull as recounting a dream.
I go downstairs with a friend and her child. It's like a hospital cafeteria with lots of light and windowed walls—like at the Seattle Opera—and we sit at a lunch table across from another woman. I'm wondering if she's thinking the child is mine, that we're a couple and this is our kid, when she begins to talk. She actually begins to pitch. She has these movie reviews that she wants us to read. Does she know I used to review movies for The Seattle Times and MSNBC? No. But when she hears my name she recognizes it from my MSNBC days and strengthens her pitch—her need to get me to read these reviews. I look at them. There are about four, each about three pages long, each individually stapled. The top page is slightly mottled, and there are coffee stains and crumbs, and I'm thinking, “God, what a waste of time.”
I read somewhere that we're pretty lousy at figuring out our own dreams but here I go. I'm that woman. Those mottled reviews? They're mine, posted here, once a week. The thought I have in the dream is the doubt I have every day.
Give me a dream about Marion Cotillard any day.