Tuesday, September 21, 2004
Pamela Ribon, writer and webmaster of pamie.com and author of the novel 'Why Girls Are Weird', living in LA.'
I'm on an endless flight from LAX to JFK. It's one of those two-seat, three-seat, then two-seat configurations, where the movie (the already forgotten Jersey Girl) plays on a screen approximately one hundred meters away from my head. I have had better seats at Paul McCartney concerts.
On my right, two women are joking about how they haven't been virgins for a very long time. On my left, two men are sharing a DVD player, watching Calendar Girls.
I am seated in front of a family of four. A screaming baby has been passed from lap to lap as the older daughter sits in a car seat. The couple had, at one time, been interested in keeping their young son from his bloodcurdling screeches of terror. They've now resigned themselves to admitting there's nothing they can do, and they're now taking it out on each other.
"I would like to continue to discuss your demeanor," the woman says to the man, "because I find it to be insulting."
"I am simply saying that bringing the car seat was a waste of a seat. There's not enough room for all of us."
"You keep saying that. How is this helping?"
The daughter in the car seat quietly watches a Pooh video. The baby is now on his stomach, wailing the one word "Daddy" over and over again.
I know all of this because I have stood up to watch them. The back of my seat has been used as a large handlebar for the past two hours, and I'm tired of being trapped in the world's most expensive slingshot as I wait for this couple to file for divorce.
Sometimes I wish to be one of those people who can justify splurging on first class seats for every trip. A friend of mine does that, claiming, "Life's too short for coach." As I decide not to eat the slice of pound cake they've deemed breakfast worthy, I am starting to realize my first class friend is a genius.
Still, jumping up to the wider seats and silverware with dignity would make me miss out on the patriotic experience of travel. Back here in economy, we are all alike. No matter how big or small, childfree or covered in baby drool, snoring deep in a narcotic coma or fidgeting from too much cold medicine - we're all cramped in these too-small seats and we all want the same thing: we want to get off this damn plane. It doesn't matter what language we speak or how many carry-on items we smuggled past security. The reading material is the same. The laptops all use the same software. The movie sucks for everybody. We are forced to drink the same crap coffee.
If I moved up to first class I'd miss these nuggets of Americana, like the time I watched a woman pull her daughter into her lap and complain to her husband: "Well, great. Now Emily smells like beer for Gramma."
If I ditched my people in the back of the plane, I'd never have seen the woman who carried all of her belongings onto the plane in a laundry basket. She was wearing slippers, a robe and pj's. I've never seen anyone look more comfortable on a flight.
How my reflex time would suffer from no longer having to dodge the seat back in front of me as it randomly jolts toward my head. I'd lose muscle tone, not needing to hold my body in a rigid line for several hours, my head facing forward, my feet on the floor, unable to cross my legs.
I know just where to cram a tiny Nerf pillow in the curve of my neck to get a nap without permanent disk damage. I can curl my body over three seats while still wearing my seatbelt. I have tricked my brain into equating the luxury of a nap in an empty aisle with sleeping on a pillow-top mattress.
My social skills have improved, as I've had to sit closer to complete strangers for hours at a time, becoming more familiar with people I'll never see again than to some friends I've known for years. I've talked to newlyweds, businesswomen and soldiers. I have had the most inappropriate conversations about breast implants, divorce, and birth control. I've survived the rambunctious flight to Las Vegas, the one filled with the slapping of playing cards and the clatter of dice, where everybody is a winner and the booze flows at nine in the morning. I have also experienced the pin-dropping silent flight back, filled with sunburns, hangovers and regret.
I've met strangers I'll remember for the rest of my life. The week after my father passed away I sat beside a woman who had recently lost the last person in her large family. She touched my hand and looked forward. We spent the next few minutes sharing a quiet cry.
I ended up on a middle seat to Atlanta between two large gentlemen. After buckling up, we reached for our reading material. I pulled out an issue of GQ. They each opened a hardcover copy of the fifth Harry Potter.
On a three-hour flight to Texas I found myself sitting next to a man about forty years my senior. We were still on the runway when we began talking about the weather. By the time we landed that night, we had discussed everything from literature to religion, scribbling each other's book suggestions in our day-planners. We exchanged email addresses, but the unspoken airplane rule seems to be what happens up there, stays up there. We still haven't contacted each other.
