There are times in your life when you plan as much as can. Yes, I know, never count on a plan coming together. But I’m not talking about getting rained out of a picnic or having a packet of red dye find its way into the washer and explode all over your bright white yachting clothes mere hours before before you’re supposed to meet Chad for an afternoon of cutting insults masked as flirtation and judging the peasants who have to rent their yachts instead of using Daddy’s (the horror of middle class!). For those situations, you will have to find your advice elsewhere. I’m talking about travel plans hijacked by fate and circumstance. It should never be a surprise; it’s always a possibility. But nevertheless, when it happens, it creates a tornado of black rage in one’s heart.
Consider: You arrive early at your gate and smugly drink your expensive jarred Starbucks frappuccino that you’re only pretending to like while watching the wretched, frantic souls run through the airport as though the hounds of hell are after their firstborns. This is a fun past-time, especially if you’re already bitter (no need to go into details). The heart is a great container for ire and contempt, but it tends to leak out in ugly ways.
Assured in your competence as a professional traveler, you board your plane and congratulate yourself on having an entire row to yourself and settle in to read in peace. After an uneventful flight, you mosey to a departure/arrival information board to locate the gate for your next flight, anticipating a leisurely meal and adult beverage, only to find that your connection has been canceled. Not delayed, but canceled. This can’t be, you think to yourself. I planned.
The ire that has been bubbling industriously away in your heart begins to darken even more. You find customer service and sigh inwardly at the huge line, realizing that your prospects for being rebooked are dwindling with each person in front of you. But you remember – you are a professional traveler. You know how this works. You call the customer service number while in you’re standing in line. The friendly ticket agent apologizes profusely (you care not) and rebooks you on a flight. In twelve hours. The heart of ire turns to solid ice, unable to maintain the heat that has so far been rising. Twelve hours, you say. Very good. Thank you very much. You manage to leave the line without a primal scream and promptly find the nearest alcohol vendor. Thus installed, you mope and contact your sibling, apologizing for now making him pick you up in the middle of night, well after you should already have begun shenanigans befitting two perpetual adolescents.
Now you’re caught up with the proper state of mind. We can commence with the coping mechanisms.
Coping Strategy #1: Find the Angriest Music on the Planet
There are many, many ways to execute this. It doesn’t have to be a typically angry genre. You can listen to Carrie Underwood smashing up cars with a baseball bat. You can listen to Twisted Sister assert that they will no longer be taking it (the “it” is usefully vague – you can fill in the specifics with your own situation).
There are your angry standards – heavy metal is always a good choice. Slayer is adequate. You have to be careful with anything from the 90’s however; you may just end up angsty instead of angry (Nine Inch Nails is especially to be treated with caution). Punk can be a great option, though they veer toward contempt of institutionalized culture and politics. There’s the hard-to-pin-down rock/rap/funk, like Rage Against the Machine and Beastie Boys. Hard to go wrong there.
My go-to angry artist is Eminem. He may be the angriest man on the planet. While problematic (more on that later), he may be the only artist able to scare the fury in my heart into retreat. Because rest assured, no matter angry you are, Mr. Mathers is most definitely angrier. Just look at that mean mug! It’s so impressive!
You know what the sin-eater is, right? No? Allow me to explain. In western Europe, a sin-eater was a person employed in the old-timey days to come to funerals or wakes and assure the deceased could ascend into heaven with a clean slate. This was executed by laying bread and salt around the body. The sin-eater would come and eat the bread and salt, thereby absorbing the sins of the dead person through some kind of metaphysical alchemy so common in religious ceremonies (no word on the prevalence of high blood pressure in sin-eaters).
Sin-eaters’ reward for guaranteeing the eternal salvation of loved ones was that they were not paid well, and they generally skeeved everyone out, so you can imagine that theirs was a lonely, spartan life. You can read all about them in this great article.
Eminem, Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers, whatever you want to call him, is my anger-eater. Instead of coming to my funeral (although that would be badass) and eating stale bread, he comes to my darkest of hearts through the magical alchemy of internet and earbuds (it is nothing less than magic – fight me) and gnaws on the chunks of hatred thrown up from the rage volcano under my beating breast. After a few hours, my boiling heart has submitted in deference to a true master. I’m still plenty angry, mind you, but I’ve essentially just forced myself to confront the fact that whatever I’m pissed about could be exponentially worse, and that I don’t make such bad life decisions after all. Note – if you actually do make terrible life choices, don’t feel better about it. Get your shit together.
