Friday 4 February 2022 – Spokane Airport, WA

I am sitting nervously in a window seat on a tiny plane operated by Alaska Airlines, ready for a flight to Portland, OR. I am looking over my shoulder with good reason. I posted a very mildly snarky Tweet about my experience in first class and someone from their social media team responded!

I haven’t written back to them yet. I get palpitations when someone writes back to me on Twitter. I don’t like the interactivity of it. Nobody expects a response. I don’t want my moaning about the cleanliness of the aircraft to lead to an actual cleaner being ‘wiped’.

Saying that, the windows on AS2121 are absolutely filthy. There’s nothing that a spritz of windowlene and a bunched up piece of newspaper won’t fix. But there is no will. Now that I am barely scraping into the Venn diagram circle of ‘influencer’, I can hardly shoot a YouTube video, Instagram Reel and TikTok through them. But I do anyway. My shame spirals are weakening.

I am transfixed by this man who was at the gate. He had cornered a Random Guy and he was physically limbering up for a full-on narration. The storyteller was about 5’7″ and bore an impressive ring of hair like Caesar’s laurels. In his left hand was a small suitcase, leather on the corners and faced with a red tartan fabric edged with an over-sized brass zip. It’s the kind of thing that props departments on 70s movies must go crazy for. This one was pristine. He’d make money on it if he knew the right buyer. We soon learned he was 73.

‘Four times she took me’. Random Guy looked up at Caesar quizzically. ‘Four times’, he insisted, pausing for dramatic effect ‘…to the hospital’. ‘Ohhhh’ said Random Guy. ‘She said “you’re 73, Dad, you shouldn’t be alone all the time”‘. Random Guy shook his head sympathetically. ‘The first time turned out to be an appendectomy; the second a blocked bowel. They said I could have died’. For a moment, a tannoy announcement drowned out the story, just as I was finishing a ballistically hot turkey pesto toasted sandwich from Starbucks. I was able to savour the last moments of its plasticky goodness without knowledge of Caesar’s internal pipework.

I wiped my fingers on a shiny paper napkin. ‘What they didn’t realise, what SHE didn’t realise, was that my family on my MOM’s side lived into their 90s and hunnereds’. He stopped cold. ‘Apart from my mom of course’. Just as abruptly as he started, he walked off, nodding to himself. He paused at the gate beside two seats reserved for passengers with disabilities and he tottered towards them, swinging the tartan case. ‘Might as well’ he said to a young couple sitting nearby, ‘ain’t got nothing to lose’.