China Fun’s fortune cookie’s fortune said, “Today brings out the performer and humanitarian in you.” I doubt the first, and my success in relating that fact to you will determine the second.
Between getting up at 4:45 a.m. today to catch the 6:29 train from Boston’s Route 128 station to NYC for my third week at work, and attempting to drag along my very touristy travel suitcase on the sidewalk of Broadway between 36th and 37th, which was narrowed by the hastily built wooden staircases leading to the make-shift eating areas (called Sukkahs) for Jewish people to celebrate Sukkos this week – also known as Sukkot or סֻכּוֹת in Hebrew which I pasted in from Wikipedia just to be fancy and make you think I could type that in on my own – still getting used to the pace of doing yard work for hours on end on Saturdays and kissing my wife good bye for days on end on Mondays at 5:15 a.m., somewhere in there I managed to worsen a stupid question with an even stupider question.
You know: where you say to a coworker about his air travel something like “Did you get a direct flight from Atlanta [to LaGuardia]?” [Dear Reader who doesn't travel much: Trust me, this is a stupid question.] Puzzled look from my colleague, like, Is the employment contract on this guy in ink yet? And though you could almost be forgiven for temporarily forgetting that he probably flies Delta which basically goes to Alpha Centauri non-stop, because you fly US Airways, which makes stops just to go pee, yet you answer the puzzled look with the dig-your-grave-deeper question of “Well, I must be thinking of Atlanta to Boston,” which you leave hanging in the air too long without another dependent clause to qualify that you really didn’t intend to insinuate – which you just did – that there are no direct flights from Atlanta to Boston. You are trying to cover your steps here, and what results is a look of horror on his face. Mixed with disgust. Mixed with an emotion that can only be described as disbelief rooted in a quickening desire to call the authorities. As if you just told him that you are fond of taking small pets and dipping them in hydrochloric acid by the tail first.
“There are PLENTY of direct flights from Atlanta to Boston…like 300 a day!” he snorts, deftly speed-dialing the New York City Police Department with his left forefinger on his cellphone which is attached to his belt.
You laugh it off, claiming that you are still getting adjusted to this Boston-New York-Boston commuting-dichotomized world of living, and you try not to think about how many people he will email, text, or discuss your side of the conversation with later in the afternoon. Little do you know he has just deftly uploaded your photo, height, weight, and ethnic origin to both the Transportation Security Administration’s watch list and to John Walsh’s personal email InBox to be featured during tonight’s FOX television lineup.
This temporary moment of self-humor, where you tell yourself that, yes, well, at least your wife still loves you after ten years of marriage and your children – 8, 7, and 4 years old – are still young enough to trust that you graduated from college and can wipe the corners of your mouth without assistance from a low-paid technician, and which lasts into the evening and into dinner, comes to a screeching halt when you take too much fresh Chinese mustard on your egg roll and the sensation when you inhale is essentially the same as when you took too big a bong hit when you were a teenager and insane – your chest heaves and your lungs squeeze together like prunes, and you look around to see if the waitress is silently and deftly alerting the manager. And the feeling of instant and irreparable suffocation reminds you of this morning and how words become watermelons that back up into your throat to cause severe blockage unless someone comes alongside to perform the Heimlich Maneuver. But no one does, because no one can see that you are on the brink of Instantaneous Social Destruction By Virtue of Stupidity.
You think back to earlier this morning, before the airline comment, when the two of you were meeting in your office, and perhaps it was indeed the 4:45 start to the day that did it, or perhaps it was the overpriced bagel breakfast sandwich on Amtrak that stuck to your front teeth like cheap tooth whitening compound, and you recall that insane things might have escaped your lips even then, during that earlier time, for you noticed that he did in fact comb his fingers through his hair at one of your questions like he was looking for electronic listening devices on his scalp, and he did turn off the lock on his cellphone just in case.
Just in case.
Just in case you asked about his flight.