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another plane story
cracking the code to a fun life from within the mile-high club
by alicia coleman

“Gosh, that looks like an aaawwful lot of readin’!”

Yes, it does. Which is why I’m going to sit here, undisturbed, with gin and tonic in hand – cocktail hour need not be missed simply because one is preparing to soar at 20,000 miles over civilization – and photocopied materials on tray table. Alone.

“What’s it ferrr anyway? You in school or somethin’?”

Or something. I’d rather be in school, or something, or anywhere other than here right now so that I could avoid answering questions about where I live, what I do, why I’ve decided to go to law school despite the fact that I have no real interest in becoming a lawyer, and the like. But, as I wasn’t raised by wolves, I bite my lip and anticipate the next slew of questions while preparing appropriate responses and queries of my own. And, as expected, they keep coming. What I do not expect, though, is to enjoy the following three hours with an absolute stranger, knowing full well that I will probably never run into her again, with or without the surrounding comforts of already been-used pillows and Attache magazines.

In between refills of shoddy G&Ts and taped sitcom re-runs – which, by the way, I much prefer to the usual showing of 112 Dalmatians, or any other sickeningly sweet movie trying to avert the attention of passengers from the “what to do in case of” crib sheets – my neighbor and I manage to bypass the introductory niceties and delve into more important questions, such as, “when and how should Florida be annexed from the union.” We talk about politics, movies, and, most importantly, pet peeves on men’s wear (our number one peeve decidedly being men who wear turtlenecks). All in all, what I had assumed would be a dry, dull-witted conversation turned out to be a riot and a half. True, I had to withstand stories of a former boyfriend who took a liking to urinating on her, not to mention a god-awful southern accent. But, my snobbery aside, I had a great time. And to think that I preferred keeping to myself, as I normally do when faced with new people, got me to thinking. Why do I loathe talking to strangers?

Bullshit diseases, such as Social Anxiety Disorder, aside, I can come up with no reason for fearing confrontation other than hating to deal with new situations. Redundant, eh? Sure, this attitude could cause me to live out my old age in some suburb of Nebraska, heckling the all-too naïve door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen in between checking the mail twice daily and complaining to no one about the rising prices of produce. But, call it what you will, I’m just a shy gal. When left to my own devices, much like when drinking by myself, I prefer to be alone.

Alone, but not hermitic. I love company, especially that of my close friends and family. Moreover, when not in an introverted mood, I can be quite devastatingly charming. (Come on … you had to expect me to save face somehow.) Yet I’m primarily accustomed to minding my own business. That doesn’t mean, though, that I (or we for that matter) should fear approaching someone in the middle of the day on a busy sidewalk to pass a compliment or ask a question other than, “could you direct me towards the closest bus station.” Every now and then you’ve just got to come out of your shell. Essentially, sometimes it’s best to act like something other than yourself, like something of a cross between a drunk and a child.

Both the drunk and the child share a combination of innocence and verve. Both, for example, will approach you regardless of whether they’ve met you before, cutting straight to the chase and avoiding small talk altogether.

“Hi. I’m Joey. Can you put my Skittles in your pocket?”

“Hey, there. I’m God’s gift to women. Can you put my *&?! in your ##$%!?”

Both will run over to you with, what they think is the most profound thought of the day, only to realize midway through story-telling that they’ve forgotten the punchline. Both will act unabashedly affectionate towards you without so much as a second thought. And neither will feel ashamed when they make total asses of themselves throwing up in the middle of a room, surrounded by people they know they’ll likely see again.

All right, so you got me. Maybe acting like a half-child, half-drunk hybrid isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Looks like it could get you caught in a bind when taken to the extreme. Well then, don’t take it to the extreme. Instead of incorporating into your lifestyle all the negative characteristics associated with each group, pick and choose from the categories to ensure that you instill the proper combination of sass and guts into your repertoire. Realize that acting out-of-the-ordinary does not grant you a license to threaten that you can “drink any bastard under the table,” only to end off the evening by, in fact, lying drunk under the table while demanding that men an entire foot taller than you “sit the f*** down!” (Not that I’d know anything about that.) Nor does this behavior permit you to prance around in Wonder Woman underoos after having slathered a mixture of Vicks Vapo-Rub and silver sparkles all over your body, primed for a temper tantrum at any moment due to an overdose of candy. Unless, of course, you are a raver (in which case, I’d prefer you stick to the candy instead of the ecstasy. There are far better ways to die than by dehydration).

Rather, just try to have a little more fun. Break out of a rut and loosen your inhibitions. Approach people and tell a joke without fear that the minute you turn around they’ll huddle together and giggle, wondering whether you’re aware of how awful you look in paisley. If they don’t get it, that’s their problem. Set up a lemonade stand in your office and charge your co-workers garbage-pail kid cards for each glass, more for the Lynchburg kind. I guarantee they’ll appreciate it. Throw on that fluorescent orange crossing-guard belt and direct traffic with your ass, even if you do think it looks too big today. Chances are, drivers will have something to tell their spouses once they arrive home. In other words, don’t be afraid to make an absolute fool of yourself. If not, next thing you know … you’re in Utah.


more about alicia coleman


you think you're so smart!
so maybe you should start acting the part
by alicia coleman
topic: general
published: 12.30.99

who forgot to call the city planner?
trading in sprawled-out suburbia for the real deal
by alicia coleman
topic: general
published: 12.30.99


celim huezo
4.18.01 @ 9:09p

BRILLIANT! Not since reading Dr. Seuss have I been so inspired. It has changed my life.

jeremy roach
4.18.01 @ 9:23p

what the hell is 112 dalamations? I only saw 102 dalmations, and that was possibly the best movie ever. Did I miss the next ten installments since last year? Damn! In other news, Allegra, I love you

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