More on Em in Coping Strategy #3.
Coping Strategy #2: Amuse Thyself
On your incredibly long layover, you must find ways to amuse yourself, while at the same time avoiding the notice of TSA agents. Here you should use your judgement. Some options:
- Create elaborate and sordid backstories for fellow airport residents. That man over there, sleeping on his suitcase? He’s been ousted by his wife who discovered he had a fetish for bloodthirsty clowns and has been frequenting the Dark Circus. That lady with a squalling baby? Her husband is an astronaut who left for space long before she became pregnant. Now he’s coming home, and she’s taken the coward’s way out and left the house with just a note on the kitchen counter saying “need milk, be home soon”. The family of four with harried parents? The kids are actually x-men recruits headed to Hogwarts. Yes, you will eventually become so tired that you’ll cross your universes.
- Relive that Tom Hanks classic, “The Terminal”, to the best of your ability (remember – you are avoiding the TSA). Use funny accents at all times, changing them frequently. Strike up conversations with strangers that begin, “In my homeland of Segborkia…” Fall madly in love with an airport employee. The sky’s the limit (pun intended).
- Engage all of your social media friends by chronicling your airport adventures. This lets them know you’re miserable, which is a nice feeling. Just make sure they’re all thinking about you the whole time. It will keep you going. I have provided an example of my own effort at this strategy here. You can see my mental faculties (and hair) deteriorate hourly. Yes, I know I’m bad at Instagram. The captions are the important bit.
- Drink. This is to be taken with a few qualifiers. Public inebriation looks good on no one, and also may attract TSA attention so you have to make sure to pace yourself. Also, if you get righteously drunk, you may fall asleep somewhere and miss your flight. In which case you have to start this whole process over. This is not a desirable outcome. Take caution.
- Locate and lure the animals. There are a surprising number of dogs in any given airport. You should stay away from the working dogs, as they are usually attached to TSA agents by a not-so-long leash. However, you may find a lot of passengers toting dogs or service animals. If their human seems approachable, take the opportunity to ask for some doggy petting. It can do wonders for your spirits. Be warned, however: travelers in general are crankier than the general population. You may be soundly rejected. If this happens, it’s important to remain calm. Dogs can smell embarrassment and will not react favorably. Just ask One-Eyed Dan, one of my “The Terminal” alter-egos.
- Go shopping. I don’t mean buy some fancy chocolate or local football team gear. I mean try your best to skeeve out the airport cashiers with your selections. These people see everything, so this one is not for beginners. You might try placing hair bands, hemorrhoid cream, and dental floss on the counter, all while squirming and grimacing during the checkout process. Keep them guessing. Are you going to try to tie off a hemorrhoid in the bathroom? Who knows! It would be impolite to ask. This takes a special level of concentration, so you want to do this late enough into your layover that you’re slap-happy, but not so late that you’ve lost the will to live.
Coping Strategy #3: Lose Yourself in Needlessly Deep Thought
This one is a natural consequence of being left alone for too long. You will likely not have to put much effort in here. What follows is a 1,000% exact transcript of my stream of consciousness thoughts as a conversation with myself around the midway point of my twelve hour layover.
Now – as I said earlier, Eminem is problematic. This is true. You will hear a lot about faggots and hoes. If you are of the female persuasion, as I am, this may be a confusing experience. (I can’t speak to the homosexual reaction since I am not one, but I feel what I have to say may apply adjacently to you as well.) You will feel as though you’re not supposed to be enjoying this as much as you are. You will soothe yourself by knowing that you are not the type of woman that Em wants to take a machine gun to. You have an idea that what you’re hearing is a one-sided conversation with Mr. Shady’s unresolved feelings after a particularly bad romantic experience. Maybe, you think, he’s just brave enough to say out loud what we all think after being wronged by a lover. Who among us has not wished a slow, painful death on someone for whom we once cared? Not I, you say? LIAR. LIIIIIIIIIIIIIIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR.
But I’m a FEMINIST, you cry, horrified at yourself when you nod along to a lyric like “I’m back on my fuck ho’s / But a whole new hatred for blondes, but bias? / I hate all bitches the same, baby come on.” The mental calculus required at this point to be okay with what you’re hearing is challenging to say the least.
Feminist you may be, but understand that here you have a heterosexual male artist infamous for giving zero fucks, and for him the most hurt he’s going to receive will be from women. Thus they will receive the most shade.
