Today has been a non-stop ride. Both figuratively and literally. This post is going to try in vain to not be entirely stream of consciousness as it was the result of a series of realizations. The realization was the result of what was a split second of panic that lasted about 10 minutes.
Today I am flying from Pittsburgh to San Jose. Tomorrow I visit “[NICKNAME]”, “[NICKNAME]”, “[NICKNAME]”, “[OLD-NICKNAME]. I am traveling to [REDACTED]. Before you wonder if I’ve already said too much…[REDACTED]. However, that’s all I’m saying about that. The trip however, is one of those trips you only get when trying to get the cheapest flight on short notice. This is a THREE leg flight. I started in Pgh, Flew to DC. Had a 3 hour layover. Discovered my flight from DC to Phoenix would be late. And then knew I had a VERY SHORT change between Phoenix and San Jose. As it turned out; the way things were supposed to play out was that I would be landing at A2 in Phoenix. Would have 20 minutes to get to A28, which was one terminal corridor over. It wouldn’t be fun; but I’d make it.
The DC-Phoenix flight was the long leg. 4hrs. At first my single serving friend was a mid to late 20’s woman named Justine. She was interviewing in DC and had flown out yesterday from SF and was flying back today. And I thought my 3 day flight was bad. We commented that she had the window, I had the aisle and maybe we’d luck out. Justine and I chatted a little. i’m an extravert; she was very nice and I hate spending 4 hrs staring at an iDevice. The Chris arrived. Chris was a 25 yr old Korean grad student. T-Shirt, Jeans, Sandals. I commented to Justine that inevitably someone would have to come between us. You can fly 10-15 times. A Single-Serving-Friend like Chris is about 1 in 100. There was endless talking, accidental footsies only one or two awkward moments. (I was 18 when she was born, and my limit is 28) But she was great fun to kill 4 hrs with and I hope to chat again at sometime.
4 hours later… It was obvious my delayed flight was not making up time. I set a timer for 10 minutes before the flight time. That’s when US Airways closes the door unless there’s been an actual delay. We hit the tarmac with 12 minutes on my timer. I checked my flight tracker. We were pulling into gate A29 not A2. Hey that’s the next gate over! Yay. And my flight… has been.. moved… to … B28. Picture 4 equally spaced columns. Each of those is a terminal hallway. Picture a line connecting the base of those columns and each column is one column height apart. I now had to run down the length of column 1, across to column 4 and up its length. I had 7 minutes to do this. I pushed thru first class saying, “Sorry, 6 minute connection far end of the airport.” One guy in 1st class blocked my exit and said, “So, what?” I pushed by him saying, “Really?” and then “You know first class isn’t supposed to turn you into an asshole” and started my run.
I am out of shape. I will be honest about this. I think I could stand to lose 50#. In my graduate school years (circa age 25) I was 141 pounds. (Not healthy).. nearly 20 years later I am 240. That’s about 5 pounds a year of not fit. I often feel like the shame of my company. We work in fitness and I look like I don’t even use the product. (Mind you.. I do. Just not as well as I could)… in the airport…Yes.. there was moving walkways. I had several out of breath conversations with them. The gate staff where I got off my late flight tried to call ahead to the gate staff at my departing flight. I hit B16 (The last column) and heard that my flight had been moved… to B-24. Okay… 1/4 corridor closer. A 43 year old, nigh 250# man, with a backpack and a CPAP running up a hallway. At B18 I heard. Flight 285 for San Jose, Gate B24 – Final Boarding call” My timer clicked off and played the “Amen Break” I asked a worker if he could run and tell them I was coming and he just sort of looked at me and walked on. I hit B20 and stopped. In probably my strongest Radio voice (which was amazing considering the wheezing by this point) I boomed, “Attention: B24, Passenger currently running at B20, HOLD THE DOOR.” The looks from everyone at the B20 Gordon Biersch will be long remembered. 5 minutes after the doors should have been closed. I was on the jetway.
