Red-Eye to Rumble

I had never taken a “red-eye” flight until a few weeks ago. Why would I intentionally do anything that would make my eyes red? Their natural yellow color is hard enough to deal with. But since JetBlue — by far the world’s cheapest airline, and I use the word “cheapest” in every possible sense — only flies to New York at midnight, I went for it.

In preparing for the trip, I realized flying at night was actually a good thing. I dislike flying — not because of the claustrophobic conditions or a fear of crashing or the comical manner in which you are urged to arrive one hour early even though the plane always sits on the tarmac with everyone on board until well past departure time anyway — wait, that clause got out of hand. Let me start over.

I dislike flying — not for the usual reasons, but because it’s so dull. There’s nothing to do on an airplane. You can read the official in-flight magazine, but that’s more boring than doing nothing because it’s written and edited by people who know their readers have nothing else to read. Or you can browse through the shopping catalogs full of items no sane person would ever spend money on, like electric toe-hair removal systems and fiberglass bath towels. In fact, on my list of Dullest Activities in the World, flying is No. 2, right before wedding receptions and right after listening to other people talk about their dreams. (It’s impossible to become interested in the plot of someone else’s dream, because they’re always so ambiguous. “And then I was in this house, except it was really an Arby’s, and my 10th-grade science teacher was there, except he was really a squid, and then I woke up, except I was really still dreaming.” OK, so I was listening to you, except I was really just nodding and smiling.)

So if I flew at night, I figured I could sleep on the plane, which would pass the time nicely. It would be like having a slumber party with 300 strangers, and if there’s anything more fun than sleeping with a lot of strangers, I haven’t heard of it.

You’re already shaking your head and saying I was a fool to think I could sleep on the plane, but the fact is, I can usually sleep pretty much anywhere. I’m sure if I were flying the plane, I’d have no problem dozing off; why should riding in it be any different?

But for some reason, I couldn’t sleep on this flight. Part of the blame goes to JetBlue, which instead of providing in-flight meals or more convenient flying times has individual TV sets for each seat, and a cable system that gets the Game Show Network. As a rugrat, and even into my ankle-biter years, I was hugely fond of game shows, particularly “Family Feud” — not the current incarnation with shrill fat man Louie Anderson, but the original, with the lecherous Richard Dawson. And lo, what should appear on the Game Show Network the moment the plane took off, but an old episode of “Family Feud.” It was a celebrity edition, with country singers playing against TV cowboys, and Jerry Glower was shouting “jewelry” as his answer, but his deep Southern accent made it come out “jewry,” which tickled me no end. (It was almost as good as the born-again Christian I heard shouting on the streets of New York about how you have to accept some person named “Cheesus.”)

Also hindering my sleep was — you guessed it — a baby who shrieked like he was passing a kidney stone made out of Satan. This baby was very young; I believe his mother had given birth while boarding the plane. And bless his little heart, everyone wanted to put him out on the wing for the duration of the flight.

After a very long time, we landed at JFK (I mean the airport, not the guy). An entire night had passed, and I hadn’t gotten much sleep, what with the cheesy game shows and the possessed babies. But as soon as I was in a cab, I was immediately lulled into a peaceful slumber by the soothing sounds of the driver shouting obscenities at other cab drivers. Survey says: delightful.

I didn't like this column much until I read it aloud, which is something I seldom do. Then it seemed rather droll indeed.

I intentionally avoided talking about New York as much as possible here, because I knew I had two more columns about the city itself, and I wanted to keep this from being a third one. This is because readers used to complain when I spent more than one column on a particular topic. So this is a column about taking a red-eye flight, NOT about my vacation to New York. Got it?

The "jewry" thing happened shortly after take-off, and I realized my backpack -- with my notepad -- was tucked under the seat so far I couldn't access it easily. So I jotted my notes on the back of the barf bag, which I then carried around with me in New York for the duration of the trip so I could jot all my notes in the same place.

Here's what I wanted to say: "a baby who shrieked like he had the devil coming out his a**." I didn't even try it. I like the replacement line, though. What building material could be worse than Satan himself?

Years later, I re-read this column and noticed I referred to JetBlue as having a "cable system" with the Game Show Network. I almost fixed that -- it's a satellite system, obviously, not cable -- but I decided to leave it. Maybe readers will think I've made an amusing little joke, pretending to think that somehow the airplane has cable stretching all the way from the ground up to its TVs. Ha ha! That would be stupid! Good thing I was joking when I said it was cable! Ahem.