Which brings me to my Philosophy on Rap Guys’ Girlfriends. No props for the solid Sir Mix-A-Lot reference? Rude, Becky. Moving on, slightly miffed. The thing about fame is that the more famous you become, the fewer regular people you interact with. Those you do interact with tend to be screaming at you or shoving a phone in your face to take a picture you did not consent to. Doesn’t sound pleasant, although the pay is good. Therein lies the paradox of fame. Can you blame the famous for tending to stick together, or with “pre-vetted” humans that have somehow managed to infiltrate their circles? If you go to a party thrown by another famous person (I can only assume here…) the people there are probably safe to be around as regards their lack of propensity to charge you like a defensive lineman protecting their quarterback (which in this metaphor is their long-held fantasy of becoming your paramour – “if <famous person> could just meet me, they would see that we are soulmates”). This is not an apology for celebrities who complain about being mobbed by fans; see above, they are paid well for it. I’m just asking you to put yourself in their shoes to understand the rest of this philosophy. Although it’s probably a hypothesis. I’m leaning towards philosophy simply because I have no way of ever testing this. The point here is that famous people will stick to meeting and knowing people that go to other famous people’s parties.
On to personalities. Have you ever seen a rap guy’s music video? You would have had to search one out since MTV became a misnomer. They are filled with buxom women – curvy in the right places and skinny in the rest of the places. They have large, beautiful eyes rimmed by eyelashes stolen from giraffes. Their hair is either entirely fake, or augmented with color, textures, streaks which can be either highlights or lowlights (wtf is the difference), and is generally engineered for maximum attractiveness with ingredients harvested from asteroids. The face has been sculpted, either with a scalpel or a makeup brush, so that any pores, pimples, defect in bone structure, or stray beard hair would not hold up in a court of law under the closest scrutiny. Their clothes are revealing and flattering, though uniformly uncomfortable looking (those shoes cause bunions, ladies; enjoy it now until your feet become a Minecraft task). Any skin on display has been attended to so that is the right color and texture. No stretch marks or unsightly lumps anywhere.
This is the Cult of Desirable Objects the rap guy lives in – he seeks to have that which is coveted. The above described, we are led to believe, is the woman-person that is desirable. This woman-person however, does not exist in nature very often, if at all. Any woman-person wanting to be like this is probably going to spend more time on her appearance than on building her personality and life experiences. Again – this is a generalization. Many beautiful women are probably also really great people. But I would bet that number gets lower the harder they have to work at it.
This is a great time to point out that you can pretty much swap out genres and genders and sexual orientations here as much as you’d like. We all want to be surrounded by beautiful robot wo/men. Proof? Here’s a still from a Nicki Minaj video. Look at all the glorious flesh, and Nicki herself at the helm! (Yes, another Sir Mix-A-Lot reference. You’re welcome.)
Now, I have no idea where these women come from or where they go when they’re not at parties or in music videos. I assume they are created on an assembly line and stored in a warehouse, to which they return periodically to charge their battery pods. It’s the only logical conclusion – I have never seen someone who looks like that out walking around in the world.
So, if you’re a rap guy and you want to have a party, what type of women would you stock it with? Janet from Poughkeepsie who works at a Rite-Aid stocking toothbrushes overnight to keep her family in Hamburger Helper, or Purrdita; an exotic blend of all the right ethnicities and master of all the female maintenance techniques mentioned above and who has stepped off the Acceptable Woman assembly line (no shade to Purrdita – you may be a perfectly nice human). Janet’s busy anyway. Feeding her kids is very important to her, and she doesn’t have anything prostitute-casual to wear regardless.
We have so far established that Purrdita is a very nice lady with no ulterior motives. BUT – imagine the hordes of other women who have been conditioned by these music videos and culture in general, those in which the rap guys are throwing cash around (and I mean that literally; who does that?? Does anyone actually do that??) and treating their entourages to only the finest life has to offer. These women look in the mirror and see that they are beautiful and shapely and skinny (try pulling that off) and think “yes, I have this earned shinily ever after” so all that’s missing is the rap guy from whom the cash shall pour forth. Sexy pursuit to follow.
Love and sex are hardly the same, and yet they remain inextricably intertwined. Gender stereotypes would have you believe that females are slave to the former, and men to the latter. I think not. I have found that men are capable of being hurt on a level much deeper than we as a society acknowledge. And some women are just as well versed in the brutality of the heart as some men are in the brutality of the body. Neither of these things is right, and each one is it’s own wicked problem that keeps getting perpetuated generation after generation. That is not a thing I feel like tackling at this point. Until the singularity exists and materialism becomes an artifact of the analog past, just accept that it exists and we’ll move on.
