My Travels to Indiana and Back by Nash Hamilton, Artwork by Evan Burr (@flatmotionart)

This past Christmas, well the day after, I took a unique trip. The idea was to travel to the middle west, Indiana specifically, and retrieve a vehicle and the personages attached. This was all to happen in one day, mind you, and it was of the utmost importance that I get adequate rest; I didn’t, due to an excited puppy and his whiny reaction to his first Christmas. Despite this obstacle, I still found myself on a plane too small, clothes too heavy, and a bladder too full. I could’ve easily fixed this issue if there wasn’t such a hassle for me to stand upright (me being in the window seat) and maneuver down the gauntlet of unkempt elbows to the lavatory; it would’ve, in this instance, been preferable to be a man of shorter stature, and my boots weren’t helping any.

As I sat on the runway, I noticed a grey looking blob next to the plane, just the perfect distance for it to have no discernable features other than the occasional movement of what I deduced to be its head. As the plane began to roll into its spot in line, the blob extended its wings and began to fly. I think the bird stopped in to see our mechanisms for flight and, with a flutter of its wings, the bird soaringly showed its disapproval of our methods.

Soon before take off, a pre-recorded announcement played throughout the cabin. The announcement was relatively rudimentary stating safety procedures and no-nos; they made a large deal about e-cigarettes, which I personally thought was unwarranted. Wasn’t the problem with cigarettes the unfettered access to lighters and other potential explosives? On a quest to quit nicotine myself, the message only served as a reminder of what I left behind: my cigarettes.

With two “dings”, the captain came on the intercom asking us, one final time, to prepare for flight. He has a callus tone that sounded as if he didn’t care if we were carefully fastened or not, just as long as we knew the consequences: a true American. The plane zoomed, lifted and squeaked as it lurched into the sky. The people below became small to the point of disappearance, and the cars began to look like toys. I then realized I too looked like a toy to them, but quickly pushed the notion out of my head before I realized my own irrelevance. In what seemed like a second, clouds engulfed the world and the grey overcast lighting was pierced by the sheer power of the sun: I shut the window.

The woman sitting next to me offered a piece of mint gum; I accepted it graciously, and when the cart offering juice and cookies came by, I accepted both as well. As I began drinking the cold apple juice, the gum magnified its intensity, and the woman next to me knew I was a psychopath. I swallowed the gum quickly thinking that this would cover up my faux pas. It did not, but thought of caring escaped my mind relatively quickly.

Being six foot plus is good while dating, being six foot plus is good for sports (sometimes, not in my case), but being six foot plus is not good when riding on a small plane. I’ve done a decent amount of travel in my short tenure on this planet, and I swear, a decent portion of my kneecaps have deteriorated from knocking knees with the seat in front of me. No matter how many times I try, comfortability cannot be found. By the time I fell asleep, the captain came on the intercom to inform us of our imminent landing. I would’ve rather sustained the whiplash then have been awoken; but, I guess other passengers have preferences too. It seems though, the captain was a bit premature with his warning, and I was stuck staring at the bald spot of the man in front of me for 20 minutes. The lady next to me tried to jinx the flight in the finale saying,

“That could have been worse.”

We were still 20,000 feet above safety.

Once we landed in Chicago, I had to stand, head cocked towards the ground due to the low ceiling of the aircraft. . . for 20 more minutes. After the airline met their quota of disgruntled, sweaty customers, they ushered us off of the plane like cattle through a stockade. I had 30 minutes before my next flight, the perfect amount of time to pee and eat pizza; but when I went to pee, I stood at the urinal with proper space between myself and others (1 empty urinal on both sides). Quickly, two large gentlemen squeezed in on either side of me and I soon lost the urge to urinate.

I still should’ve had enough time for pizza but noticed the plane was boarding as I approached the gate. Hungry, tired, and sweaty, I embarked onto the second, smaller plane. This time my knees weren’t as incumbered, or maybe they were numb from the past hour’s expedition; but, by God, it was hot. In the midst of December, a flannel and jeans proved to be too thick of clothing for Chicago. The engine’s began to ramp up.

