Saturday, June 30, 2007

Skeletons of Thought

I promise not to give you a dull play-by-play of my holidays but I will tell you those things that occurred that I deem to have some kind of weird philosophical spin-off.

Yeh, I’m a white-knuckled flyer. Frightened of flight. So prior to leaving on holidays I gathered up all I could gather to fluff up a comforting quilt for a chilled mind. A whole parcel of poetic lines that put flying into the context of freedom, buoyancy, lightness, floating, soaring.

My hope was that I could turn my dread of flying into something lovely. And maybe it would have worked, but when we headed for the airport, there were huge black clouds rumbling and tumbling in from the west. And ‘west’ was the direction we were heading. Right into the fray.

And then, at the airport, as we proceeded through the luggage check, something else started gnawing at me. Here we are at a counter with a long line of booths representing different flight agencies. And above the singular booth, responsible for our trip, our safety, our welfare, is an added display. A 3” black streamer about four feet long attached horizontally across the bottom of the airline-logo sign-plate. A black streamer with a repeated pattern of white skeleton faces and crossbones. I was appalled.

Now I’m not superstitious in my conscious mind, but in the subconscious, there is a layer that slumbers but occasionally stirs to harken to subtle warnings. Sights, sounds, or signals that others quickly dismiss are for me, portends of impending disaster. That streamer roused that sleeping thing. Causing even more fright. And fright, when backed into a corner, kick-starts angry defense. So immediately I’m thinking, “Grab a brain, Freak. There are some of us in this line-up that already feel our lives are on the line.”

What kind of perverted airline-checker would decorate his booth with such a gruesome display? Sure there was a green net hammock as well strung up there with colorful plastic miniatures of a starfish, a pirate ship, a sword, and a telescope that I guess were supposed to represent the light-hearted side of some kind of pirate theme. If it was October, I could readily dismiss it as a Halloween theme. I could even set it aside if we were traveling by ship to the Caribbean. But that isn’t the case. I looked around. The other agents have no special decorations on their booths. But still, the d├ęcor is deliberate so it must have practical significance but for the life of me I can’t figure out what it is. With nothing relative I can only conclude it has a less practical significance – the foreshadowing of disaster. And so, the underlay of superstition in my subconscious mind interprets it as a death knell.

With that interpretation I find myself becoming angrier with that agent by the moment. For heaven’s sake, he, of all people, must know how cautious one has to be about word-speak in an airport. Mention hi-jacking, ammunition, or explosives, and you will be arrested, and here we have a contrived blazon hi-jacking theme pasted at eye level for all travelers to look at. It may be about boats and pirates, rather than planes specifically, but what do pirates do when they come aboard a vessel? They hi-jack it, don’t they? And inevitably, death is likely to follow. (And like others say, ‘It’s not that I fear death itself, it’s just that I don’t want to foolishly rush the transition and I don’t want that transition to hurt.’)

I turned to Hub. “When we get to the counter,” I said, “I’m going to tell that air-rep how much I DO NOT appreciate his display – particularly all the skeletons and cross-bones.” Hub, of course, the ever-practical thinker, told me to leave it alone. “Don’t be so silly and sensitive,” he said. “I’m sure it isn’t bothering anyone but you.”

Oh yeh? Here I disagree. There are at least 25% of us in this world who are white-knuckled flyers, and another 50% of us ruled by emotion rather than practicality, so I’m certainly not alone. I have my backers.


Matty said...

What did it mean? Did the airline-checkers have a bet going?? Some sick kind of flying humour?
Did you not ask??? First I would have taken a picture of it....then I would have asked..."what exactly is that a warning, or a joke?"
Jeez, I've never flown in my life...and I look forward to the day I get to go somewhere...but my mind would have certainly been jumping to clouds? black streamers? skeleton faces?
Did you at least get flight insurance?? did it render you speechless?? you didn't ask, did you? Now, I'll never know.

Roberta S said...

Hi matty, the reason I didn't ask is because a) Hub didn't want me to go there b) I probably wouldn't have been satisfied with his explanation, and c) because my asking would have further slowed the slowest thing in this world -- the line-up at ticket agents in airports.

So we'll never know. But despite the bad karma, I arrived at my destination safely.

Matty said...

I'm glad to hear that. I don't listen to my partner, when I want to ask something, I do.,whether I embarass him or not...he is used to it.
I'm glad to see you got there safe and sound. But now, I'll never will keep me up nights...I will google it...I will ask people...I'll go to my grave wondering?