The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.


Scott Smith

I had flown before — to Moscow, Zurich, Orlando — so why was I so nervous this time? I can usually sense when something bad is going to happen, and I felt it now. Would the plane crash at takeoff? Would turbulence send us spinning into the sea? Would the stewardess fail to satisfy my every whimsy?

Things started to go wrong that morning when I noticed a tear in the lucky Sword of Damocles shirt I usually fly in. So I dressed as a pilot, taking my sweet time as I pulled the cap down snugly into place and fastened the Baccarat crystal brochette over my left breast. I had asked my tailor to make the pants into shorts, because I often feel unable to express my true self when I wear pants. The shorts made me look much younger, almost boyish, and I feasted on my new look for several hours in front of the mirror before leaving my home.

I am not one who is bound by other-imposed laws of morality. As an only child with two working parents, I discovered the world for myself, venturing from the confinement of day-care facilities to search for knowledge. I sipped my first Shakespearean sonnet at age three, gulped my first Hugo novel at age four, and choked on huckleberry pudding at age five. Just after my sixth birthday, my father invented the first reusable trash can, became independently wealthy, and moved the family to Beverly Hills. He and I had matching business cards that read, "Money, Big Big Money," and we flew around the world flaunting our cash.

My father was the one who suggested I adopt a lucky flying outfit, and the folly of breaking with tradition soon became apparent. I could not even find the right gate, perhaps because the ticket steward gave me directions in the form of a riddle: Go to the fourth gate bearing the third letter in the alphabet. After many hours and several phone calls to local sphinx experts, I finally got to the gate, only to notice I had arrived one hour early. On further reflection, I realized I had left my home five hours early to account for any uncertainties.

To pass the time, I led the other airport patrons in a game of existential charades. This is like regular charades, except you attempt to convey vague philosophical concepts with your body instead of just simple nouns and verbs. I was particularly impressed by an older gentleman's portrayal of "nothingness," wherein he kept pointing into an empty thermos he was holding. A diapered two-year-old helped his mother characterize "existence before essence" by spontaneously reaching into his diaper to display its contents. As a finale, I did my impression of "absurd infinity" by lying on the floor, extending my arms and legs to form a figure eight, and bleating like a frightened sheep. Many of the patrons shouted out things such as "lunacy" and "madness," but none ever guessed correctly.

Finally, it was time to board, and my premonition of danger returned. Facing my fear, I galloped onto the plane, gathering courage with every step, then losing it, then grieving its loss, then seeing it in a uniform in the seat next to mine. Yessir, Colonel Samgrillor was seated in the aisle, and I in the window. We faced our hell together. Samgrillor had flown a chopper in Korea, but he had never flown domestic. Suddenly, we were airborne! What a gift the pilot had given us in sparing our lives during takeoff. This is what I love about flying — all the pilots and their mercy.

The plane safely at cruising altitude, I excused myself from Samgrillor (what a bore!) to conduct business in the rear of the cabin. My accountant friend had told me that much business is transacted in mid-air, so I hoped to sell at least three platinum horns of plenty or five miniature chrome she-bears before landing. However, halfway down the aisle, I started to get woozy when I remembered we would be flying over the mighty Potomac. The rest is foggy and I cannot be certain of the details, but I may have panicked and started to yell, "SAVE YOURSELVES! DEATH IS NIGH!" Samgrillor may have leapt from his seat to restrain me while the in-flight medic blindfolded me and gave me ham-flavored gelatin mixed with horse tranquilizers. Before passing out, I may have said, "Hold me sweet medicine, hold me…"

I was aroused from my drug-induced slumber in D.C., having survived one of the most dangerous flights ever. The only one who had it worse than I was my designer hardside. There is a deep dent in one of the corners, which a friend of mine who is a luggage repairman claimed could have only come from an elephant or a whale. How an elephant got free from its cage is beyond me. All the twists and turns in the air must have tipped the cage on its side, permitting the elephant to escape, stepping on my hardside on the way out.