“It is illegal to tamper with airplane smoke alarms.”

The young flight attendant showed us how to buckle our seatbelts.

I used to think that was useful, but now I feel that it’s only working to stop darwinism.

“In a water evacuation, the seat cushion can be used as a floatation device, and, in special cases, an infant life jacket will be distributed by the flight attendant.”

I personally think it is wrong to take an infant on a plane, it just gives a bad impression of the child. I think this may be due to a recent flight to Ireland with a toddler crying for 13 hours. On that flight, I’d care to guess that the infant life jacket wouldn’t be distributed.

“Enjoy your flight!”

The family behind me was deep in conversation about roast beef. “I feel bad for Susan making all that roast beef.”

“You didn’t like it?”

“No, no, it was good. She just made so much.”

They began to cycle through all the items of their Christmas meal the night before, the void in my gut began to nibble on my insides. The sun was out in Chicago and the cheery weather didn’t fit my disposition. I shut the blind, again.

The great lie of plane travel is escape from traffic and annoyance; as I sat in a row of five planes, the man in front of me turned up the prog rock in his headphones to be loud enough for the drum hits to be audible to ears in surrounding seats: specifically mine. I became very aware of this lie.

Goodbye Chicago, we had a good 45 minutes together and I can’t think of a better way to have spent it. The woman next to me turned on her music and fell asleep; a stark contrast to the former gum offering, caution throwing, former nameless travel companion who told me her life story. I enjoy talking, but appreciated the break this silent traveller afforded me. I bumped the bone next to the funny one on the metal arm of the chair; it wasn’t as funny.

The flight attendant came on the intercom offering her gratitude that we chose her airline; she buttered us up before telling us that the only refreshments on this flight would be water. I love water as much as the next living creature, but a Sprite would’ve done me right. She stated this was due to the quickness of the flight, 1 hour. It would’ve taken me seconds to consume the fizzy beverage; but I hid my grievance when she offered me an iced water. I accepted it, despite not wanting the drink. I felt, in some weird hospitable way, that it was my duty. I consumed my offering and finally fell asleep.

I was awoken partially by the captain, and fully by the silent starting gun of the plane stopping. It’s always a fight for the aisle, and I never lose; unless, however, there is a decrepit old woman with a collapsible walker in the seat parallel. I let her pass and began my march out of the plane, nodding to the flight attendants as they wished me well. Walking past the next victims of the airplane, ignorant to the tin can with wings they were about to board: poor bastards. I navigated the terminal towards the exit. I always find airports interesting, they always have the same essentials but each provides a look into the culture of the town (if they have any). Fort Wayne, Indiana had culture, but not enough to catch my eye on the way to the door.

I arrived at the exit as the vehicle I would be driving, and the aforementioned personnages attached, pulled adjacent to the sidewalk. Just in front of a sign begging you not to park, I threw my bag (packed purely to seem like I wasn’t a terrorist, and just a normal traveler) in the back of the car and we began our southward trek back to Nashville; stopping at the nearest gas station to pick up cigarettes, of course.

A large part of Indiana is flat and empty, and though I prefer mountains; I enjoyed the scenery. Amish homes littering the sides of the rural highway, and the sun poking through the overcast clouds cast unique spotlights across the landscape. Me and my companion began building a playlist by songs we wanted to listen to and in 30 minutes we had made a playlist that would take an hour or so to listen through; we were content with that. Country classics, 60’s-70’s roots music, with the occasional Bob Seeger number (Night Moves on hourly repeat), an almost full pack of cigarettes, we had ourselves a road trip.

I began to explain the trials and tribulations of my travels,

“Why didn’t you just get up and go to the bathroom?”

“I was in the window seat!”

Quickly, without indication, they fell asleep. I listened to the playlist, smoked cigarettes and watched for semis. Before I knew it, the cigarettes were running low, the playlist had repeated a few times over and I was almost home. I pulled into the driveway of the predetermined destination, gorged myself in the provided sustenance, and fell asleep. It was an eventful holiday.

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