I felt like I was going to die. My legs were on fire. Every breath was pained. I was dizzy and stumbling in the jetway. I think my knees almost buckled once. The Flight attendant looked at me and said, “Are you okay?” I looked at him and honestly said, “No” He made me stay at the front of the plane while he got me water. He said, “We really don’t want you passing out.” I said, “Too much paperwork.” He said, “No, I really would hate to see someone pass out.” They helped me to my seat. I was so shaky that I spilled some of my water on the nice English woman in the seat in front of me and her iPad. She was very gracious. (We’re English. That’s what we do) The other flight attendant brought me a wet paper town and a dry one. I just sat there trying to get my breath.
The occasional uncomfortable cough, the tightness of the lungs. The legs wanting to be removed. I logged in long enough to tell the universe I made the flight and comment that I wanted to die. (Figurative) There was a message from the person I know in Phoenix who I’d put a “If I don’t make my flight can you help” message out to. She wasn’t going to be able to help. Fortunately, I didn’t need to call on her. My mind swam around that. I really thought about this person and our history. How our lives had been, the friendship/relationship we’d had. The way our lives drifted apart. I found myself really missing her as a friend in my life. I hope at some point I can sit down even by phone and just have a good long talk with her. I hope that time and some of the unfortunate things that have happened in our past have not ruined what was a great friendship.
I gasped some more thinking about the things I would change in my history. Not necessarily with this friend but in general. I got myself thinking about the idea of one phone call that could completely change my life. And that was easy. Calling my dad in 1973. He’d left the army, was a prominent doctor at a hospital, clinic, prison, and private practice. If I could call him and tell him everything he would lose within 5 years when he’d have a stroke before the age of 40. Everything he’d worked for would be lost. Entirely. I thought about telling him how I was his 5 yr old son, calling from the future. Telling him how he’d never be able to play the banjo again, or do card and coin magic. How his job and license would be lost. Because he didn’t prepare. He didn’t think ahead.
And the more I thought about change. The more a voice said to me… what would you change? And I saw my family. The people I see everyday now. I thought of my wife who I love more every day. I thought of my girlfriend who I care for more deeply than I’ve been able to show of late. Several long and short term lovers around the country. Being Poly (in my mind) means you don’t just kick feelings away. I realize that I still love the people I’ve loved; Even the unrequited ones who never loved me back. They are my feelings and they don’t lessen just because you don’t reciprocate. I just don’t act on them. It doesn’t make me love the people close to me any less. And there was one person who stood above the rest. The only person of my own gender that I’ve ever truly loved.
My five year old. Aiden. He drives me insane, He makes me laugh, He makes me want to put my head thru a wall. He makes me proud. He makes me feel like I’ve already failed as a father and I’ve screwed him up for life. And I would not change one bad moment in my history at all if it had any chance of undoing the cosmic miracle that my wife and I created by making him.
I was still on the imaginary time-traveling phone with my father when the voice changed. It wasn’t me saying Dad anymore. It was Aiden. “All these things you’re saying to him. It’s me. I’m saying them to you. Don’t make the same mistake. There’s still time.” I was still trying to catch my breath. I’m sitting here contemplating my history, my future, and I’m feeling like I’m looking at my life. “I am not dying.” I don’t want to die. I don’t want to get sick. I want to be healthy. I want to see my great-grandchildren the same way my wife’s grandmother has.
I’ve had this thought many times. I have to get healthy. I got a membership to a gym about 7 months ago. Which I have yet to actually go to. I try exercises in the morning for a day or two about once every year and a half. I need to make it right. I have no clue how. I haven’t had a lot of success trying. But I can’t keep living like this waiting to get to unhealthy that it is too late. I choose to believe that my future-Aiden’s voice in my head is right and it ‘s not too late.
I have been touched by so many lives. I hope to have touched many lives (hopefully it was a good touch)…
I made my flight. I want to make my life again.
The best words in a film from the past 5 years are from “Wall-E”
“I don’t want to survive. I want to live.”
Dedicated to (In order)
My wonderful “K” and my loving partner Heather and the most important thing in the world to me: Aiden.