II. Five More Inches
by valerie shultz
July 13, 2011
0605 hours Chicago time
I haven’t slept but thirty minutes since yesterday. The captain announces our flight to Chicago is three hours and six minutes long as the guy assigned to the seat next to me tries to squeeze in by me without giving me a chance to get up to let him in.
“Five more inches,” he says in a heavy French accent as he steps on my toes while I turn my head away from his butt in my face.
Three hours and five minutes left.
I lay my head back, having gotten the nod from the flight attendant that my “small personal item” has indeed been stowed correctly and I am buckled with my headrest up. My redheadedness is taking over more and more with sleep deprivation, and I snarkily wonder what the hell the reclining position of my seat has to do with the take-off ability of the airplane as I hope I can fall asleep.
Three hours and four minutes left.
I open my eyes briefly to see the guy in front of me is already sleeping so heavily his head is bobbing and weaving. I’m jealous.
Three hours and three minutes left.
I wonder what Poland is like. Pastor Dave says it’s much like Wisconsin, but I’ve never been to Wisconsin either. I listen to the father and daughter beside me talking endlessly in French. I don’t understand a word of it. That is what it will be like in Poland.
Three hours and two minutes left.
Behind me is a mother and her toddler. He keeps saying, “The plane gunna fall! Gunna fall!” I pray that there are strong angels holding our plane up in the air.
Three hours and one minute left.
The boy forgets the plane is going to fall and is angry. I don’t know what about. I vaguely remember when my boys were toddlers, and how they could become angry in an instant. Because you didn’t understand something they said. Because you said no. Because the sky you’re going to fall out of isn’t the right shade of blue at that moment. I hear the mom tell her toddler, “I appreciate that you don’t want to do this right now.” Is she a better mom than I was, or is she just a certifiable nutcase? I know I coped with temper tantrums, I took them with a grain of salt, I let them slide off my back. I don’t remember ever appreciating them.
Three hours zero minutes left.
He wants his binky. Mom says he can’t have it until we get all the way into the air. I want to tell her air is air, and sucking on his binky will help with the air pressure in his ears during the rest of our ascent, but I keep my eyes and my mouth shut and keep praying for sleep.
Two hours fifty-nine minutes left.
Finally, I sleep. For five minutes. The girl next to me needs to use the restroom already. She steps on my toes. Five more inches.
Two hours fifty-three minutes left.
I fall back asleep. I don’t know how long I get to sleep for this time. The girl must use the restroom. Again. She steps on my toes. Again. Five more inches.
I don’t know how many hours or minutes are left.
This time her dad needs to use the restroom. He steps on my toes. I give up on sleep. I wish I had five more inches.