Wednesday, November 21, 2007
My Trip to Israel, Part I: Prologue to Drunken Revelry
[JFK Aiport, New York. Tuesday, November 20. Flying to Madrid.]
“It’s gonna be a byoozy weekend, eh?”
I’m waiting to have my backpack, shoes, laptop, and everything bagel with scallion cream cheese x-rayed at JFK airport. Two flights and seventeen hours away is my brother, whose wedding next week brings me to Israel. The x-ray line is most interminable, with bumper-to-bumper foot traffic preceding a metal detector that always finds something stowed away deep inside a pocket. The middle-aged British couple behind me, with leather-bound “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” passports, inquire as to where I am flying.
“You going to England?” the gentleman asks me, clutching an oblong handbag.
“No. Spain, then Israel.”
“You flying for the holiday?”
“No, my brother’s getting married. He moved out to Israel a while ago.”
He hardly pauses to think.
“It’s gonna be byoo-zy weekend, eh?”
I don’t know if he means that my weekend will be boozy or busy, but I figure both are reasonable assumptions. I say “yeah,” start laughing, and the gentleman and his wife, as if on cue, start laughing that quirky British laugh that I thought only existed in movies and English variety television. I love the British.
The airport is a collection bin for weirdos: polite, crass, cheerful, suspicious, odd, boring, nervous, and helpful, but all weirdos. The Brits on the x-ray line were a fortunate combination of polite, odd, cheerful, and helpful. The man who will later sit across from me at Gate Six is suspicious and nervous, and easily goaded. As I type this, he clutches his portable MP3 player with both hands, darting his worried eyes across everyone in our vicinity, but especially at me. Every time I look down at the screen, I can feel his shifty gaze upon me, like a crack addict who thinks I have money.
I'm so on to him. Each time I finish a sentence, I look directly in his eyes for 2 seconds. If he doesn’t see me, then so be it. But if he does—and the majority of the time, those 2 seconds are spent in locked ocular warfare with him—I look right back down at my computer, telling him in no uncertain terms that: a) I’m on to him; b) I have better things to do than stare at his gaunt face; and c) it’s very possible that what I’m doing on my computer has something to do with him. I can feel him growing increasingly concerned with each stare-down, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he sics an airport security guard on me. With my luck, this man will be seated next to me on the plane, and I’ll have to evaluate whether falling asleep is worth risking all the groping, stealing, and other subversive behavior I assume he performs. With his luck, he’ll be seated next to a man with a big beard and a turban and he’ll have to shit his pants until he lands.
I’m technically "spending the weekend in Israel," but Travel Tuesday has me off to a rousing start. By Friday, the man staring at me might be my business partner, and on Monday night I may be the lone drunk soul at my brother’s nuptials. Complicating matters further is that my return flight departs about six hours after the wedding ends, so I might be violently hung over the entire way. I have one Ambien for 35 hours of travel and a dangerously weak grasp of when and if public drunkenness laws apply on airplanes.
It’s going to be a byoozy weekend.
Stay Suspicious, Starer