Thursday, April 16, 2009

Hell is other people: Hysterics in Memphis

April 3, 2009
----Sitting in the Atlanta airport on a Friday afternoon approaching 5 p.m. and on Concourse E the air is full of motion and excitement; unlike last night's experience at the Memphis Airport, where everyone---well, many, were frustrated and bitchy. Many of us missed flights or had flights cancelled towards the end of a long day due to a thunderstorm that had swallowed up the area. To the south and east, the weather was more severe, but a thunderstorm is enough to cause flight delays and plans had to be changed.
Tired of watching those racing and pacing up and down the concourse, I am reading THE ADVENTURES AND MISADVENTURES OF MAQROLL by Alvara Mutis:
"A caravan doesn't symbolize or represent anything. Our mistake is to think it's going somewhere, leaving somewhere. The caravan exhausts its meaning by merely moving from place to place. The animals in the caravan knows this, but the camel drivers don't. It will always be this way."
There are many empty symbols in these airports, but some of us think we are more important or full of purpose than the others. My gripe over missing the connecting flight to Amsterdam Thursday night was not the delay in arriving in Madrid and missing prescious time with my dear friend, Lindy. Nor was it the downtime waiting for the next flight or the further delay waiting for the mechanics to check on the jet which eventually delivered us to Madrid Saturday afternoon. No, Hell is other people, and the Hell for me on Thursday night was listening to the prima donna assholes and twats bitch and whine about the distress in their lives at having to miss a flight. It was too much like work for me: that sound of petty bickering. Of course, as you might imagine, nearly all of them wore looks of anxiety, fear, astonishment or anger on their faces as they held cellphones to their heads and vented to friends, lovers, co-workers, airline representatives and hotel clerks. Just a drop of inconvenience had dropped into their lives and painted their faces with this ugliness.
Watching and listening to their antics and fits of hysteria and dramatization, I wondered what it must be like to be so cluelessy priviledged, accustomed to service upon order or utterly unprepared for a kink in their linear progression down the straight road. I would prefer that my life ticked along with efficiency and precision when I'm paying to move it along at a certain rate, I suppose, but I don't find the need to flip out when I am not having my rim tongued with the delivery of my prescious beans and franks by boys in freshly pressed polyester tuxedos. What's the point?
The worst of the bunch were women. There were three in particular who I hope never again to see or hear from ever again. The first and most angry was a Dutch woman. She was legitimately frightened, it sounded like, about being stranded at Memphis International. After snorting and moaning at the woman behind the Delta Airlines desk for atleast 20 minutes, she moved on with her instructions as we all waited in line. I would see her later trying this act on a small group of airline security folks. I didn't stick around to see how they dealt with her antics.
The second was an elementary school teacher who had left her second graders a day before spring break to get a head start on her trip to somewhere and it most definitely wasn't Memphis. Upset because she was going to have to shell out 80 bucks for a hotel room instead of sleeping at the airport, she pointed out, "We teachers are used to pinching pennies and these people are unpinching them!" This all in a huff to the woman behind her in line. "Well, they're not going to get away with this. That's all I've got to say." Somehow I thought that we couldn't be fortunate enough for that statement to be true, so I switched her half-assed and pathetics comments to mute and put my face into an issue of The New Yorker and a piece about solitary confinement.
I saw our teacher step to the desk to address the same woman who had absorbed the hysterics of the Dutch woman. If Ms. Teacher was laying down the law, she did it quietly and swiftly, for she certainly denied us any theatrics and was soon on the bus to the Ramada Plaza with me and many of the rest of the party. It was on that shuttle that she divulged to some other stranger the rest of the details of her day and why it was all "so crazy" and she was lightening up and sounding less threatening as she shared it all with him, and by association, all of us. She was over for me as I looked out the windows to try to figure out how far away from downtown we were being delivered. The Hell of Thursday night in Memphis came in a threesome, however...and no, not that kind of threesome.
Our third damsel in distress was a fit brunette on a sales trip to Atlanta. She, too, couldn't believe that the weather had her delayed. I know because she said so on her cellphone. She was the only associate that was going to miss tomorrow's meeting; and she was putting all of this in as overtime; and she couldn't believe it because she had already spent $30 of her per diem at the airport and now, NOW! she was going to have to stay at this MOTEL!
"Oh my GAWD, I don't even know the name of it, but they didn't have anything else and OH, MY GAWD! It's a Ramada. We're pulling up now. Yeah, a RAMADA, can you believe I'm going to sleep in a MOTEL?!! Oh, and they wouldn't release my luggage."
Yes, I had both ears full and was about to begin a little-bit of a fevered dance of my own if I didn't get out of the group of terribly put-upon people. As soon as the van was in park, I was out the side door and at the rear bumper to retrieve my duffel and get to the desk to check in. One woman was occupying the sole clerk and Ms. Oh-My-Gawd was on here cellphone reaching into her purse and attempting to walk into the second position. She stopped, blocking two other folks just behind her with her contorted corpse and that was all I needed. A quick step to my right and I was at the desk. I had card, ID and confirmation number ready when Shaniqua looked up in my direction. I was up to room 340 to dump my bags and back downstairs by the time Ms. Oh-My-Gawd was approaching the elevators. She was still on the phone, so I didn't stop to press her with some mack. I darted to the unmanned computer in the lobby, shot the 411 to Madrid via email and marched down a rainy patch of nowhere, somewhere outside of the I-240 belt, south of Memphis. My goal? Food, liquor, beer or anything better to do.
I stomped through and around puddles and mudded-up sidewalk past car dealerships and chicken shacks seeing nothing promising amidst the neon signage beyond, ducked inot a Citgo about a quarter mile away from the motel. I grabbed three tallboys of high-gravity lager and paid my money to the cashier behind the bulletproof glass, but not before he carded me (!!) "I must be looking good tonight, eh?" I said, getting no comment from the clerk. No matter.
By the time I re-entered the lobby, the line was down to four souls. I walked on down the hall with much urgency and hit the stairwell door just as Ms. Oh-My-Gawd was coming down from her room. "OH MY GAWD!!!" she shrieked, astonished that there was somebody else in the motel, using the same door as the same time.
I stepped aside to let her pass and began laughing. As I lunged up the first flight of steps, I cackled in falsetto mockery, OH MY GAWD! and was up the steps, down the hall and into the room to order a pie, strip, shower and redress. I was finishing my first slice of Memphis BBQ pizza and cracking open the second can when John Stewart was going over all the hubbub about Mrs. Obama touching the Queen of England.

