He'd only been in the place fifteen minutes, and already Mr. Javikjishisky wanted to wipe it from the face of the earth. His very-Orthodox-mother would perhaps have thought it was Hell. (Perhaps he should have gone to Mass last week.)
Really, it was an assault on the senses. The décor varied between nondescript, hideous, nondescriptly hideous, and hideously nondescript. Blue and green triangles exploded at him from the carpet. The awful “music” was the same four notes played over and over and over and over and over and over again. And again.
It actually made Javikjishisky envy the blind and the deaf.
And, oh, the smell. It was as if some diabolical perfume-maker had, in a fit of inhuman glee, decided to mix body odor, cologne of all sorts and strengths, and the odors of food from all corners of the world, and then had added in a strong dose of glass cleaner and old carpet.
It was 11:43, and Javikjishisky hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so he’d made the mistake of picking up a chicken salad sandwich. There were dubious chunks in it, he noted, but ate anyway.
Then, he tripped coming off of the moving walkway, despite the automated voice he’d somehow managed to tune out, and the dubious chicken salad ended up sprayed over his face, shirt, newly pressed pants, and the floor. He stepped in the mayonnaise and nearly fell again, but managed to pull himself together and stumble on, leaving mayo-prints and curses in his wake.
There was a line to check in, and a line to check his baggage, and a line to get on the escalator, and a line to get into the bathroom, and a line for the paper towels, and a line to get the horribly deceased sandwich, and the biggest of all lines at security. He waited, behind a couple having a loud (and worse, unintelligible and therefore not diverting) argument in Chinese. Behind him was a sweet but odd-smelling old lady who kept crowding just too close. Javikjishisky hated crowds, especially when he was hungry and tired, and he hated most of all the impeccably dressed and stunning woman who was staring disdainfully at the chicken salad splotches on his person.
Time crawled. The line crawled, if possible, even more slowly. A nasal-voiced security guard herded them into a more tightly-packed S-curve. The old woman breathed on the back of Javikjishisky’s neck. “Oh, sonny, looks like you’ve spilled something there!”
The security guard at the front of the line might have seemed like an angel, if he had been radiant and tall and dressed in flowing white, with enormous gleaming wings. He was instead grubby and short, dressed in navy blue, and completely wingless, but Javikjishisky didn’t care. He set his carry-on on the conveyer belt and practically sprinted through the metal detector.
Mentally, Javikjishisky cursed the detector unto the seventh generation. Physically, he did as he was told and removed his shoes and went through the detector again.
Javikjishisky allowed himself to be led meekly aside while inwardly cursing everything in sight unto the seventy-seventh generation. He stared fixedly ahead while he was being padded and prodded all over, and thought he understood the meaning of “seeing red.” The awful walls with multi-colored squiggles on them actually seemed to be turning red. So, probably, was Javikjishisky’s face.
Apparently there was a problem with his carry-on luggage also, and the guards proceeded to ask Javikjishisky all sorts of questions ranging from his lineage to his breakfast cereal preferences. They pulled out his passport and pored over that, and pronounced his name incorrectly approximately four thousand three hundred and fifty seven times. Eventually it was discovered that Javikjishisky’s luggage contained a pair of scissors (banned—weaponry) and that neither he nor any of his family, back to his great-grandfather in the Old Country, had ever committed an act of terrorism (unless you counted his aunt’s inedible pierogies, which the Transportation Security Administration didn’t.) They couldn’t figure out why Javikjishisky was beeping, but after he insisted he’d miss his flight and they hadn’t found anything at all incriminating on him, he was released. Perhaps it was something in the chicken salad, he thought.
After retying his shoes, Javikjishisky sprinted off to Gate F 41, which was of course on at the very end of the concourse. He arrived just as final boarding was being called by a robotic looking-blonde woman. She smiled maniacally at him. “Welcome to flight 419 to New York, Mr. Ja.. Jawa…”
“Jenkins,” he snapped (anything to get away from those teeth) and shoved his boarding pass at her.
All the seats were taken, except for one between a lovely young woman and her fidgety baby on the aisle and a five-year old boy with his nose pressed against the window.
Twenty minutes into the flight, Javikjishisky realized he’d been wrong. The airport was Purgatory. This plane—that was Hell.
The kid on his right was blowing things up on his video game console and shrieking in ecstasy with each hit. The baby on his left was squalling, and its mother was cooing at it in such a saccharine voice Javikjishisky could taste the sugar.
Or perhaps that was the taste of utter despair.
The little girl behind him was kicking his seat and prattling about unicorns, the man in front of him had reclined his seat all the way, someone had already done the crossword in the magazine in the seat pocket, and the in-flight movie was Gigli. The flight attendants ran out of peanuts one row ahead of him.
“Ok, folks, we’re now crossing the grand ol’ Mississippi River! In 1682 Robert LaSalle was the first European to travel its length…”
The pilot’s jolly voice was disturbing Javikjishisky’s thoughts of suffocating himself with the airsickness bag. And wouldn’t you know it, the minute after the pilot shut up, he came on again.
“Sorry folks, we’ll be encountering some turbulence…”
With that, Javikjishisky broke. He couldn’t remember much more of the flight—between his growing exhaustion and utter despair all was a haze. Horrid phantoms, like the kid in the window seat throwing up what looked like it had once been hot dogs and chips, danced in his head. Some man a few rows back was bragging about stock options. Javikjishisky’s head was throbbing in time to the airport Muzak, still playing the same four notes over and over and over and over and over and over again. And again…
He was brought out of darkness by the pilot jovially welcoming them all to New York, and by the red glare of the rising sun coming through the window.