I think I am annoyed that Hollywood has ripped off another idea I never got published. My character from “Underground,” as all you longtime readers of the blog should realize, is known as the Tourist. Now, so is Johnny Deppe. Or Angelina Jolie. Iʼve only seen ads, so I don’t know which actor portrays the title character. Maybe now I know why ClusterMaps indicates a pretty solid fan base in southern California for the blog…
Have I told the story about my first fantasy series character, Arkon, a direct rip-off of Conan, whose name was merely “Akron” (as in Ohio) with the letters reordered? I penned a story or two about this brawny barbarian in my adolescent years, one of which got rejected by a New York-based fantasy mag back about 1969 or 1970. Then in 1970 a comic book appeared with a mighty thewed barbarian named Arkon. Coincidence? We donʼt think so. (Actually, I do, but I suffer from vague, deluded and imaginary paranoia when coincidence plays out against me.)
However, in honor of my own invention, for your fictional enjoyment today, I have the start of the third (out of four currently) Tourist story, this one insopired by our return from Prague to Chicago just over a year ago. Itʼs also the first story Ihave tried entirely dictating (which may explain why itʼs as yet incomplete).
Incident at OʼHare
Admittedly, at O’Hare I left my bag unattended for more than five minutes. But I had just cause.
The flight home from Europe had been hell. It all started far too early, and everything went downhill from that 3:50 AM alarm. They took my carry-on away from me at check-in, I had to wait two hours in the lounge, and by the time they let me board, the plane was already chock-full with more to come.
Furthermore I was stuck in the middle section of the giant plane — buried toward the back and not even in an aisle seat. A tall, lanky guy took my attention as I made my way back. Just as I went by he leaped up from a bulkhead seat by the windows, grabbed an immense carry-on/suit bag in the aisle seat beside him and commenced his efforts to cram it into the overhead bins. Not only was it far too large (unlike my own, now so distant from me in checked baggage) but he had the gall to begin moving other people’s bags from where they had already placed them into other bins, just to make room for his own where he wanted it — a few seats back from where he had been resting.
Once I found my seat, a piece of good luck occurred. As I approached the woman in the aisle seat to to beg her to rise and step to the side so I could get in next to her, she volunteered to take that seat and let me have the aisle. How could I resist? Once I had settled in, however, I realized what she was after — more foot room. In order to equip the seatbacks with entertainment system processing units, power centers or some kind of garbage from which the wiring led had to be located on floor. The box for that unit was underneath the seat ahead of me. Looking around as we waited and waited for the flight to take off, I noticed that such boxes were under the outside seats of each middle row on each end. Without my carry-on it really wasn’t a problem for me though. There was room enough for my feet.
The other bright spot was the seat in front of me. Even after we’d all been belted in for about a half an hour and still hadn’t taken off, that seat remained empty.
The tall guy I’d noticed just wouldn’t sit still. Up by the bulkhead he was first in the window seat, then in the aisle seat, then on his feet, head bent under the overheads standing in front of the bulkhead. I had a pretty good view of him over the unoccupied seat in front.
Then the two girls, whose seats he’d been presuming, arrived. He looked annoyed. And then he came back and sat right in the seat in front of me. I knew that now he would be my annoyance. And he was.
Even moments before the seat belt light shut off, he had already reclined his seat back directly into my face, where it remained for the next nine and a half hours, leaving barely ten inches for my face.
And so started the longest nine and a half hours of my life. I couldn’t sleep; there was no way to get comfortable. I tried watching the TV on his seat back, but the way his seat went back, there was no way that I could really see the screen. Reading was thoroughly out of the question: there was no way I could get a book in anywhere I could see it except by sticking my hand out into the aisle, and there was no light there.
I felt the worst the two times food was served. I could only barely slipped the lock on my tray table and squeezed it down between my neck and chest to rest against my belly. Operating the utensils to get at the food was pretty much impossible. I spilled food and slopped drink repeatedly during both sessions. I’m afraid I may have actually spilled on the girl next to me. I wanted to slap right up over the top under the guy in front, but there was no way I could do it.
My only release came when I had to go to the bathroom. The space he left me was so narrow that I had to shove against his seat just to get out. I admit I shoved quite a bit more than was necessary each of the three times I got up and went. I shoved at it both getting up and sitting back down. He might as well been a department-store mannequin for all the reaction I got from him.
My suffering only increased the longer the flight went on. Once we are over American territory, the minutes stretched into hours. I writhed in my seat. My butt cheeks and upper thighs ached. I actually reached out and shook his seat. Twice.
Eventually we began our descent. I began to feel as if I almost couldn’t breathe.
This guy actually was on our flight back from Zurich and behaved exactly as described, worse. There is more already dictated (nearly a year ago). Maybe thatʼll be the post for Boxing Day…