Tuesday, January 1, 2013

So This is New Year's

New Year's Resolution #1: Spend more time with that most beloved junk drawer of my life, The Snark Ascending. So here goes.

A year ago this time, I rang in the New Year 2012 on an airplane. I was attempting to get from Boston back to Paris via Dublin on a flight populated by staff wearing comical New Year's headgear. Somehow this made me uneasy. I believe that on some primal, deeply human level, we don't want our aircraft personnel clad in novelty gear from iParty. We want our aircraft personnel crisp and professional and 100% non-fun, or, failing that, swarthy and barrel-chested and possibly named "Raoul." But maybe that's just me. Honestly, I've been slightly on edge about air travel ever since that one time, pulling into a gate at Dulles, I looked down to see two air-traffic controllers, with their lights, re-enacting a saber fight from Star Wars. The Aircraft Personnel of America: keeping you safe. Or at least keeping the force with you.

This time around, New Year's Eve night once again involved long-term public transportation, but with significantly less distance involved. I was on my usual Amtrak commuter train, only attempting to travel about 80 miles, but I might as well have been trying to get from Boston to Dublin to Paris to Reykjavik to Lincoln, Nebraska via Botswana with a layover in the South Pole. Technically it wasn't Amtrak's fault - there was a freight train broken down in front of us, so we couldn't move. When you can't move, you become a pile of blob, and I hate being a pile of blob. You get all bogged down in your blobby inertia and suddenly can't move yourself to do anything more mentally complex than pop your knuckles (well, some of them; doing the full set would be too ambitious). By the time you arrive at your destination, approximately 83,000 hours later that night, you are a big amorphous puddle of protein and clothes, and you have to be removed from the train with a wad of Bounty paper towels.

But I'm wrong for complaining about this sort of travel. After all, I could be complaining about much worse travel. I am thinking here of a certain nightmare airplane ride back in the spring of 2008. First we departed Raleigh-Durham, which you'd think would be a good omen. But then the Gods of Air Travel, who clearly get their inspiration from MTV, decided to make like Ashton Kutcher and "punk" our aircraft. First it got caught in various patches of "turbulence," which is a nice little word for what happens when the heavens get sudden-onset Irritable Bowel Syndrome. After getting whacked and whupped* about the solar system for some 45 minutes, once being catapulted as far as Alpha Centauri, our plane began - and this kind of thing can really get on your nerves, if you're the uptight sort - to shed plane parts. This is true. The plane was molting, like my childhood hermit crab, Regis, with the only difference being that Regis was slightly less prone to cruise at 33,000 feet. Fortunately we lived, although given that we had to land back at Raleigh-Durham, I wished in a sense that we had not. Also they didn't give us any plane vouchers ("Good for ONE (1) life-threatening Death Flight from Hell anywhere in the continental..."), whereas Amtrak always does, or at least they give you a complimentary mug.

So now that I'm looking at last night's train ride in a positive light, I'd like to start the new year off with some magical thinking. Here goes: last year started with that comical plane ride - not just because of the party gear, but also the amusing added detail of John Lennon piped in over the loudspeaker, singing "So This is Christmas" on New Year's - and then the year ended up bumpy, lumpy, strange and sad in places. Not that it was all bad; in fact, 2010, 2011 and 2012 have all been years for the books, in different ways. So I'm hoping 2013 continues the trend, and that the aggravating train ride was only a weird, bass-ackwards harbinger of excellent things to come. So I wish you exactly what I wish myself: may your 2013 be full of trains that actually move, and may your air traffic controllers resist the urge to re-enact Star Wars scenes until the plane has finished pulling in.

* These are different. To whack is an ablative conjunctive verb, as in, "Willa Jean done whacked him around and stuff." Whereas to whup is a dative urogenital dysfunctional verb, as in, "Whuppa whuppa have a cuppa."

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