The Universe is trying to convince me that I am a hot bubblin’ cauldron of crazy, I shit you not. The story I am about to tell to you actually happened to me on a flight not too long ago.
Let’s take a moment to set the stage:
Picture a long line of passengers all crammed together as they board an airplane. I am one of those passengers. My progress down the center aisle is measured in hours, which means that there are moments where I am paused at a particular row long enough to notice quirks and peculiarities of the people who have already taken a seat. For example, the woman seated in 6D. Let’s call her Joan, and let’s imagine she looks like this:
(I found this pic by typing “pics of women who won first prize for casseroles at county fairs”)
Since I am only 4’11” tall, the view of the seated passengers is obstructed by the line of normal sized humans in front of me. This means that I can only see the people who occupy my peripheral vision, namely, people who are seated in window seats. People like Joan. Only when I move forward and the horde in front of me moves away am I able to see anyone positioned in an aisle seat. Hold onto that fact, folks. You are going to need it for later. Now let’s get back to the plane:
I make my way down the aisle toward Joan and notice that she appears sweaty and panicked. Rocking back and forth and wringing her hands, she demonstrates the classic signs of someone with a fear of flying. I also notice that taped up over the window at her side is an 8X10 photo of a man about her age. Let’s call him Paul, and let’s say he looks like this (I found this pic by typing “Dudes named Paul”):
Since my line is at a stand still I have time to ponder the reason as to why there is a picture of a man taped over Joan’s window. I watch her steal glances at the photo (when she’s not busy trying to rip her fingers off), and decide that this photo must function as a focal point for Joan in those moments when her fear of flying threaten to overtake her. This man Paul must be a source of comfort to Joan in her life, and it makes me smile to imagine the warmth and happiness he surely brings her. I think to myself that it would be quite an honor to know Paul in real life.
Well it didn’t take long for me to find out, because as the line moved forward the man in aisle seat 6C was revealed. A man who looked exactly like this:
No, I did not accidentally put up a pic of the same man twice, because the man seated in the aisle seat was none other than Paul, the same man whose face was taped over the window (if you had to read that sentence twice, you are not alone. I was there and I had to reread it to make sure it made sense). I’ll paint the picture once more for clarity:
Blue ribbon winning, casserole baking, pasty-faced Joan is seated in window seat 6D, flanked by a real-life dude named Paul to her left and a pic of the same dude named Paul to her right- his two-dimensional mug beaming proudly in all its comb-over glory.
Now some of you may be thinking, “So what, Hellis? She’s got a pic of the man sitting next to her. What’s the big deal? I’ve got pictures of people I know in my wallet. Did you really think there was enough meat in this moment to justify a blog post? I’ve just wasted three minutes of my life reading the sub-moronic ramblings of a semi-functioning illiterate. Eat shit and die.”
To which I answer, “But WHY did she tape up the picture?!? She didn’t need the photo as a proxy for comfort, THE DUDE WAS SITTING RIGHT THERE!” Oh, and also, “Fuck you. That last bit was harsh.”
By the time it truly registers what I’ve just seen I’m
seated confined to my own window seat three rows behind them, the winner of the annual John Goodman look-alike contest blocking my way to the aisle. Now I can’t even fake a bout of explosive diarrhea as an excuse to pass their seats on my way to the lavatory. Since I am not free to roam around the cabin I spend the next 2 hours and 45 minutes with my right temple pressed against the window, staring down the space between the seats and the fuselage, straining to catch a glimpse of Joan interacting with the photo taped over the glass. I am desperate for a clue as to why this woman has gone to the trouble of hanging a pic of a man to her right when that same man sits inches to her left.
Naturally, my mind tried to solve that puzzle but created more questions than answers.
Maybe she has neck issues and cannot turn her head to the left. But why didn’t they just switch seats? Maybe the picture was actually of Paul’s twin brother Peter, and maybe Joan was Peter’s wife. But why was Paul accompanying Joan and not Peter? Maybe Peter is dead and they were flying to his funeral. Or maybe, just maybe, they did this on purpose just to fuck with my head, to which I respond, “Mission. Accomplished.”
