MIRTH has been on vacation. It wasn’t a mirthless one, mind you; I went back east to spend a few weeks with my fine fun family.
Urging me years ago to start writing, my mother said, “I know you’re just waiting until we’re all dead so you can tell the truth about us.”
Not so! I prefer my family alive to dead, thank you. And telling the truth is often overrated.
You’ll be relieved, as I was, to learn that Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 survived my lengthy absence. He’s rather pale and seems to be suffering fin rot, but is still lively enough to attack his reflection in a mirror. As for Husband, Son #1, Son #2 and Girlfriend of Son #1 — they endured. Their fins are fine.
When I travel alone, it’s via standby on red-eye flights. The tickets are cheap, a perk from the family pilot, but I’m on the lowest rung of the stand-by ladder. I’m therefore the first person at the gate and the last one to board the aircraft, very happy to score an empty seat at the back wedged between screaming babies and the bathroom.
I spend my time at both DIA and Logan watching my fellow passengers, who in turn spend their time trudging around the concourse clutching personal electronic devices and power cords, hunting in vain for electrical outlets.
The search for the Holy Grail pales in comparison. These are desperate personal pilgrimages, quests for connection. Armies of hollow-eyed crusaders swarm the concourse, their smartphones, iPads and laptops starving for want of power and glory.
When my kids were little, they were crazy about Giga Pets — digital creatures in keychain cages that had to be regularly fed and watered and excercised. A Giga Pet suffering neglect at its owner’s hands would begin to keen piteously. Eventually, its wimpering would become wailing, and the poor thing would die. It was a terrible and tragic toy. I’d wake up in the middle of the night startled from slumber by some Giga Pet in its death throes, going (and not gently) into that good night.
It’s probably a good thing that Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1 can’t keen.
The battle for power at Denver International Airport begins casually, as Handsome College Boy plugs into a switch plate on a column near me. Pretty College Girl presently enters the field, coy cord in hand, asking if she can, like, share his outlet. Like, yeah, sure, says he. He’s sitting on the floor. She joins him there. An hour later, they’re holding hands, tangling their adapters together.
They are vanquished by Loud Obnoxious Man, a good ol’ boy who declares himself king of the outlet and lord of all he surveys. Loud Obnoxious Man has mean little eyes and a mouth that never quite shuts and a large hairy belly bulging beneath his shirt.
He watches me, guarding his position. I hold up my knitting and say, “Just yarn. No cords.”
Loud Obnoxious Man waves his cane like a scepter, announcing that he’s a disabled veteran, by God, and that he’s going to be the first one on the damned plane, by God, despite what the damned bitch at the gate says, by God, and the rest of his damned family had damned well better follow his lead.
I knit on. I resist the urge to discuss anger management issues.
Loud Obnoxious Man tries in vain to connect to the free airport wireless service. “She damned well better have brought our goddamned internet!” he bellows, referring to his absent wife.
“Brought the internet?” I wonder. “What a moron.” But the moron is more tech savvy than I – Berated Beaten Wife shows up with some portable airport device that (thank Christ) solves his problem.
“You shut that goddamned thing off right now,” he shouts at Downtrodden Young Son, who is trying to teach Meek Cowering Grandmother some innocuous iPad game. “We didn’t give you internet permission. You have to earn privileges, you spoiled brat. Shut it down.”
My heart goes out to Downtrodden Young Son, who has warm brown eyes and looks to be about 11. He is a helpless little Giga Pet who needs nurturing before the good in him dies. I want to save him. I want to praise him for being kind to his grandmother while suffering public humiliation at the hands of his asshole father. I want to tell him that one day he’ll be able to take down his asshole father, and that he should not give up hope for better things or fall into the damnation of his birth.
Meanwhile, our world is beside itself over the once and future king born to the UK. This is one child we never have to worry about – a pampered celebrity before he even drew his first breath. What of the thousands of other babies born that day without fanfare or titles or affluence or education or even love? What of all the Downtrodden Young Sons?
They are as trapped as Fish of Girlfriend of Son #1, who at least has his own plastic castle and has me to change the water in his moat now and then.
Things are no better in Boston waiting for my flight home. Arrogant Thin-Lipped Engineer snakes in and seizes the multi-person power station near me. He unpacks a computer, a phone, an iPad and some other impressive piece of electronic equipment and commandeers all four plug-ins. He refuses to make eye contact with any of the pilgrims passing by, humbly petitioning for access to power. Finally, he is approached by Brave Young Knight, who asks very politely if he might share one of the outlets. “They’re all in use, as you can no doubt see,” says Arrogant Thin-Lipped Engineer, without bothering to look up.
This sort of needless off-hand cruelty makes me weep.
Hours later, I discover to my delight that the suitcase of Arrogant Thin-Lipped Engineer has been lost. He is in the baggage claim area pitching a hissy fit worthy of Loud Obnoxious Man.
Instant karma is a wonderfully gratifying thing.