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New York, a Japanese State of Mind

By Michael J Paluka

I normally avoid flying at all costs. I'm not so much afraid of crashing as I am of the endless waiting - the wait to board; the wait to take-off; the wait for the brat in the third row to stop crying.

Actually, the kid knows more about the flight plan than the pilot; he never shuts-up until exactly ten-minutes before landing.

"What's the course, Captain?"

"We'll just head east until the brat shuts-up."

I feel embarrassed for the mother -- but what can she do? I think that airplanes should have a special place for mothers with children, such as de-icing the wings.

I was flying from L.A. to New York on business. I was glad to leave. I had spent so much time with the phony jerks in L.A. that I forgot what the "real" ones were like.

While waiting for take-off, I noticed that I was sitting right next to an emergency exit door. Well, at least I won't have to worry about burning -- I'll be trampled to death by the other passengers.

A stewardess escorted an elderly Japanese man into the seat next to me. His face was haggard and his hands were shaking. His suit seemed a size too large. He looked like an executive on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

He said, "First vacation in seven years. The company pays all expense. They said I need to relax, then come back and work harder."

I had to check my airline ticket to see if I had boarded the wrong flight. I couldn't believe that they were sending this bundle of nerves to New York to relax! That's like sending Callista Flockhart to a Maalox clinic.

The stewardess was a real cookie. When a passenger asked her when we would take-off, she replied, "Not until we're off the ground."

After the plane got into the air, the Japanese executive began to grunt and groan and make odd little noises. I asked if he was alright, but he didn't seem to hear.

When the stewardess came by with the drinks, he ordered a Jack Daniels, and dropped six alka-seltzer tablets into the plastic glass.

I was afraid that all of those bubbles would inflate him into a Brook's Brother's beach ball that the passengers would bounce back-and-forth against the cabin walls.

All he did was belch.

I would have rather had the beach ball.

I tried to go to sleep. It's easy to sleep on an airplane -- for ten-minutes; after that, even Art Bell couldn't send you back to dreamland.

I woke-up after the usual ten-minutes and turned to the Japanese man to ask the time. He was wheezing and grunting. I pushed the button for the stewardess.

After ten-minutes, she raced to our seats like an Olympic snail.

I pointed at the wheezing man seated next to me.

She asked him, "More beer nuts?"

I said, "I think he's dying!"

She smiled and said, "We've got cashews! They weren't doing well in first class. The Captain said to give them to you people in coach."

The Japanese businessman wheezed and snorted.

I shouted at the stewardess, "What's wrong with you?! Did go chapter 11? This man is DYING!"

She frowned and looked at me, "We get this all the time; over-worked, Japanese executives flying to New York for relaxation."

I asked angrily, "Why the hell would anyone send a nervous wreck to New York to RELAX?!"

She replied calmly, "He probably works 14 hours-a-day, six days-a-week; his boss screams at him for other people's mistakes; his wife screams at him for not getting promoted fast enough; his kids probably have orange hair and play in a grunge band. New York is the only place in the world that'll make him homesick."