So – these prospective rap guys’ girlfriends use the weapons of their sex and the means of their minds to bag a rich guy. Maybe there is some mutual attraction and affection, maybe not. But for the lifestyle, it doesn’t matter (this applies generally to all famous people of all genders and sexual orientations; I just really like my Sir Mix-A-Lot reference and I’m committed to it). Heartbreak ensues. Not the usual “we couldn’t work it out” heartbreak, but heartbreak on a “you deceived me and betrayed me for nothing more than my fame and my money; is this all there is? Am I even lovable?” level. This cycle keeps perpetuating because normal people are unapproachable and to be avoided at all costs. This means that the pool of people a rap guy will meet is inordinately concentrated with assholes and gold-diggers. Thus, opinions form. Songs are written. Records are released. Feminists and homosexuals are alarmed.
I’m not going on a rant and saying there needs to be a #notallwomen movement, I’m really just selfishly coming up with a justification so I can listen to music that is not intended to be enjoyed by someone like me; a heterosexual thirty-something white woman.
More on Slim later. What are we here for again? Oh right. Angry travelling. See how much time #3 can take up? Use it to your advantage!
Coping Strategy #4: Don’t Lose the Will to Live
This is difficult. If the three prior strategies fail you, you have to find a way to rally. Usually you’ll want to find the nearest alcohol vendor, unless that’s where you lost your will to live. These are the doldrums of layovers, where the airport ceases to be a finite, temporary structure and instead subsumes your humanity and becomes your own personal hell. Imagine – a place where you are never alone, but never with anyone, either. Where the bathrooms are plentiful, but always occupied. Where you can buy any kind of food you want, but each meal is a gamble with botulism. If you’re lucky, you’re at a larger airport where they’ve got outlets everywhere so you can charge your electronic devices. Take advantage of these. If you’re extremely lucky, you’re on a layover in Japan where they have sleep pods. No matter the cost – rent a sleep pod. Your will to live and to persevere is all you have at this point, airport resident. Do whatever it takes.
At some point, you will either disappear into the void of Airport, or you will be placed on an airplane. Once you are ass-in-seat on that plane, you may be overcome with the most infinite joy you’ve experienced, far surpassing the birth of any children, or that time you ran out of cheese and tortilla chips at the exact same time. Be warned – this feeling is fleeting. Very, very fleeting. You’ve just been plucked from relative psychic desolation and dropped down into a cesspool of humanity. Remember when you were stretched out on the floor at an empty gate, or sitting comfortably in a bar with your stein of beer? You now are on a plane, with no leg room, no fresh air, and an unmitigated and irrational hatred of those assholes up in first class. You’ve been sat next to a frantic looking mother holding a baby under six months old, who has decided to place her five-year-old between you and her. Five-year-olds are notorious for their lack of regard for the personal bubble, or awareness of where their elbows are at any given moment.
And then the drink trolley comes.
Coping Strategy #5: This Too Shall Pass; Be Elsewhere Until it Does
This five-year-old will spill her drink on you. This has been predetermined by the fates back when the first threads of the tapestry of the universe were woven. It’s just a matter of time. All you can do now is make sure your pockets on the that side are empty and that you have made no eye contact whatsoever with the creature’s mother so that when the inevitable comes to pass, you and the child can both ignore what has just happened and avoid talking about the matter. The benefit here is that kids are generally limited to juice and clear sodas, so while you may be sticky, you probably won’t smell too bad when you reach your final destination. If you are seated beside a belligerent drunk, I can’t promise the same.
Now is the time you want to imagine you’re in a Nicholas Sparks movie. One where the protagonist (usually a middle-aged, middle-class woman, but just go with me here) must endure seemingly endless personal disappointment before being swept off her humdrum feet by Richard Gere. If you’re like me, you’d rather swap Richard out with someone like Dean Winchester (you heard me; I didn’t say Jensen Ackles, I said Dean Winchester), but to each her own. This is your escape fantasy, so go for broke. You want Jason Momoa’s Aquaman? All the better for when you’re flying over the ocean and there’s turbulence. The important thing here is that you keep making lemonade. Speaking of which, if you want to pretend you’re Beyonce taking a bat to every single human person who has ever contributed to the marvel of commercial flight, be my guest. Whatever gets you through.
