The Airport Drunk
Getting lit in an airport. Once, the exclusive purview of the travelling salesman or high-powered executive and now, with security measures requiring travellers to arrive earlier and earlier, well within the grasp of the infrequent and holiday adventurers. Airport inebriation is a rite of passage for any adult requiring a restorative after surviving the indignities of the (hopefully) well-intentioned TSA calvary.
As soon as you successfully make it past the all-seeing bureaucracy of the security checkpoint, the outside world, in fact, time itself, ceases to exist. You have nowhere to go and nothing to do until your plane, that blessed, steel salvation, departs. Depending on security waiting lines, delays, weather, and your own original impatience to Get Going, you could have hours before your plane departs. So, with the duty free shop exhausted and your belly full of not-entirely-questionable airport food, you slink up to the galvanized airport bar and order either an enormous, extra-sized pint of swill or a two-ingredient cocktail of dubious parentage.
Surrounding you, are the other refugees of the security lines. Men and women, all Going Somewhere, all going nowhere, and all thrust into an uneasy intimacy that is the constantly sanitized airport bar. Businessmen chat to each other while rubbing luggage with rowdy hen parties who cajole the backpacking college students to take just one more shot while the long-suffering Dads or Moms, having successfully abandoned their partners and squalling offspring, just want to drink their feelings numb and watch the unending sports channel and finally have some peace and quiet. Until, of course, they get dragged back to the reality of Family Vacations by an insistent text message from their partner who is gasping thor their own break from reality. And merrily round and round the airport bar goes, turning base strangers into sparkling gold.
Getting your drunk on in an airport bar is to join a club. (Not That Club, unless you are exceedingly lucky and double-jointed.) The club of socially acceptable double vodka sodas at ten in the morning, Long Island ice teas with lunch, and teetering, stinking your way to your gate with less than a minute to spare where you’ll smash yourself into your blessed seat and pass out before the plane has even begun its take off procedures. It is a club whose only membership is the agony of trying to get someplace and being delayed. It is a club that never wears a watch or checks a phone for the time. It is a club whose members wearily listen to the muddled PA system before ordering another round and returning to whatever mildly pleasant conversation was going on around them. It is not a bad club to belong to, nor is it a particularly good club. It is a club, if anything, for existentialists and Zen masters.
However, while the airport bar drunk has some elan, some respectable dignity as a way to pass the time before finally being allowed to depart on your travels, an airplane drunk is rarely seen in equally magnanimous light.
Airplanes themselves are too cramped and close, too re-circulated, too much involved in their mission of GOING to be gentle to the loud man or woman trying to make it a party. Airplanes, unless you are heading to Vegas, New Orleans, or Ibiza, are distinctly not parties. They are the quiet time-outs that you must survive to get to the party. If you 2ant to get subversively, introspectively, and considerately drunk en route, by all means, buy as many tiny bottles as they will sell you. After all, even travelling at 800 miles an hour and watching the sun dip or rise past the horizon 30,000 miles below you, time still has no real meaning until your feet once again touch asphalt and your phone buzzes to let you know that you have once again rejoined the greater world around you.