Ladies and gentlemen: exhibit A.
Flying from Boston to a stopover in Washington, D.C., I found myself sitting beside a vivacious and precocious middle schooler.
Now, ever since I tried to color a Snow White cartoon while riding in the back seat of the car on the way to visit my grandmother when I was seven years old, I have known that moving vehicles are a special trial for me. As an adult, I no longer live in fear of car sickness, but motion sickness nonetheless returns at the occasional inopportune moment to haunt my steps.
This was one of those days.
Motion sickness typically affects me only at takeoff and landing in small planes, or occasionally in the mid-afternoon when the plane goes through pockets of turbulence. This was a large plane, but it was full, and the sun was acting as an impromptu heating lamp on my window seat. My usual strategy is simple and effective: 1) lean against the window 2) close eyes 3) avoid conversation 4) focus on breathing.
Not this time.
We were taxiing down the runway, and no sooner had I bunched my coat into a makeshift pillow, but I became aware that my seatmate was straining to see out the window around my head. Courteous seatmate that I was, I slid up the blind on the window in front of mine (halfway between my seat and the one in front of me). “You might be able to see out of this one,” I said.
My simple comment triggered a rush of conversation that did not cease for the duration of the two-hour flight. Topics included, but were not limited to:
-The perils of flying over the ocean, however briefly.
-Which would be worse, crashing on land or in the ocean.
-Refueling overseas planes in Iceland.
-Careers in marine biology for those who fear the ocean.
-Swimming with sharks.
-Swimming with dolphins.
-Alternative careers in veterinary medicine for those who fear blood.
-Which is worse, snakes or spiders.
-The length of the danger zone on stingrays.
-Haircuts: specifically, bangs.
-Hair products that speed growth.
-Hairy legs: the commonality between boys and spiders.
-The function of airplane tray tables.
-Ports of departure for international air travel.
-Beaches in the Midwest; or, the lack thereof.
-The advantages of waiting to disembark until the plane empties.
-Layovers, and the worst airports for them.
-The age limit at which one ceases to be ineligible for full-body scans.
-The efficacy, or lack thereof, of full-body scans.
-The construction of hairpins: that is, their hollow character.
-The pure metal hairpins that defy this typical characteristic.
-The likeliness of setting off metal detectors with hairpins.
-The distinction between “girly-girl” and one who wears girl clothes.
-The reason behind, “Be sure your seat-backs are in their full upright and locked position.”
-The benefits of sitting over a wing.
-Flying with small children.
-The economics of providing a whole can in the beverage service.
-Property taxes in the Midwest.
-Renting versus buying a home.
-The White House.
-Immunity to typical anxieties about travel.
-Being an experienced, unfazed traveler.
All this, while eating a burrito, procured in the airport. All this, while I fight down the nausea and realize that I cannot put my head down. I cannot close my eyes. I cannot avoid conversation. And I cannot focus on breathing.
I cannot do any of these things, because I am actively and almost aggressively being schooled by a twelve-year-old not only in knowledge of the economics of property taxes or the anatomy of the stingray, but in the ability to fly the friendly skies of United Airlines without succumbing, in shameful weakness, to air sickness.
Motion sickness is not pleasant. Being shamed in your motion sickness by an unflinching twelve-year-old is more than any twenty-something with a master’s degree should have to endure.
I mean, really.
In fact, I blame that experience both retroactively and proactively for causing me to re-watch the entire seven seasons of Gilmore Girls in a single season.
Yeah. It was that bad.