The flight to LA started down the runway building speed and as I leaned back and closed my eyes for liftoff, the brakes went on. We slowed to a halt. The pilot made a vague announcement “We’re just going to check on something, folks. Please do us a favor and stay in your seats with your seatbelts fastened. We’ll check back in a couple of minutes.”
After about 10 minutes of waiting, the pilot announced that there had been an issue with a warning light that had come on just as he was going to takeoff.
“Looks like it was a malfunction, folks. We’re all cleared for takeoff.” he promised.
The palpable discomfort in a situation like that is so hard to bear. Everyone looks at each other with thin-lipped smiles, quietly communicating with our eyes that “it’s okay now. Everything is fixed”. Nobody opens their mouth to speak- their insincere breathy voices would betray the veneer of confidence. The rancid smell of stress mists into the cabin as we all secretly clench our hands in our laps. People close their eyes, trying to look relaxed when it’s easy to see that they are praying with all their might that they will be delivered safely and painlessly.
Our manufactured confidence magically greased the offending gears and we were on the way. You could hear the sigh of relief once we leveled out. I was beginning to wonder if all of our trip would be near misses.
The LA airport was a surreal maze. One might assume that terminal B would be next to terminal C. But no, it was all the way on the other side of the airport. We went thru all kinds of corridors. Some were crowded with people and others looked abandoned. It was like being in a horror movie from the 70’s where you are lost in an abandoned office building and a murderer jumps out from behind a locked door.
When we entered the International Terminal, the era suddenly changed to mid 90’s pop punk – mixed with futuristic giant hi-def screens. We entered the large open space and heard an electronic riff paying for about 15 seconds on repeat- loudly. There was a shop window with a huge monitor – 12×6 ‘ where an image of an emaciated face of a white model with tousled blond hair staring off into the sky toggled with a white girl with bright red dyed hair grouped in asymmetrical pigtails, her face powdered white with red circles painted under her eyes. She was wearing a crinoline petticoat and a bra barely covered by a white tshirt with some spray painted slogan on it. I’m still not sure why that was advertising and not fine art. Are there people who see that and say “I’ve been thinking of changing my look to be a little more…psychotic”?
In the common area there was a cart and a setup for karaoke. What fresh hell that could have been. Thankfully, it was early and nobody was drinking just yet. The smell of all the perfumes from the duty free shop combined and to my nose made a olfactory cocktail that came off as a kind of sweetly scented vanilla diarrea.