I am flying. Well, not quite, since we haven’t taken off yet. But we’re on the plane and bags have been stowed and seatbelts fastened. So, we are prepared to fly.
Unfortunately, nothing has gotten serious enough for the attendants to announce their little “no more electronic devices” fiat. So the woman behind me, who is roughly my age, fires up her cell and makes one last call. Her voice is a droopy, whining monotone. It is the kind of voice that, if she were to note that your hair was on fire, you would want to tell her to shut up instead of reaching for a fire hose. The kind of voice that grates regardless of its message.
“Mother,” the woman says. “Mother, is that you?”
A bit of silence. It is, evidently, Mother on the line.
“Mother,” the woman says, “Mother, will you please stop complaining? I am at the airport on a plane. I can’t listen to you right now.”
More silence. Mother seems to have a lot to say.
“Mother! I told you I’m in the airport! On a plane! Will you stop complaining?”
No, Mother will not stop.
“I think,” I tell the man next to me, “if they ever allow cell conversations in the air, I will probably shoot myself.”
“Mother! Stop! Mother! What are you doing today, Mother?”
The flight attendant approaches the man next to me. He’s been upgraded to business class. He takes his jacket and bag and departs eagerly. He will never know what happened to Mother.
“Today isn’t the 17th of June, Mother! It’s the 18th!”
The flight attendant announces the no-cell rule.
“Good-bye, Mother! I can’t talk to you any more!”
I sit and luxuriate in my extra space. Actually, it’s quite roomy today, since I’m in the exit row. I have already sworn to the flight attendant that, if called upon, I will certainly be able to bust out of the plane. I even studied the little safety diagram for several seconds, but it’s quite confusing. If we have an emergency, I think, I will simply enlist the nearest man to help. (I am a total feminist except when it comes to rodents and crash landings.)
Besides, breaking out of the plane might be hard for me since I have a bad right shoulder. I am trying to accept that sad fact, along with the growing realization that I may be one of the only people on earth who has gotten worse, not better, with physical therapy.
“I have flunked physical therapy,” I told my husband recently. “How do you fail physical therapy? It should be impossible. Nobody fails physical therapy.”
He told me I was looking at it the wrong way. “You didn’t fail physical therapy,” he said. “Physical therapy failed you.”
I hope that, after the plane crashes and the woman on the exit row who fails to break open the door is pilloried in the press, that other people are similarly laissez-faire and understanding about her failure to thrive in physical therapy. “She tried,” my physical therapist would tell the press, “but she just kept flunking physical therapy. It was really kind of sad.”
Oh, but I believe in the predictability of numbers and of human behavior. As the numbers suggest, our flight lands safely. As human behavior observers tell you, people usually don’t change.
The minute the plane’s wheels hit the ground, the woman behind me is on the phone again. “Mother,” she says. “Mother, is that you? Mother! We just landed!”
(Copyright 2012 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read this post about pronouncing Chile and forte and/or this one about the woman who refused to come out of fetal position