If you’re a comedian and need material for your act, all you have to do is board a plane. Enclosing yourself in a phallic shaped jet with 200 strangers and a bathroom that’s only a little cleaner than a porta-potty, well, you’re bound to get some material. And if you get nothing, there’s always Deep Vein Thrombosis and snippy flight attendants.
After vacationing in Sedona for a week, the last thing I wanted was a stressful flight back to New York. It wouldn’t have been an appropriate capstone to such a rejuvenating and fun trip. Things were starting off great when I quickly boarded and found a space for my carry-on in the overhead compartment.
Even better, I had the window seat and sat next to a very mild mannered young man who seemed to be very excited about the impending announcement of the iPhone 5. He later volunteered that he was a software programmer and he naturally “geeked out” to anything Apple.
Ok, fine. He was polite and chatty, but not enough to drive me to hang myself like the old lady in “Airplane”. Sitting on the aisle seat was the programmer’s boyfriend. They made a young, attractive couple and were naturally excited about their first trip to New York City.
So far, so good.
I was trying not to eavesdrop, but I had nothing better to do. Arizona was slowly receding behind a slab of metal plane wing and cloud wisps, and the cramped space was making me skittish. I was dozing on and off, and coming to, I was overhearing the young couple hammer out an itinerary for their trip. Software Programmer Guy got out his trusty Macbook and started hammering away at a list. Type A personality, I noted. Most likely the Top.
I drifted back in and out of consciousness. Whenever I came to, I noticed in my peripheral vision that Software Programmer Guy was tapping away at his keyboard and curiously scratching his head. This wasn’t just a head scratch to relieve a temporary itch or even the nonverbal act of stimulating the brain to solve a complicated problem. It was methodical and practically ceaseless.
At first, I ignored it. But in my side view, I kept noticing the left hand vibrating like a jackhammer on his scalp. Picking and digging. I looked over, expecting to be amazed by a layer of dandruff flakes fine as fresh-grated clouds of parmesan cheese resting on his shoulders, but I witnessed something more shocking.
His scalp was a bloody, pulpy mess. If you can imagine his head as the earth’s globe, this poor man’s scalp was caked with scabs in the shape of continents. I swear to you, I thought I could make out Australia. I witnessed fiery red rivulets of blood that mapped out fault lines and subduction zones.
I was horrified, grossed out and now I had to spend the rest of the flight flattening myself against the airplane wall because I couldn’t bear to share the same arm rest.
A five hour flight now seemed that much longer. Like a bad accident, every time his hand unconsciously pick-axed its way to gray matter, my eyes would shift like a reflex to the scene of the crime. I was freshly traumatized each time. In between brisk typing and maniacal grating, Software Programmer Guy would suddenly stop everything and improvise a quick peck on his boyfriend’s cheek or nose.
“Awww, young love”, I thought.
“It won’t last”, as I pictured the exact moment that relationship would end. It would be when boyfriend wakes up one morning, rolls over and discovers to his horror that he’s been sleeping next to a gaping head wound.