The great equalizer known as Coach reminds us that we're human beings, and when stripped of cell phones, cars and to-do lists and forced to simply be with each other, we all need the same things: a good time-waster, a blanket that isn't scratchy, enough room to cross your legs and a movie without Ben Affleck.
The women who were discussing their virginity moments ago are back to their gossip magazines. The gentlemen on my other side are laughing at their half-naked British ladies. The family behind me has fallen silent. I turn to look. The mother and father are fast asleep, heads resting together. The baby has his eyes closed, thumb in his mouth, stretched across both of his parents' laps. The girl in the car seat quietly changes her DVD. We're all almost home.
Posted by February 29th @ 08:21 pm GMT [Link] [No commens]
Monday, July 12, 2004
Tuesday July 12th: Name/age/sex/location- Ken/24/wouldn't mind I guess/London
There is a building opposite to the window of my desk at work that has a pipe that breathes out steam continuously out of one end.
The steam is the only thing that's moving at the moment. I've been watching it for the past half an hour - The vapour dances around, forming a spiral, twisting around in layers of circles. Sometimes it straightens up and calms down when the spinning gets too much, to get ready for the next burst - It is the only thing that I can see that's moving, anyway, the air is moving constantly, behind the blinds of the windows in the building there are probably people moving, clocks in there are ticking, dusts settling and unsettling. But I can't see any of it just now.
I can only take clues from what I can see, and what I know. I know the wind is moving, the steam sometimes gets blown by the wind, I can see it sometimes all swaying to one direction; I know there are people in the building, and I know people don't always keep still; I know there must be at least one clock in that building, and it'll be ticking, because not everyone have digital clocks just yet, and even then the displays will move around.
I'm still waiting for a clue to show me that my life is moving. It's been 2 years, and I'm still here, I've changed jobs in the company, and we've moved offices, but really I'm just spiraling around the same place. I've made friends, lost friends, found love, lost love, but I'm still looking out the window at a trail of steam dancing and disappearing into the air.
I can't see, and I don't know when, or if this will change just now. I could have sent in this entry for each of the past 134 days since 29th February, except for the weekends when I don't have a steaming pipe outside the window to look at.
Posted by February 29th @ 03:06 pm GMT [Link] [No commens]
Sunday, June 20, 2004
Thursday June 3rd 2004-Atreyee, aged 29 year, Calcutta, West Bengal , India
Dull day extraordinaire! No exception from yesterday or the day before. Except the mail box. Keeping me going… 8 mails opposed to none yesterday. Otherwise I am disconnected from the world at large. On the third floor of my uncle’s house – old, solid no frills – just rambles into rooms after rooms, out of 74 windows into the livid hot white summer sky. Its two minutes to two in the afternoon. Around me is a sea of green, white and black mint cool mosaic floor. I’m marooned on a precarious chair facing the screen. They say, this sort of craftsmanship is no longer found in Calcutta. It’s just been swabbed by the cleaning woman smiling and meticulous –unlettered, she has deep thoughts- a natural philosopher. Ma and I took our north Indian classical music lessons in this room. It would double to play Dark Room in; with my cousin -the sons of Uncle L. –Uncle L. handsome at 65 will be joining us for lunch later. There is a continuous drone of a car engine – the motor mechanic garage can be heard from where I’m solidly refusing to budge, but can only be glimpsed from the kitchen balcony. Married to writing till lunch calls from below!
Outside a hammer stopped beating in the old Muslim carpenter’s wizened hand. Some how can’t recognize him in his trousers when he greets me. It’s only when he wears his work wear of a half undershirt and a checkered green cloth around his waist he starts to looks like Sirajul the wood work man. I am waiting for the computer fixit man to scare me with the bill and the year long maintenance charge. Although I know what it is already; the shock would be in print! Someone beating iron and making some heady afternoon music.
