“Goddammit, there are snakes on the plane!”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the drunken comment attributed to Samuel Jackson several aisles behind, followed by the lame “Don’t call me Shirley” from Airplane. While my two outlandishly dressed seatmates twisted uncomfortably beside me, acting like I was a mere neck pillow rather than a human being, most of the other passengers traded insults and innuendos way over my head, their Koranic curses sounding a bit like gurgling Lavoris.
They smelled like sand.
Welcome to international airspace!
With their elaborate Bedouin garb, and native headdresses, the two sheiks both looked like they had sneaked into the Boeing straight out of David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia,” introducing a young Peter O’Toole in his first film role.
Which got me thinking about one of my favorite quotes by the legendary T.E. Lawrence in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom: “I dared to dream with my eyes wide open!”
“There is a little turbulence up ahead!” came the robotic voice of the pilot, probably lost, obviously drunk. “Please return to your seats and keep your seatbelts fastened!” The pilot’s narration resembled an alien spaceman warcry, sites set on friendly fire.
Resembling a Futurist aeropittura, the impressive plane shuddered and twisted, juddered and dipped.
One of the Arab men took out a Swiss Army knife and began peeling a pomelo, offering me a slice. I wondered how he had gotten the knife through Customs. Meanwhile, at Security, I had been severely screened and brutally scolded for trying to smuggle a nail clipper and Zippo lighter onto the “Jetsons”-y Jumbo Jet.
“Are you carrying any explosives on you?” I had been interviewed by a surly muscle-bound agent resembling Japanese-American filmstar Steven Seagal, who once worked for the CIA in airport security.
Duh, like, who would say yes?
“No, just me, myself, and I!” I informed with a meaningfully upbeat wink.
With a smile resembling a Pap Smear, the grim guard let me pass as I quickly retrieved my shoes first from the scanner conveyor belt, then my wallet, keys, cellphone, cigarettes, and about fifty cents in coins (pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters). As I already reported, they absconded with my nail clippers and Einstein Zippo.
How was I going to light my cigarette after landing, other than rushing a bag handler outside the Terminal, waving a twenty-dollar bill?
Still, while holding my brand-new replacement American passport–a proverbial literary “steamer trunk” free of stamps–I felt like I had never been anywhere before, which I had.
One of the dusky Arab men also pulled out his own passport and began studying it with great interest, only for effect. I noticed that the passport was from the UAB (The United Arab Emirates), and included a dizzying array of colorful country stamps.
“I am from the United Arab Emirates,” the Arab on my left turned away from the window to confront me.
“Wow! What’s it like?”
“There is much to see on the Arabian Penninsula, including the world’s tallest building, an indoor ski slope, and a series of artificial islands resembling a world map. Emirates Airlines is the best airline in the world and promotes international soccer matches. There is no crime. We are Sunni, not Shiite.”
The other Arab turned away from the aisle to confront me. “No Shiite, no Shiite.” He pronounced the term like an absurdly redneck Texan describing close encounters of the turd kind.
“I’ve always wanted to go to the Mideast,” I decided upon. I didn’t want to tell them that I was a small-time oil baron and part owner of a privately held family oil business based in Houston, TX, and New Orleans, LA.”
“Maybe, they will not let you in if you have an Israeli stamp in your passport,” The Arab on my left let drift with speculative force majeur.
Uncomfortable with the direction our conversation was going, I ended abruptly with, “I’m not Jewish, I’m Christian.”
And then I reached into the marsupial pouch on the seat back in front of me, pulled out the free in-flight magazine, and busied myself with the crossword puzzle, while nibbling free cashews and sipping a nice cold Coke ™.
Apparently, from the sound of things, several people on the plane were throwing up bad airplane food into the handydandy monogrammed barf bags, before we landed with a thump!
We all applauded, clapping in a cliché manner reminiscent of Midwestern tourists landing in the Big Apple on their way to raid the salad bar at Applebee’s and suffer through Les Miz.
The only problem was: the airport didn’t look like JFK. Maybe jihadist hijackers had diverted the plane to La Guardia or Newark instead?
I guess it would be difficult to tell until we all disembarked from the plane.
“Ze plane, ze plane!” a hotbod cougar joked, imitating the midget Tattoo from “Fantasy Island,” starring Ricardo Montalban, while we lined up like disgruntled communists in a bread line.
Jesus! Okay, maybe we were in Havana?!