I was thinking about this recently when someone I know, a mother of two, told me that her best Christmas in recent memory was when she had a terrible sinus infection because it gave her a little alone time. “It was great,” she said. “I mean, I was seriously ill, but I actually got to lay on the couch and read a book.”
“Wow,” I said. “That’s sort of amazing.”
And it really was. Not just because of the content of what she was saying, but in that a throwaway comment can be so revealing.
Of course, now that I’m here in the Detroit International Airport in the middle of the night, I’m starting to see what she meant. I have been here since approximately 8p, and it is now almost three in the morning. Why? Because my new nightmare flight leaves at 6a and the only accommodation Delta would offer me was at some dodgy Best Western. I took one look at that voucher, whipped out my iphone, and immediately discovered three important facts:
1. The cost of a room there is $69/night. Now, I know this is Detroit, where you can buy real estate at the dollar store, but for $69 I have to assume that hotel is the scene of some grisly sex crime(s).
2. It has tanning beds (PLURAL) on site ($6 for 15 min.).
3. Some rooms have hot tubs.
(Later in the evening, mom sent me these reviews she found on Trip Advisor, which had me LingOL for 20-some minutes. Delightful.)
Anyway, I thought tonight would be terrible. And, admittedly, things got off to a rocky start given the 15 minutes I spent crying bitter tears in the ladies because of Leslie, the Delta employee who screamed at me. I mean, this lady literally screamed in my face. I have some sort of hormonal problem that makes me cry when I’m angry, and there is nothing more frustrating than seeming weepy and weak when what you want more than anything else in the world is to bare your teeth and intimate violence.
I wanted to say, it may not seem like it now, LESLIE, but I am one of those people who will actually write a letter of complaint and then follow-up on that letter with 10 levels of corporate lackeys to deal with the likes of you. And you know what, Leslie? While I may not be good at having you scream in my face, I am very fucking good at writing letters.
Oh Leslie I wish you ill.
But I’m getting off track here (I hate you LESLIE, you’re stupid LESLIE), because now I’m actually having a great time. The scene here is something like generic apocalypse meets my lifelong fantasy of being locked in the mall. There is something illicit and cool and endtimes-y about being in an emptied-out place that’s normally busy. But mostly I’m just enjoying having some downtime.
I mean, there have been a few hitches.
• Detroit International Airport sells only Pepsi products. For me, this is something like putting diesel fuel in an unleaded tank.
• Everything shut down here at 9p, which is hard knocks when you see a Wendy’s sign and think you’re about to eat a delicious Frosty.
• It’s freezing. I just noticed the guy asleep on the chair across from me has donned gloves.
But by and large, it has been pretty awesome.
• The employees are starting to come back in and one of them has gifted me with a blanket.
• The vending machine sells Pizzeria Pretzel Combos. I can’t believe these still exist!! I’m on my second pack.
• I have a Kindle loaded with special treats I wisely downloaded for myself last night. Right now I’m reading Jennifer Egan’s Look at Me. It’s really good!
Best of all is the enclave that has served as my quarters. In addition to the magical vending machine stocked with 80s-era snacks, it has side tables and cushy ottomans and comfortable leather armchairs. I’ve made myself at home down here, just reading and talking on the phone and popping Combos.
I’d really like to explore the rest of the airport, but once they turned off the escalator it became clear that wasn’t happening. (Too lazy.) But I have gone over every inch of the enclave, and I have seen many interesting things.
Also, I don’t know if our lizard brains are drawn to each other’s heat signatures in desolate places, or if this guy sleeping across from me is just a big ole creep, but as you can see, I have company.
At one point, we were three, but the other guy left a few hours ago. My favorite thing is when one of us stands up, packs up everything, and then walks the 15 feet or so to the bathroom like a blighted donkey. Seriously, if they took away the Combos and gave us shopping carts and a thick layer of ash it would basically be The Road down here.
And yet, this experience is certainly far better than every other airport shantytown I’ve been a part of. You see, this type of thing happens to me pretty much every time I go home. Traveling to northeast Tennessee is like trying to reach a remote island that’s accessible only by a ferry. (A ferry run by the town drunk. On Tuesdays only.) This is the second year in a row this journey has turned into a two-day travel odyssey.
And the fact that I’m enjoying it is sobering in that it makes me realize how little time I’ve had lately for the good things in my life. So, here I sit, tip-tap-typing away on my poor neglected blog—very tired, oh yes, but also very content.