I can’t sleep before an early flight

Posted by on March 29, 2012 at 8:35 am.

The airplane safety lecture drones through the warming engines at the gate. Flight attendants look as tired as I wish I felt while they demonstrate proper seat buckling and flotation device finding techniques, the latter of which will serve us well flying over Alabama, Tennessee, and Illinois.

I wonder how many of these people will follow instructions when they really matter. I watched them board in the wrong zone and glare in disgust when their oversized bag was gate checked.

“This bag has never had to be gate checked before!” Liar.

Flying out of bit cities is awful. At least in Gainesville, there are few enough of us that even TSA treats you nicely because the line is all of 10 people long. Big cities are different — the Walmarts of the sky.

On a good day, I’d bet half could manage to follow emergency instructions. And since I’m flying to see Jean, it’s a good day. When I’m flying back on Monday, I’ll guess about 10 percent.

I wrote a poem about airplane peanuts and long-distance relationships about six months ago. It’s some of my best work, and I still have trouble reading it without crying sometimes. Ever since I wrote it, I’ve saved every peanut bag the airlines have given me. Sometimes, I ask my seatmates if I can have theirs but fail to give an explanation. It never makes much sense when I say it out loud.

They didn’t serve peanuts on this flight, though.

Will fly for peanuts
by James Patrick Schmidt

The Monday morning flight isn’t full
and I’m one of the lucky few sitting
alone, which reminds me that I’m
lonely. And lucky. In this economy,
I’m one of the few lucky journalists
who managed to get a job. So lucky
that I live halfway across the country
from my wife. She cried when we
parted at the airport, but like always,
I didn’t cry until one of us boarded
a plane. And now, the tears drying
on my T-shirt sleeve, the steward
gives me two bags of salted peanuts
as if an extra 17 to snack on will
make my plight more bearable.
The airline is still making a big
deal about giving away free snacks
again since business got better.
I want to write one of the happy,
beautiful poems she’s been filling
my mind with all week but I’ve
been too busy to write. Instead,
I scribble a calendar on paper
to figure out how long it will be
until I see her again. That number
can’t be right. That number isn’t
right, but it’s the number I’ll count
down from starting now. Thank God
I have these peanuts to remind me
how bad it used to be.

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