“Would you mind switching with me?” asked the well-dressed gentleman sitting directly behind me. I had just boarded the plane at LAX. “They mistakenly put my wife next to you.” he continued, smiling at the elegant woman to my right. “Of course,” I said, always eager to help a married couple so clearly in love. We switched seats, and I sat behind the gentleman. Within five minutes of taking off, the man leaned his seat all the way back, blocking most of the space needed for my long legs.
“Some thanks” I mumbled to myself.
I bought these tickets at the last moment, so I had no choice but to switch planes at Dulles. Once we got to Washington, there was a delay and we had to circle the airport for fifteen minutes. I was getting nervous about missing my connection.
As we started our descent, a flight attendant made an announcement on the loudspeaker, “There is one passenger who needs to connect to a flight to JFK. Could you please raise your hand?”
I meekly put up my hand. The flight attendant pointed me out and the rest of the plane looked in my direction.
“When we arrive at the gate,” she continued, “would everyone be kind enough to stay in their seats and let this passenger exit the plane first?”
“How nice.” I thought.
The plane landed. The moment the seat belt sign went off, everyone completely ignored the previous announcement and stood to get their luggage from the overhead bins. I was trapped in my seat.
The flight attendant spoke into her microphone again, this time with a bit more emphasis, “Could everyone please return to their seats and let the passenger who needs to make his flight to JFK deplane first?”
The grouchy passengers grumbled as I made my way down the center aisle. I weaved my way past the obstacle course of opened bins, luggage in the aisle, and dirty looks, I heard a wife complain to her husband, “Why didn’t he take a STRAIGHT-THROUGH flight like everyone else rather than make us all wait?!” It was apparent that the other passengers really didn’t give a damn whether or not I made my flight. Not only that, they wished me DEAD for making them wait ten seconds.
Now I have several wonderful blogging friends in the Washington D.C. area, so I’m not going to make any generalizations about the residents of our nation’s capital.
And to be honest, my arrival in New York was just as unfriendly.
Once at JFK, I wheeled my suitcase to the taxi stand. There was a long line of cabs waiting to pick up tourists for the $45 trip to Manhattan. Some unlucky cabbie got stuck with me — a local fare staying in Queens.
For most of my trip home, I had to endure this cabbie’s dramatic monologue, which consisted of “F***k, F***k, F***k, I waited for twenty f**king minutes for this s**t!” said over and over.
I finally made it home and overtipped the cabbie out of guilt. He zoomed off without a thank you.
I stood in front of my familiar old apartment building, but I didn’t feel any joy. Instead, the trip had just made me depressed.
I thought of that gentleman who shoved his seat in my face as a thank you for my switching rows with him. I remembered the callous passengers on the flight to Dulles, so selfish they couldn’t wait a few seconds to let me off the plane. I saw the face of the disgruntled New York cabbie, who ruined my welcome home with his obscenities and hateful stares. Is this humanity? Is this the best we can do? People suck! I could feel any empathy for the human race drain out of my body, like the sweat does when I’m in the San Fernando Valley in August.
I entered my apartment building. The elevator was waiting and I got inright away. As the elevator door was about to close, I heard a voice calling out, “Hold it!” I quickly pushed the “Door Open” button, and a hefty man jumped inside the elevator.
“Thank you, kind sir,” he said.
This hefty man was a odd looking guy. He was at least 65 years old. He had thick white hair, a long white beard, retro Ben Franklin glasses, and extremely red cheeks, almost like sugar plums. When he laughed, he did this hardy “Ho Ho Ho” that sounded a bit fake, but at the same time it was very endearing. He said his name was Nick. I never saw him before, so I assumed he was a new resident in the apartment building.
“Did you just fly in?” he asked.
“What did you fly on?”
“You name yours Jet Blue?”
“Huh? It’s an airline.”
“Oh, yeah, I should try one of those some day. Can’t be any worst than listening to Rudolph and Prancer argue all night about their “alternative lifestyle.””
This strange man was making me nervous.
“Do you… uh… live here?” I stammered.
“Oh, no. I came here to see you, Neilochka.”
“Me?! How do you know my name?!”
“Oh, that. Don’t take this the wrong way, but I see you when you’re sleeping. I see you when you’re awake.”
I started reaching for my cellphone to call 911.
“You’ve been a very good boy this year, Neil.” he said, smiling. “Well… except maybe for you, uh, “decorating your Christmas tree” a little too often in the morning when you wake up. But hey, even I send out the Mrs. for some gingerbread cookies when I want some alone time.”
“Who the hell are you?” I demanded.
He laughed his oddball “Ho Ho Ho.”
“It sounds like you’ve had a terrible trip to New York, my friend. And you’re beginning to doubt the good in humanity.”
“Is this elevator broken?”
I started pushing buttons at random.
“Life can be harsh.” he continued in his deep voice. “Many lose hope at this time of the year. They grow depressed as the days get darker and nights get colder.”
“Well, thanks, but I have my Prozac for that. I’m going to call the police now for help. I think we’re stuck.”
“Neilochka, you are stuck, but not in the way you are thinking. You are stuck because you are not seeing the joy of life.”
“Ah… what if there was a way you could find this joy of life again and help others as well… help others see what is wonderful with the world…”
“I have no idea what you are talking about. Maybe you should move to Los Angeles. You can make millions giving New Age seminars. What do you want from ME?”
“Here’s what I want, Neil. Have you ever thought about hosting a Holiday Concert on your blog, where other bloggers spread the joy by sending in holiday music and songs they recorded themselves?”
“Host a Holiday Concert? Me? But I’m Jewish!”
“So am I, Neilochka…” said Nick. “So am I.”
(TO BE CONTINUED)