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Articles by Brian Jackson

Brian Doesn't Update Enough: Volume 5, "How to Catch an Airplane"

16 July 2012

The following is a true story, written in present tense. Get over it.

The ticket reads "Departure Time - 12:51 PM," and I'm in a hurry from the passenger seat of my girlfriend's car.

The clock reads 12:19, and I'm pulling into the airport drop-off lane. My girlfriend leans over to the passenger-side window and I speak a farewell that hangs in the air as I turn away from her. On my way to the Delta counter, my glance passes over the large, mildly annoyed crowd waiting to strut their stuff in front of airport security. I look at the clock again.

It's 12:20. I'm looking back and forth from my phone to a ticket kiosk, and I enter letters and numbers deliberately with one fingertip. At 12:21, the kiosk abruptly and authoritatively notifies me that my time's up and I'll need to find a different flight. Almost imperceptibly, the nervous signals signifying desperation add a jitter to my hands. I try again. The kiosk refuses my advances.

I'm pacing back and forth in the five feet of unoccupied carpet from the kiosk to the aloof Delta employee, who is explaining to a foreign man at the next station how to buy his plane ticket online. The man is less patient than she is. He eventually clears out of my way, and I haltingly summarize my situation to the employee, who points a three-inch fingernail at the desk and firmly, but kindly, suggests I take it up with the counter.

It is 12:31 when I reach the front. The man at the counter offers to print my boarding passes and gives me a chance to scramble to the plane. I ask him what I should do if I don't make it. The hustle in my voice is unmatched by the even tenor that tells me I can visit the desk at the gate. I say with a forced laugh that I have a jog ahead of me, and I walk, don't run, to the security line - praying that I'll make it and discovering that I don't have anything to offer in a bargain with the Almighty.

I stand between clueless vacationing slobs, vibrating the air molecules around my body at the frequency of a man who's about to eat his own skin.

In my peripheral vision, the clock reads 12:37 as I'm doffing my shoes and backpack and placing my academic career into plastic bins to go through an X-ray machine. I prepare to flash the image of my naked body across the monitor of some half-interested TSA agent when the fortysomething woman in a blue uniform tells me to take off my belt. I yank the buckle out of my shorts with a quickness and intention only known to displeased father figures meting out discipline to rowdy and unrepentent ten-year-old boys, and I plant it in the front pocket of my luggage, almost halfway into the X-ray machine.

The slack-jawed agent who pats my cargo shorts near the knee tells me the zippers set off the body scanner, but he sees the maelstrom in my eyes and clears out of the way. I reach for my luggage and shoes, and the speakers announce the last call for boarding my flight. Backpack over one shoulder, luggage in one hand, and shoes in the other, I sprint into the distance on sock feet. I don't check to see what time it is.

In the long (too long) hallway to the "B" gates, I realize that I'm going to try the limits of whatever cardiovascular fitness I can muster to keep running all the way to the gate. They repeat the last call for my flight over the speakers.

There's a woman fifty feet ahead. I mouth the words, "pardon me on your left," but I outrun the sound of them, and she doesn't hear my politeness until after I'm already past.

There's an escalator and stairs in my way. I take the stairs. Two at a time, at full speed and bounding leaps, and they're calling names for the few unlucky saps who showed up late to the airport. I can see the sign for B12. I'm still running on legs that look way too thin to belong to a grown man. As the attendants say my name, I descend upon them, brandishing a boarding pass like Barney Fife with a loaded handgun.

I try to contain my agitation and relief, which fill my body with a heterogeneous chemical mixture that makes me goose-step my sock feet down the ten-inch-wide aisle in the economy section of the airplane. When I crowd past the middle-aged man between me and my window seat, I make barely-audible smalltalk about how there's nothing better than a brisk jog. My shoes go on the floor, my luggage goes in an overhead compartent four rows ahead, and the sweat- slicked not-leather seat that I'm occupying becomes a cradle for my slender, exhausted frame.

I venture one last look at my phone as I'm powering down the strange collection of electronics I'm carrying. It's 12:46. I tilt my head back against the headrest and I reflect on how my fevered prayers were answered, and how I'd never be happier to arrive in Atlanta.


That girlfriend

"My girlfriend..."



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