Needless to say, I never got my answer. Both Paul and Joan exited the plane before I had a chance to ask. To this day only one person believes this story, and that’s only because crazier shit happens to this person on a daily basis (stay tuned for blog posts on shouting matches in supermarkets over someone named Patrick Swayze). I guess I am hoping this blog post might catch either Joan or Paul’s attention so that they can give me an answer to the question that keeps me up at night.
Bear with me while I explain the title of this post. I suffer from bouts of insomnia which leave me with a lot of unstructured time on my hands. This is not a good thing, because I have yet to find a constructive way to fill that time. In other words, I don’t always make healthy choices.
So this opening is not doing much to alleviate doubts about my current mental state or potential guilt. Let me begin again:
My daughter has wanted to become a forensic anthropologist since she was old enough to figure out what one was (or sit through an entire episode of BONES). Last week she told me about an HBO program she saw advertised that she wanted to watch called AUTOPSY. Even though she is a high school freshman, my daughter knows she needs me to screen television shows in order to decide if they are appropriate for her to watch. Luckily for me, my cable provider puts their television shows online, so I propped up my laptop on my nightstand and set out to watch the latest episode of AUTOPSY. That’s when something amazing happened:
I fell asleep.
That’s right- not ten minutes into that show I was coma bound. I woke up about an hour later to find that the episode had played straight through to the end. Not wanting to miss out on a good thing, I “rewound” the episode (my fellow geriatrics know what I mean) and started it from the beginning. You know what happened? I fell asleep again. Even better, I woke up, restarted the program and then fell asleep once more that night, and the following night, and every night for the next three days.
Now, if you’ve
never dealt with ever been tortured by insomnia, starting a show over and over probably sounds like a tedious solution. But if you are like me, someone with whom absolutely no remedy whatsoever has worked, then you understand how something as simple as watching a television show is like God himself reaching down from Heaven and rewiring my brain. It wasn’t a perfect solution and sure, I was a little disturbed over the fact that of all things it was a show about autopsies that soothed my ailing mind. But I wasn’t going to let that get to me. Reaching a judgment about my relative state of mind would be the job of my Xfinity Cable Customer Service Representative.
You see, nothing good can just happen to me because God is dick. Yeah, I said it. God is nothing more than a bored frat kid who elbows his buddy and says, “Dude, watch this shit.” And with a belch of his Jager-stank breath, he commands there be no more AUTOPSY for Hellis. Oh, there’s an AUTOPSY alright, in that the program is available to watch, it’s just that I cannot access it. So I decide to give a different program a try, something edgy and dark and scientific should do the trick, right? Wrong. I watched Doctor Who straight through without so much as a yawn. With that I gave up on television and picked up my phone instead (another bad decision, but that is a topic for another post).
The next morning I called my cable provider and was connected to Chelsea, a sweet southern belle of a customer service representative who was oh so eager to help me. That is until she pulled up my account information and figured out what the problem was. Since a picture is worth a thousand words I’ve included a capture of the screen that accompanied her epic inhale.
What you are seeing is a summary of my viewing history; every day, for four straight days, the same episode of AUTOPSY played through to the end, over, and over, and over again. I’m going to give you a moment to let the reality of what I did sink in, or more importantly, how my obsessive revisiting of the same episode of AUTOPSY like Hannibal Lecter with his favorite trophy ball sack might look to a girl who, with my luck, is probably both a Christian and a psych major.
Chelsea delicately explained to me that because I played the same program through to the end over, and over, and over, that the system “locked” me out of the episode. All I had to do was erase my viewing history and I would be able to watch the episode again. Her voice trembling, she asked if I would like her to do that for me.
Now, I suppose I could have explained to her the completely innocuous reason why this whole misunderstanding came to be, but I just wouldn’t be me if I did. So I said this instead:
“That’s alright, Chelsea. I don’t have to watch it to know how it ends.”
Take that, God.
I never did end up watching that episode or any episode of AUTOPSY, mostly because I was sure my comment was going to get me an unscheduled visit from my local friendly division of the FBI. It all worked out in the end any way, since my daughter is beginning to think she may want to be a writer like me. In fact, she has a blog called LivLovesLit where she reviews books, so if any of you out there would like a young person’s take on your story, just visit her blog. But be warned; just like television, adults screen her emails and books before she gets them so be sure to keep it PG-13.