Posted by February 29th @ 10:12 am GMT [Link] [No commens]
Sunday, April 18, 2004
April 18th, 2004-Camille, aged 21, a university student in Montreal, Canada
Today at noon, I put my boyfriend on a bus back to his home, which is 7 hours drive away and in a completely different country. I've done this countless times over the past 2 years, but this time was different. This time was the last time I'm going to have to do this. He will never come back to Montreal to see me, and I'll never have to make the 3-bus trek down to see him. This is because in 2 weeks, I am going to be finished with university, and I am going to go back to my home, in Vancouver, which is on the opposite side of the continent.
Today's goodbye scene was also different for another reason: he came up with his bag and his backpack, but he left with the bag, the backpack, and a cardboard box. The box contained some of my sweaters, towels, t-shirts and Tupperware, a couple of books, mittens, and my beloved red polka-dotted teapot. Why did he take my teapot? Because as soon as we can afford it, we're going to both move to Boston and live there. Together. After 2 years, finally, something concrete. I gave him my things, and I won't see them again until we're together again. And then they won't be my things
anymore, but our things.
Now he's driving home, and I'm going to go study for my next final exam, but I don't think I'll be able to concentrate on Shakespeare today, because my future just poked its head into my life and winked at me, and now it's going to be real.
Posted by February 29th @ 11:05 pm GMT [Link] [20 comments]
Thursday, April 15, 2004
April 9th 2004- Schoolgirl, Scilly Isles
I can hear the familiar sounds of our family house waking up. My father riddling the grate and getting the Rayburn going to produce our hot water. My mother filling the kettle to make breakfast. Then I hear him kissing her goodbye as he gets off for work. My sister gets out of her bed and goes to the bathroom and I hear her getting dressed. If my mother doesn’t shout foe for me to get up soon I’m going to be late for school I think grumpily. Finally she calls me and in minutes I’m dressed and ready to go out.
“You’re not going to school without breakfast” she says and hands me a weetabix spread with marmite and butter-the only thing I can face in the morning. I run to school-2minutesaway.
The morning passes quickly enough Its Friday so that means maths tests. I run my finger through my hair as I’m working and watch sand fall onto the test papers. At last it is dinner time and mum is waiting at the school gates for me and my sister. We dash over and fight as who is going to push the canoes which is laden with swimming costumes and towels. 5 minutes walk to the beach and as we are swimming and playing with our with our friends school is completely forgotten.
I live on an island and I hope I never leave because it is the most beautiful place in the world.
Posted by February 29th @ 08:22 pm GMT [Link] [4 comments]
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
Monday April 12th 2004-Anne, aged 16, Paxos, Greece
I lie on my stomach on a lilo, hands dipped in the water, sun on my back looking back at the sheltered cove where my family sit. If I hadn’t been told so many stories of people drifting out to see on lilos I would be relaxed. I press my lip against the lilo which is the rough canvas kind. It tastes reassuringly salty.
If I stay still and lean my head over the side I can see the pebbles through the water. The clearness of the water has amazed me since I got here. English sea looks blue when the sun shines, but I can’t remember ever being able to see the bottom of it. It is always to swirled up and muddy.
In my mind I start to plot a murder mystery story but my mind gets bored and I start to remember books I have already read instead.
This is the first time I have ever been outside of Britain and the world suddenly seems so much bigger. The clearness of the water is not the only thing I’m finding it hard to believe. Everything is a different colour here, everything smells differently, and everyone acts differently.
I don’t want to think about going home tomorrow so I tumble from the lilo and into the icy cold water.
Posted by February 29th @ 09:56 pm GMT [Link] [No commens]
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Sunday April 11th 2004-Tom, aged 32, UK
Well it’s the morning after the birthday before and I’m feeling hungover and old, as Ben Folds says. The sun is shining but its windy, and I am tucked in the library. People have mobile phones in here and they shouldn’t. I’m actually trying to smile at people, and be nice to them. Its hard work, I can tell you!
Some days, at dinnertime, if I’m in the city, I go and sit and listen to one of those mad preacher men who carry placards proclaiming “the end is nigh” etc. What is most impressive is that they are sure of their own destiny, and unwavering in the beliefs. This same man is there every day, and the other day after I finished my sandwich and left, he said “so long my friend, enjoy all the sunshine you can get” which was such a nice thing to say to me, a total stranger.
I’m going stop writing now and go for a wee walk now, to see if Mr Preacher is there!
Posted by February 29th @ 10:19 pm GMT [Link] [No commens]