If you’re on a window seat, it’s pretty easy to cry at this point. Just turn and face the window. The terrifying rocking and shimmying of rough air should mask your shoulders shaking. If not, you may have to retreat to the bathroom, but that’s going to be a negotiation between asking someone to move (if you’re in the middle) or waiting in line after the portly gentleman you saw eating a meatball sub right before boarding. The individual situation should inform your decision.
Eventually you will land, and your designated mode of transportation, or friend/family member will be waiting for you. At this point, you will feel like crying again. Big, fat, ugly tears of relief. There are two ways to go about this. If you’re averse to emotional displays like I am, you will want to stifle this urge so as not to appear a weak ass bitch. You may need to pump yourself back up with a little more angry music; as much as it can calm you when you’re angry, it can also replace feelings of sadness and desperation with a little anger when needed. If you’re in tune with the full gamut of emotions (which is a healthier way to live, I fully admit) then take this opportunity to wrap your arms around your loved one (or the steering wheel of your rental car) and shove your teary, snot-leaking face right into the sensitive flesh of their neck so that they may absorb your heartache and relieve you of the burden.
You have made it, my friend. May your next journey be uneventful. In the meantime, enjoy this Aquaman:
I promised more on Eminem, didn’t I?
I didn’t set out to spend so much time on him. But he’s a fascinating figure. A true underdog story of undeniable success, but one in which the hero can’t shake the shackles of his attendant torture. Would he have seen such success if he didn’t have such a tragic backstory? Is that his muse? If he found true happiness, would he cease to be productive; cease to be his current self? Is this a standing argument for nature over nurture, or proof that the two work in concert? Who can tell. The undeniable truth is that the man has obscene talent (pun intended). He was crowned artist of the decade for the 2000’s. Let me reiterate that: Artist of the DECADE. Not year. So for as problematic as he was and is (the picture below sums it up nicely), there were a hell of a lot of people with whom his music resonated truth. We can ask all kinds of questions about why that is, but we won’t be able to answer any of them. The Slim Shady LP came out in 1999, a time when angsty, moody artists were everywhere. Rabbit was certainly not the only one with a chip on his shoulder. He may have just been more honest and relatable. He told you exactly where he came from and why he was here. He was pissed off at his parents and had a profound hatred for his time in school. What teenager wouldn’t relate, even if they didn’t have quite as bad a time as him?
Which leads me to be believe that we’re punishing the oracle instead of the prophecy. Yes, his lyrics are not politically correct. Sure, he talks quite a bit about violence against women and homosexuals. But like all artistic mediums, there is a divide between the art and reality. Parents and censors were up in arms (who’s to say they’re not the vocal minority, though) about Eminem encouraging rage and violence in our children, but I question whether listening to a song will make you into an angry person if you had nothing to be angry about to begin with. What he did was give a voice to rage and let people know that the darks seeds that sprout in our minds don’t make us freaks – we all feel that way. I don’t believe that he intended for anyone to take to the streets and harass or harm women and gays. That may have happened as a consequence in some isolated instances, but again, the offenders had to have felt that way before Eminem found his way into a recording booth. If I listen to a bunch of country, I’m not going to have relations with my truck and force my wife into a patriarchal existence. If I listen to reggae I’m not going to grow dreads and take up weed as a recreation. If I listen to heavy metal I’m not going to start wearing leather and the blood of my enemies (I already do that, so there). I know this as truth because I listen to almost every type of music and have remained at my core the same person I always was; a genre stereotype did not sprout forth from my body when I hit the play button.
Also – if you listen to his albums (plural – this is important) as a critical analysis, you can hear the conflict and you realize that a lot of his songs are in some ways conversations he’s having with himself. He doesn’t like himself any more than you do. He’s not any happier than you are. This is the exorcism of the soul of a kid who was never wanted anywhere he went, who had to learn to use the contempt of others to fuel his own confidence, and that’s a hard place to break out of. He is the second part of Newton’s third law. He’s the opposite and equal reaction to those who push against him. As a fellow contrary, stubborn ass, I can relate to the execution, if not the sentiment. He’s not doing what he does for you or me. He’s doing it for that little kid frozen in time who’s cold, alone, and afraid.
So in conclusion, I can’t justify Mr. Mathers’ use of language of hate against women and homosexuals and pretty much everyone, but goddammit I can understand it because I feel the same way about elements and fixtures in my life. So what does that mean for me? That I’m just an asshole and shouldn’t pretend to be nice? Or that the whole world is a mess. (Another solid reference – come on, people!). Regardless, he gets me through the hard times in my life when I just want to break anything in front of my face, so for that, I thank him.