I’m sitting on a plane headed to Boston. It is leaving a half hour late, but I am enjoying a surprise upgrade to business class from who-knows-where. As I stretch out my legs in the unexpected extra space, I think about the friend who said she’d have “angels watch over you” for the flight.
“Well done!” I think to the angels.
We are at cruising altitude for maybe a half hour when the man in front of me (first class, natch) starts playing a video game with a very loud repeating musical noise.
I thought something very tolerant, like “Jesus fucking goddam Christ. How loud is that that I can hear it over the engine noise??” I lean forward and try to peak at what game he is playing. The noise repeats and repeats. I think, “I’ve set alarms that were less annoying.” I check to see if my noise-canceling headphones are actually working. They are. They do not cancel the noise. I consider tapping him on the shoulder. I lean forward again, trying to see what game it is that is so incessant. He must be racking up the points. I consider calling the flight attendant to ask her to request that he take it down a notch. Then I think about how pandering they are to the first-classers. (“Can I get you another linen napkin? Would you like a fourth scotch?”) I let that thought go. I read for awhile in the short story collection I brought. It distracts me, but not quite enough.
About twenty minutes into this video game audio assault I decide that I will use this as my opportunity to “entertain compassion.” I think of all the reasons he might need this video game. Maybe he is recovering from a great loss. Maybe he is terrified of flying. (That would explain the scotch…). Maybe he is hard of hearing and doesn’t know it is so loud. Maybe it reminds him of his son, with whom he has played the game a million times. Maybe he designs video games and he is really working now. Maybe he fell asleep with the game on.
The other half of my brain says, “Or maybe he is just a horrible, selfish, manspreading jerk who cares nothing for the people who have to listen to that.” I look around wondering why no one asks him to tone it down. Am I the only one annoyed by this joker??
Finally I decide I’ll pay for some of the in-flight WiFi and check my email. I reach down and pull my phone out of my black Bagalinni carryon. The little musical tune that I have been cursing gets louder. Uh oh.
I open the phone case and see that for a half hour this loud annoying misery-tune was my cell alarm. It is the alarm I set for Wednesday evenings to remind me to join the online sangha for our meditation class. I turn the alarm off. It has done its job. It has reminded me that it is not “them.” It is almost always “us.”
As usual, I am the problem, not the other.
I see the angels are still at work. I nod to them, “Well done.”