the way to fly
Tuesday, July 31 2007
setting: rural Hurley Township, Ulster County, New York, USA
This evening Gretchen and I would be flying across the Atlantic Ocean for a two week trip to Scotland. Since we wouldn't be leaving the house until 6:00pm, I was free to pack my bags and tie up loose ends at a leisurely pace.
At one point I was eating cheese and crackers (Stone Wheat Thins) and I felt something hard give way. I immediately reached into my mouth and fished out a piece of molar the size of a pea. It's rare for the erosion of the human body's irreplaceable parts to happen so dramatically. It was a stern and not particularly welcomed reminder of immortality, but at least it didn't hurt. The pea-sized lump of tooth had crumbled off the side of my top right wisdom tooth, which is completely dead. It had abscessed through the summer and fall of 2005 and received a root canal in November of that year. Normally dentists just extract an offending wisdom tooth (treating them the way horse doctors treat sick horses), but my mouth is huge and populated with unusually small teeth, and I'd thought it best to avoid leaving a half-inch-wide swath of barren gum in its place. I'd never bothered to get the wisdom tooth crowned (as one is supposed to do after receiving root canals), and now I was paying the price. At least one dentist has told me that teeth that have received root canals and not been crowned gradually become brittle.
Meanwhile Gretchen had managed to assemble a patchwork quilt of people to care for our dogs and cats. The dogs would be staying with Andrea, who would also be coming over to feed the cats and water the garden. Our friend Tara would be staying a few nights next week, and the Brooklyn kids would be staying overnight next weekend on their way down from the Adirondacks. Because of the unusually uncertain security situation, I decided to leave my laboratory locked for the duration. I turned off all the equipment and swapped out the doorknob with the kind that can be locked with a key. I was a little nervous that perhaps a cat was still hiding in there somewhere among the boxes, though I'd checked all the known cat-attracting voids obsessively.
Yahoo Maps suggested that the best way to Newark International Airport included twelve miles on the New Jersey Turnpike, which is not the sort of advice a reasonable human would ever give. We spent nearly all of that distance in typical NJT gridlock, causing us to panic that we'd miss our flight.
Such panic was foolish, of course. Our airplane was experiencing technical problems with the system designed to inflate rubber life rafts should it plunge into the ocean. This was why we were three hours late in getting off the ground. People were getting testy in the waiting area and the Continental employees were giving us as little information as possible, and doing so in comtemptuously. For example, while explaining the problem with the life raft inflation mechanism, the woman at the boarding desk continued talking right through the louder and less information-rich "This is a special announcement. All unattended luggage..." roboannouncement. This caused a bunch of us (but particularly me) to shout for her to wait until that message was over before continuing so we could hear her. Hearing me shout like that caused Gretchen to momentarilly panic thinking I'd gone into Crazy Gus mode. (See Monkey Walk, the.)
Continental Airlines did feel bad enough about the delay to give us all coupons good for things like free food court food (though by now only the all night smoothie shop was still open). The girl working at the smoothie shop wasn't the sharpest knife in the chandelier, and, using a third free-food coupon uncollected from another customer, we managed to get an armload of free eats, much of which was disgusting.
Not long into our flight the muscle relaxers we'd taken kicked in. I'd mixed mine with red wine, intensifying its effects and knocking me out for nearly the entire flight (though I did struggle for a time to watch Astronaut Farmer, which would probably have put me to sleep even if I'd been smoking crystal meth) . Both Gretchen and I agreed that subjectively, this had felt like the shortest, easiest flight we'd ever taken.
See some photographs from the Scotland trip.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next