Unexpected afflictions & adventures in London & beyond

We were in London ten hours or so before I came down with a cold. Since I refused to stay in the hotel and rest, the thing burgeoned so that, on the very bizarre flight* home, I went through, seriously, eight or nine tissue mini-packs. Not to mention a half box of Fisherman’s Friend. After I sneezed into the first couple tissues, my seatmate wisely closed and stowed her laptop, covered her head with the airline blanket, and slept.

(Unlike Margaret Atwood, I don’t travel with a cold-warding-off kit, and in unfamiliar pharmacies I couldn’t find the other products she advocates taking “at the very first tickle.” Nor could I make a hot toddy, or my tomato soup, although at The Lamb,** a pub Dickens frequented, I was served a piping hot bowl of the worst potato leek soup in the history of the universe: thin, greasy, flecked with particles that looked like dried-and-then-rehydrated celery.)

I don’t remember when my immune system decided to grant itself an annual fall-to-winter vacation. I just wish someone would inform it of U.S. time-off policies.

Notes about the rest of the trip are coming as soon as possible, but probably not till later this week. Before then, in advance of the Witches, Demons and Thieves event that I’m hosting at Housing Works this Wednesday, I hope to bring you a Hannah Tinti Q&A.

Right now I need to get back to filling my trash can with tissues.

* On the flight, as we all buckled our seat belts, the woman and man in the row in front of me introduced themselves to each other. She was thin and dramatic — in her late forties, maybe, or early fifties — and she held forth, largely uninterrupted, through takeoff, drinks, the meal, and the better part of a movie, about her daughters, her vocal training, Sarah Palin’s relevance, Meryl Streep’s unwillingness to be photographed in shorts, and sundry other, equally scintillating topics.

I tried to sleep but had no luck. She was too nasal and too loud. But suddenly, inexplicably, the barrage of banality trailed off. I opened my eyes to confirm that he’d finally throttled her, but no. The two of them were kissing. And soon their hands were shifting rhythmically under blankets.

Thirty or forty-five minutes later, the lovers were deterred by the emergence, from behind the gauzy curtain that separates first class from steerage, of a man who looked a great deal like, but was not, Al Franken. “Remember me?” he said, stalking down the aisle. “I’m your husband.”

Everyone in the vicinity pretended not to notice as introductions were made. The three chit-chatted about books and theater and politics for ten minutes or so, and then the husband retreated, the woman went to the bathroom, and she and lover boy switched places so she could keep an eye on the curtain and prevent further spousal flare-ups. Meanwhile, between brief but passionate kisses, the man and woman had a heartfelt and largely inaudible — yes, at this point, I was actively trying to eavesdrop — conversation that seemed to be about about marriage, commitment, and the general sadness of life.

As we were landing, the blankets were rearranged, and the two of them were at it again. The man’s head swayed into and out of the aisle at increasingly faster intervals. “That was great,” he said as the plane taxied toward the gate. “I don’t just mean the sex.”

Under some expanded Clinton-era definition, I would say the mile-high club gained two new members, but I have a feeling these people were veterans. Maybe the husband gets off on it too?

Regardless, I have to admit, it was a better story than the crap movie about the baseball cards.


** Max’s fish & chips were fine, as was the beer.


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