Sunday, August 9, 2009
My trip started, like most, on a plane.
I was en route to Rio, having already given up trying to start "In Cold Blood" due to the family next to me, who were so loud they nearly drowned out the jet engine opposite their window. They were a young 30-something couple with an absolutely adorable baby who it seemed was having a bad day. Normally a crying baby would be their problem, but when it cried I really didn't mind. She was a baby after all, so that's to be expected. What's not expected was her parents' rendition of a song that they repeatedly sang in harmony to quiet her down. The song consisted of just one repeated lyric -- "Mama" -- and was put to the tune of Rihanna's "Please Don't Stop the Music". Or at least that's what it sounded like. It was one time, and I'm sure my fellow passengers agreed, that a baby's cries would have sounded like Madame Butterfly at the Met compared to the poor man's Crosby, Stills and Nash over here.
I couldn't help but laugh at the palpable looks of irritation on the faces of those behind and next to us, but I was just happy that I was finally on a clean flight. Yes, I wash my hands religiously, but I'm not a germpahobe and don't tote around a bottle of hand sanitizer that I whip out every 10 minutes. With my recent spate of flights that included questionable hairs stuck to my food-tray and a sticky substance on my seat-recliner button, though, any half-clean plane was more than a welcome respite over being caught in the usual festering petri dish of bacteria suspended at 35,000 feet.
I smiled about the change in my fortune, reclined back and spotted a cute toddler -- let's call him "Eugene" as he resembled the one Eugene I had ever met in my life (a middle-aged man with a social anxiety order but a charming smile). Eugene stood in his chair two rows ahead, peering at me over his seatback. We had the kind of conversation only an adult and toddler could have, through funny faces and exaggerated, wide-eyed smiles. I was beginning to like this Eugene fellow. He had a spunk about him.
Our conversation was briefly interrupted by our flight attendants, who trailed down the aisles handing out trays of food from a cart like we were inmates at the local penitentiary. Normally I'm not a fan of the usual rubber chicken and plastic lettuce that make up my flight fare, but -- lo and behold -- I found my shredded beef and mashed potatoes more than agreeable. Oh look! A mini wheel of cheddar. Perfect for my warm, shrink-wrapped bread roll!
As I settled in, famished and ready to devour these culinary delights, Eugene continued staring at me, obviously unimpressed with his little tray of joie de vivre. And that's when his nose began to run, leaving behind what looked like a small green snail emerging from its dark cave.
Ok, no big deal. Kids are supposed to have runny noses, or cry just like the baby sitting near me. So I ate my shredded beef, touching my pointer finger to the bottom of my nose to alert poor Eugene to the fact that he might want to get that taken care of. I guess in the adult/toddler conversation some things got lost in translation because to my horror, Eugene placed his bubbling nose on one end of the headrest infront of him and ran it the entire length across as if swiping a slimy credit card.
I recoiled, suddenly not hungry anymore. I wondered at that exact moment if at one point in time, one of Eugene's predecessors had done the same thing to my headrest. So much for clean planes. A few hours prior I had stood barefoot in the airport security line, reading the only sign in view -- a warning in Spanish to us travelers of the H1N1 virus, no English translation in sight. Apparently only Spanish speakers can receive or pass on the swine flu. Good to know. The sign trumpeted the virtues of wiping one's nose with a disposable tissue and washing one's hands so as not to pass on the flu. Yes, it was only in Spanish, but languages aside, Eugene had obviously not gotten the memo. He laughed at my reaction of disgust, quite proud himself as his oblivious parents lay asleep next to him after one too many Jack and cokes.
As he stared at it, smiling like it was a finger painting he'd just gotten an A on, I began to rethink the brief few moments Eugene and I had shared moments earlier. Was he, in fact, as cute as I'd once believed him to be, with his gap-toothed smile and zest for life? And before I could come up with a solid answer, it was made for me.
Eugene plunked his finger up into his runny nostril, pulled out a glistening green nose goblin, inspected it for a minute on his little fingertip then turned to his sleeping father and placed it gingerly on the snoring man's neck.
Though I knew what we had was over, I had to giggle along with Eugene -- a mixture of revulsion and amusement -- after we landed and I walked past them in the aisle on my way out. Eugene's father, now awake, went about collecting his things, unaware of the congealing globule stuck to the side of his neck. But Eugene and I knew, and that was enough. Our last smile to each other told us that nothing, in fact, was lost in translation.
(Ed. Note: I'm having a fantastic time in Rio right now and never want to come back!! Will update soon.)