In the baggage room at Greyhound
Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997)

In the depths of the Greyhound Terminal
sitting dumbly on a baggage truck looking at the sky
waiting for the Los Angeles Express to depart worrying about eternity
over the Post Office roof in the
night-time red downtown heaven,
staring through my eyeglasses I realized shuddering these
thoughts were not eternity, nor the poverty of
our lives, irritable baggage clerks,
nor the millions of weeping relatives surrounding the
buses waving goodbye,
nor other millions of the poor rushing around from city
to city to see their loved ones,
nor an indian dead with fright talking to a huge cop by
the Coke machine,
nor this trembling old lady with a cane taking the last trip
of her life,
nor the red capped cynical porter collecting his quarters
and smiling over the smashed baggage,
nor me looking around at the horrible dream, nor mustached negro
Operating Clerk named Spade,
dealing out with his marvelous long hand the
fate of thousands of express packages,
nor fairy Sam in the basement limping from leaden trunk to trunk,
oe at the counter with his nervous breakdown smiling cowardly at the customers,
nor the grayish-green whale's stomach interior loft
where we keep the baggage in hideous racks,
hundreds of suitcases full of tragedy rocking back and forth waiting to be opened,
nor the baggage that's lost, nor damaged handles,
name-plates vanished, busted wires & broken ropes,
whole trunks exploding on the concrete floor,
nor seabags emptied into the night in the final warehouse.

En la consigna de la Greyhound

En las profundidades de la Terminal de la Greyhound
sentado como un estúpido sobre un camión de equipaje mirando al
cielo esperando la salida del Expreso de Los Angeles
preocupándome acerca de la eternidad sobre el tejado de la Oficina
de correos en el cielo rojo de la noche del centro de la ciudad,
mirando con pasmo a través de mis gafas me di cuenta estremecido
de que estos pensamientos no eran la eternidad,
ni tampoco la pobreza de nuestras vidas, irritables encargados de equipajes,
ni tampoco los millones de sollozantes parientes que rodeaban los autobuses diciendo adiós,
ni tampoco otros millones de pobres apresurándose
de ciudad en ciudad para ver a las personas amadas,
ni tampoco un indio muerto de miedo hablando con gigantesco poli
junto a la máquina expendedora de Cola,
ni tampoco esta temblorosa anciana con su bastón que emprende el
último viaje de su vida,
ni tampoco el cínico portero de la gorra roja que recoje sus propinas
y sonríe mirando el machacado equipaje,
ni tampoco yo mirando en derredor mío al horrible sueño, ni tampoco el mostachudo empleado negro de Operaciones llamado
Spade, repartiendo con su maravillosa larga mano el
destino de miles de paquetes express,
ni tampoco el marica Sam en el sótano cojeando de plúmbeo baúl en baúl
ni tampoco Joe en el mostrador con su crisis nerviosa sonriendo cobardemente a los clientes,
ni tampoco el ático gris verdoso estómago de ballena
donde guardamos el equipaje en detestables estanterías,
centenares de maletas repletas de tragedia balanceándose
de un lado para otro esperando ser abiertas,
ni tampoco el equipaje que se pierde, ni tampoco las asas rotas,
las desvanecidas placas de identificación, los alambres reventados & las cuerdas rotas
los baúles enteros reventando sobre el suelo de cemento,
ni las talegas de marinero vaciadas de noche en el almacén final.

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