A good friend of mine absolutely hates air travel. The crush of people at the airport, the cramped seats, the uneven jerkiness of leaving the ground and the jolting bounce upon return, all of it filled him with an almost existential dread. Years ago he decided to tackle his discomfort head-on and deal with it in a most mature fashion, in a story that still sends me chuckling.
This must have been around 2006 or so, when my roommate and I were traveling to Phoenix to attend a convention. It wasn’t our first trip to Arizona and while the flight was shorter than two hours, the stress of dealing with the airport experience itself was enough to encourage my friend to look for any means of stress relief. Before leaving the house he opened a Gatorade bottle, drank it down to the label, and filled it back up with cheap, plastic bottle vodka. His plan was to get “relaxed” during the drive to the airport and then sleep his way through the flight.
Between leaving our house and arriving at one of the area’s larger airports he had a very substantial buzz going on—this wasn’t some 12oz Gatorade he had brought along but rather the whopping 32oz bottle—not so tipsy as to make trouble with the TSA, but hazy enough to not be stressed out by the experience. After we cleared security he ordered a few shots from an airport lounge and downed those as well. “Yeah, this will be fine” I remember him saying with half-closed eyes as we wait to board our flight.
Mere seconds after finding our seats and buckling our seatbelts, my friend was out—and I mean out, loud snoring and all. His plan had been to sleep through the entire airplane experience, and it seemed he was well on his way to inebriated success. Unfortunately for him there had been a delay on the tarmac, and the captain came on the overhead speaker to announce that there would be a substantial delay, but not one that required deplaning. We would sit and wait until we were cleared for takeoff.
Almost two hours later, with the flight attendants having made several trips up and down the aisles with snacks and a drink cart, we received word that we were about to take off. As the plane started moving, my roommate woke up, right around the time we should have been landing in Arizona.
“I’m a genius,” he said to himself with a satisfied and half-drowsy (also half-drunk) smirk, before looking out the window. “When did we get in?” he asked me.
I admit I’m not the best person in the world, and schadenfreude is a constant companion of mine. I thought the situation was hilarious but managed to calmly report that “oh, we haven’t even left yet. We’re still in Oakland.” Inside I was laughing my head off at his misfortune.
A roiling gurgle of a belch made its way up from his abused stomach into his mouth where he let it free with a thundering and exasperated “FUCK!” His drunken swear filled the cabin and I simply couldn’t contain my laughter any more. Some other passengers looked to my friend with raised eyebrows, and I know he got a disapproving frown from an attendant strapped in for our takeoff, but I thought it was the funniest thing in the world, seeing his plan backfire so spectacularly.
Ultimately we arrived in Phoenix without further incident, though I do believe that was the last time my friend attempted to drink his way through an uncomfortable flight.