By Rob Terrell
It's 6 a.m. I'm flying to L.A. I have a job to go to. Work. I must work. I couldn't get to sleep last night until 2 a.m. I had to get up at 4:30 a.m. to catch this flight. I desperately want to sleep. Things are absurdly funny in that way that things only get when you're beyond tired and want nothing more than to sleep, but everyone and everything around you conspires against it.
Planes going to LA are always loaded with kids. I guess it's Disney-related. You'd think the Disney draw on the east coast would be Orlando, but no. It's a known scientific fact that kids can sense a sleepy person and derive crying energy from it. They can smell my fatigue. There's a rattle underneath my row, some windy vibration I'm sure isn't natural. Should I tell someone? There's a guy sitting across the aisle from me, a huge hulking man whose scale makes the plane seem dwarfish. He has enormous tattooed biceps. He's dressed in black. He can't stop moving -- he shifts his weight back and forth, he sticks his foot under the seat in front and taps it, he moves his foot across the aisle (nearly on top of mine) and stomps it; he gets up, sits down, and gets up again. He's gotten up six times so far. I swear he needs a fix. The older folks behind me like to get up, too, and they like to use my seat as their handhold, snapping my head around. The stewardess offer me cookies. People all around open their plastic cookie packages, the squeaky sound coming from all directions. The folks behind me stuff their empty cookie bags into the seat back pouch, which is right beside my head, since I'm reclined and trying to sleep. The squeaky stuffing noise goes on interminably. Won't it just go in? Does it really require further fussing with? "I like the hard cookies," the older man behind me loudly declares, as if he's talking to someone in front of me, "with real chocolate chips. My mom called them cowboy cookies." There's a pause. "I miss my mom." Jesus, this is going to be a long flight.
So on leg two...I'm two screwdrivers to the sandman but still can't quite go under. There's a woman on the other side of the plane, three rows back, and she's talking so loud she's keeping me awake. Her stories are boring and her insights insipid. I want to ask her to be quiet. I want to yell at her. I want to ring the call button and ask them to eject her. I wonder if her mouth will tire. I wonder if she'd be nice if I actually asked her to be quiet. I doubt it. She's giving off the need-to-talk-to-a-stranger vibe in a powerful way, the inverse of my row-mate, who aggressively doesn't even want eye contact with me. After typing that sentence I sneezed, and she just said "god bless you" without turning her head towards me, and with a definite lower-case "g." The captain keeps toggling the seat-belt sign like a kid playing with the power locks on a car, making a plane reverberate with an endless stream of loud beeps.
I just want to fucking sleep. One more hour of sleep before going to work. Is that too much to ask? What the fuck do these people want from me? Is this some evil enemy plot to torture me, to drive me slowly insane, to make me confess all my bleary-eyed secrets to the next person I see?
Now my nose is drippy. I'll never get to sleep. Never. I'm going to grab a complete stranger by the lapels and beg him, absolutely beg him, for permission to sleep. I'm going to promise this woman in my row I'll do anything for some sleep. Somebody please grant me the right to 90 minutes of shut eye.
(Postscript: I eventually arrived in L.A., took a taxi to work and somehow sat through a staff meeting, where I explained in great detail how busy I was going to be all day long. Then I left the meeting early, locked my office door, snuck into the icy-cold server room, and slept for six hours behind the rack of Sun servers.)