Thursday, September 17, 2009

We were at 17

I had a relaxing flight from San Francisco to Dallas this afternoon. An open seat to my left in United’s Economy Plus section; I half-watched a movie while I worked; I listened to music for a while and made sure to avoid that Public Works Department Show starring Amy Poehler which they showed after the movie, because it’s annoying and reminds me too much of my real job. Tomorrow I fly back on the cheapest flight possible, which as usual, is on the worst airline possible: US Airways. Hopefully things will go smoothly and the air conditioning will work properly, which it did not on my flight from Charlotte to SFO last week. Hopefully there will actually be air vents on the plane, unlike the junky old US Airways flight I took from Phoenix to Houston a few weeks ago, which was most unpleasant as I fanned myself with my barf bag.

Prior to boarding my flight in San Francisco, I was working in a carrel in the Red Carpet Club – United Airlines’ version of a private waiting room with snacks, magazines, Wi-Fi, TVs and workspace. And as I was working I heard a loud man’s voice approach. “But you’re not listening. We were going at 17%.” And then the voice passed as promptly as it came. I continued clicking on my computer keyboard and then heard the same voice even louder approaching me. “Swell. Scott is an asshole. You need to invest $10 million of your own money in shares to make this work. That’s what I was saying.” I stood up to look at the body from which this voice boomed. It was a 50-year old guy wearing old man’s jeans, with dark hair and some gray, wire frame glasses and, of course, a mobile phone in his hand. He didn’t see me and I sat back down in the Herman Miller chair that’s a twin to the one I have at work.

He was marching around in the Red Carpet Lounge business center talking at top volume – yes, probably a New Yorker – having a private business conversation about getting screwed over by some deal that wasn’t going to go through.

I got pissy at first. Then I was struck with evil gleeful thoughts that I actually heard myself muttering aloud. Every time he’d pass, oblivious to the fact there were other people all around him working in the carrels, I’d hear his agitated pleas into the phone “We need to tell them this is some serious stuff” and I’d whisper, “I hope his business deal fails. What a jerk.” A few minutes later, talking as if he were ordering a team of commandos scattering about on the other end of the phone line to make way for his booming voice: “Tell them they need to make 17 work. That’s what we agreed to.” And I’d grumble: “Ha, ha. Hope you only get 12%.” He passed by over and over again, having one of those conversations on his phone that I’ve only seen on television shows where mass murderers are on the phone yelling at somebody to help them cover their tracks: pacing, emotional and making a racket.

The next time he came by, I stood up, walked into the aisle where he was pacing and stared at him. “Yeah, but that’s 17%! No, there are no showers in this lounge!” he roared and then saw me giving him the evil eye. He gave me a look of disgust and walked to the back of the club. I didn’t see him again.

Silence at last. Though now I overheard a conversation in another carrel that included “delivering 18 airbus planes in the next six months before the two really start to merge.” I figured he was a Continental Airlines executive planning to take over United Airlines. I doubt they could accomplish that in six months anyway. He spoke at a normal volume and wasn’t having a panic attack so I lost interest and typed an email to my coworker. Just then I smelled cigarette smoke. Do you remember the last time you smelled cigarette smoke? Years? In an airport? I stood up and saw smoke coming from the carrel two down from mine and saw a bewildered Japanese man standing behind the carrel looking around. I walked right over the man and only then realized he wasn’t the offender. The carrel in front of him had another Japanese man wearing a baseball cap and jacket puffing away on a cigarette and using one of the styrofoam cereal bowls from the breakfast bar as his ashtray.

I said to the man, “You cannot smoke.”

He looked at me and said, “Oh? Really?”

And I said “You cannot smoke anywhere in the airport.” Then I harrumphed and turned away as he was mashing his fag into the ash-covered, butt-marked bowl.

Do I have to be the safety and good behavior monitor in the United Red Carpet Club? No smoking. No shouting. Who cares about your $10 Million deal? I am getting cranky so I will stop here.

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