Time to Settle Accounts
February 4, 2012: Bunnies.
We were somewhere over the northeast tip of Colorado on our way to Los Angeles when I started getting antsy. I’d been the last passenger aboard the flight following a harrowing engagement at the security check point concerning my unopened yogurt, and when I arrived at the gate I was a mess, still holding my computer and my shoes in my hands. I sat down in first class to get organized, and then went back to my seat at 24B.
Now we were nearing the halfway point and I’d downed two mini-waters and read five interviews and needed a break. I tapped Dan, the guy seated to my left, and walked to the back. Two stewardesses were talking near the bathroom. One was older but looked youthful in an Annie-Hall-at-50 sort of way. The other was younger, with bright blond hair and serious blue eyes and silver airplane earrings. I stood in the bathroom for a minute after I was done, staring at myself in the mirror, the plane silent around me. Flustered, tired, I stepped out.
“I realized something while I was alone in the bathroom,” I said. The two flight attendants looked at me. “This is the first time I’ve ever flown by myself. I’ve done cross country train trips solo, and driven across the country solo, but never flown.”
Annie Hall grinned and spoke like a pre-school teacher, “Well you’re doing a wonderful job.”
“How are you liking it?” asked the younger stewardess, her earrings swaying with her words.
“The flying is fine. I’m impressed by flight even though it terrifies me. It’s really just the airport.”
“Ooh yeah, the airport,” said the older one.
“I love the Chicago-L.A. train.” I grabbed a mini-water off the shelf, opened it, and took a drink. “Man that’s good.” And then, “Have you two gone cross-country on train?”
“I went from Virginia to Los Angeles ten years ago,” said Annie.
“Pleasurable. Though we did hit two drivers.”
“It’s because people try to beat the train,” said the younger one. “That’s what always happens. My uncle’s a freight train engineer and so are two of my ex-boyfriends. They all have kill counts.”
We stared at her. “Kill counts?” asked Annie.
“They all do,” said the younger one. “My uncle’s is seven, but two were suicides.”
“And the other five, just drivers trying to beat the train?” She nodded.
“One of my ex-boyfriends got dragged to court once by a woman who testified that he’d swerved the train to hit her.” We laughed at that, and a man walked to the back and looked around, and Annie said “Oh, either one,” and he entered and we continued.
“What’s your ex’s?”
“Count? That one is 2, the other is 3. But they haven’t done it so long.” The bathroom door opened and I pivoted behind the door to let him out. “So yeah, flying is safe. We’ve never killed anyone. Hit a few birds now and again. And there have been a few animals.”
“Yeah. Landed on a deer once. Not really sure how, why it was out there, but we basically just – yeah, landed on it. Killed a bunch of bunnies one time too.”
“Where were ‘a bunch of bunnies’?” I asked.
“Denver. There’s wildlife areas right around the runway, so some people, it’s their job to keep animals away from the planes. And this one pack of bunnies just got – zwooop – yeah, just got sipped up into the engine before take off. We delayed and checked the back, and just all over the side, all on the runway, yeah, just bunny everywhere.” She shook her head, suddenly seeing the story for the first time again. “So that was gross, but mostly I’m glad to fly.”
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