My sunken pose was a danger. Not only to myself and my health, but to the company I worked for. I knew it, but there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. Not even the incessant beat of ”Dance with Somebody” could move me, streaming from the Spotify-powered loudspeakers of the monitor; I knew that even nodding my head might prove my undoing.
As the day had progressed, I had slowly slid further and further down my chair. Now I was lounging in some sort of half-lying limbo position, typing away with the keyboard near my chin. This, in turn, meant that not only was my lower back slowly beginning to develop some serious pangs of pain, I could also feel my mind drifting more and more by the minute and my fingers take on a life all of their own, as the blood supply to the brain was slowly diminishing. I barely managed to stop myself from uploading an Excel file that would have given our Chinese subcontractors a 12000% pay rise. Yet, I wouldn’t move.
- You’ve moved, Harry! shouted Nick as he came into the room from his sevent coffee break of the day. Moving over to me he carefully examined the thin threads that he’d tied to my arms.
- Oh, OK. I guess you haven’t moved, he said sullenly. Well, look at the bright side. Only two hours to go and you’ve completed the challenge!
- I’m beginning to think this challenge of yours wasn’t such a good idea, I muttered, a muttering that turned into a groan as I felt myself slip a couple of centimeters further down the chair.
- Don’t be like that, Nick sniggered as he threw himself down in his chair, flicked the monitor on and promptly picked up his game of Texas Hold’Em where he’d left it. You know you want tickets to the hockey game, and this, my friend, is the only way I’ll agree to help you. It’s good to suffer for a cause, you know.
I shook my head and steeled myself. These were going to be a couple of long hours.
- Hey, that’s interesting, Nick said while gazing at his computer.
- What is? I asked.
- You remember Joshua, right? Nick said
- Yeah, haven’t seen him in ages though, I groaned. Last time I saw him he was totally wasted on the back of a pickup truck driving away into the desert. Thought I’d never see him again. Got a text from him though a couple of days later, something about standing behind a bar, pouring drinks to strangers with a snake around his neck. Weird guy, funny though.
- Well, it look like he’s getting married, said Nick. To a real stunner. And he wants us to attend. On Saturday.
- What? I jerked my head in the direction of Nick’s desk. Too late I realized my mistake, as my carefully maintained balance on the edge of my chair teetered… and gave way.
Nick gazed upon the me, a swearing heap of man that occupied the floor area beneath his co-worker’s desk.
- FUCK! I yelled, as I pulled myself up from the floor, alternating between holding my head, rubbing my neck and trying to piece out if my lower back was still in one piece. GODDAMSHITFUCK!
- Well, Nick said impassionately, why don’t you just look at the bright side.
- WHAT FUCKING BRIGHT SIDE! I yelled, kicking away my chair.
- Well, you’re not going to go watch hockey this weekend, Nick smiled. So we’ll go marry off Joshua instead!
- I will kill you, I said. Some day, I will kill you.
- Tut-tut, Nick said. Now clear up your desk, it looks a mess.
* * *
I love airplanes. I simply fucking love them. It has nothing to do with any fancy ”oooh we’re traveling 10 kilometers up in the air!” or ”oooh this was never possible a hundred years ago!” or any sort of hipster bullshit like that. And it has definitely nothing to do with me wanting to pilot a plane myself. Those mosquito-sized bullshit engines that are more than likely to stall and leave you as a wet mark on the nearest tree trunk? No thanks. No, it’s way simpler.
Up in the air in a good sized passenger plane, I’m a paying customer for as long as my trip takes… and the service providers have nowhere to go. And I pride myself on being a very, very demanding paying customer.
It’s not that I enjoy seeing people cringe or avoid eye contact… OK, it might be a bit of that as well, but mostly it’s about the feeling of power. I never out-and-out insult anyone, but I know my rights and what I should be able to expect from my airline of choice… and they never live up to those expectations.
Like this one, I think, as I gaze on the stewardess hesitantly moving towards me. Late 20s, blond hair, freckles, tanned, all in all a fine human specimen. Only thing really false on her is the smile; having spent two hours in the air with me, she knows nothing good’ll come from the lit ”Stewardess needed” light above my head.
- Can I help you sir? She asks, that stiff smile glued professionally to her face.
- Well yeah, I smirk, bring me a glass of water, a pillow, a blanket and an unwrinkled copy of the in-flight magazine. This one you can throw in the trash!
I unceremoniously hand her the copy from my seat, with two barely visible creases on the front page. I deliberately hand it to her just a little bit too quickly, so that she doesn’t quite manage to catch it before the end of the rolled-up magazine lightly touches the underside of her breast and softly hits her in her solar plexus. No one who saw that could say it was deliberate… but she knows it was, and I know she knows.
- The water first, I say, still smirking.
She nods, that fake smile wavering a bit, and walks off.
Fuck, I love flying.
My proven tactic had worked yet again; by going to the toilet just before check-in, and staying for way too long, Nick had already checked in and wandered off when I got back. I checked in and when the girl behind the counter mentioned something about putting me in the seat next to my friend I quickly made clear that the person was in fact not my friend at all and could she please seat me at least 10 rows from him.
- You see, he’s kind of a jerk, I told the girl, who nodded symphatetically.
Best thing about that? I could direct Nick’s anger at the airline, as they apparently had been totally unable to process such a simple request as seating us two together.
Now I’m sitting with my iPad trying to get three stars on level 12 of Bad Piggies, which is extremely difficult.
The plane jumps in the air. My iPad falls to the floor as my stomach all of a sudden wants to exit through my mouth. Then… Ooooohhhshhhiiiit! mother of turbulence!, as we free-fall for at least a kilometer, and
We’re jerked back up again. The fasten seatbelt signs plonk like crazy. The captain is on the intercom saying something about turbulence - thank you sir, I think everyone noticed that turbulence! – but it’s hard to hear with three screaming kids in the rows near me.
Fuck, I think, looking at my seat neighbour, a middle aged woman with eyes big as saucers. She opens her mouth to tell me something and wooooooo! We’re free falling again. She screams in my face as I scream in her face and
We’re yanked back. Now it’s the pilot almost shouting through the intercom, and I hear him saying something about emergency landing. The oxygen mask hit me in the face as it’s released from the ceiling. I grab onto it just to have something to hang on to. I feel us going down, rapidly. I close my eyes, my whole body knotting up in one huge twist as I start praying for the first time in a decade.