The skies only look friendly

Rule number one in travel writing:
Never discuss your gastrointestinal problems. No matter how unique and/or strange the occurrence, nobody wants to read about it, not even your mother.

Rule number two in travel writing:
Never discuss point A to point B travel details or how long it took. Unless you got there by elephant, such minutia is boring.

Rule number three in travel writing:
Never whine or complain about travel inconveniences. Hey, at least you are out there. The rest of the world is stuck in some cubicle and will have no sympathy for your lumpy hotel mattress, missed train, etc.

I’m about to break all three rules…


Silent warfare at 30,000 feet

I woke up with the hangover I deserved. I accepted the pounding inside my brain humbly as my just punishment. What I found unfair and quasi-alarming was the tsunami wave of pain that originated in my stomach and was now coursing downward through my body uncontrollably, carrying god only knew what horrible debris in its wake. I hadn’t been that bad. I didn’t deserve this kinda pain. My intestinal track had turned into a wild water park flume ride and some giant vile thing was whoosing too fast down the straight parts, then getting stuck (ouch) in the turns. Visions of water park enthusiasts squirting out of tunnels leapt into my still throbbing head. Oh, the pain.
I gingerly took my seat in the plane and checked my watch. A gut check confirmed what I feared. The ‘debris’ would reach the end of its flume ride long before I reached the end of the plane ride. Shit. And I mean that in every conceivable way possible.
Adding to that, the travel gods had turned against me. What started as a very early day (3AM) and about 6 hours of easy travel turned into 12 excruciating hours on a completely full flight in a horrible storm with a screaming baby in the seat behind me. Heavy sigh. But worse than that (and there are very few things on the planet worse than that) the weirdo guy in the seat next to me (not Chris, the weirdo on the other side of me) launched a full scale elbow war.
It began with a slight brushing of our arms over the neutral zone known as The Armrest. A brush, a mere whisper of contact during takeoff. It’s the Elbow War equivalent of ‘en garde’. Quickly it escalated into muscle tensing/no holds barred/I would spit on your mother, open but undeclared elbow warfare.
We skirmished in silence for more than an hour over disputed territory – the 3 inch wide highly coveted frontier of the skys - The Armrest. It’s the Elbow War equivalent of the military High Ground, the Maginot Line, the Porkchop Hill of the airways. Every time I moved my arm to turn a page in my book he used the opportunity to advance, moving another fraction of an inch. Every time he fidgeted, which was more often than I turned a page since I’m only pretending to read, I regain some minuscule armrest turf.
The Rules of Elbow War Engagement are strictly adhered to by both of us. Neither makes eye contact or speaks to each other. All movements must outwardly appear natural and civil. Yeah right, like Attila the Hun kinda civil. As a seasoned road warrior I rarely permit any imperialist elbow aggression, but hey, I was tired and he was capital W Weird.
He had a dirty ponytail and he was wearing grimy leather pants and an old Harvey Davidson motorcycle jacket, proudly flying his ‘colors’. He reeked of cheap cigars (at least I think it was cheap cigars) and he kept mumbling quasi-intelligible words to himself. Creepy.
Lots of practice allows me to sleep on just about any plane, including this charter flight with me and the boys into Papua New Guinea. Chris loves to fly so usually doesn't sleep. He would have stuck his head out the window for better views of the atolls and reefs if possible.

After another futile hour of silent but heated battle, in the name of peace I conceded the entire armrest to him. Checkmate. I sighed heavily in surrender and crossed my arms over my chest to keep them well within my small domain. I resembled a corpse in defeat. At least it’s over, I think. Tired, I close my eyes. But wait, what was that? Was that really his elbow advancing OVER the armrest boundary? Oh god, he is not content with his victory, not by a long shot. I sense his ambitious greed for new lands to conquer. He’s intent upon (literally) elbowing his way over the armrest frontier into my sovereign seat area! Damn, no matter how much space I give him his arm keeps inching farther and farther into my turf. My enemy is crazy and without remorse and I’m too tired to launch a counter attack. Now I know how Poland felt in 1942.
But I have a plan that even Churchill would applaud. I raise my hands – not in surrender but to call the smiling stew to my side carrying yet another of those cute little vodka bottles. Ahhhh, getting there is once again half the fun.