It’s 10 a.m. and I’m on my second beer at the airport bar. It’s a lovely little bar, with a broad window facing the runway and six local beers on tap. I’m not sure if they even have a macro beer in the bottle. I’m drinking Green Man Forester. Robust, burly, but not as burly as their porter. A breakfast beer, if you will.
I rarely drink before noon, but I’m flying and anytime I fly I simply have to have two beers before I board the plane. It has nothing to do with a fear of flying. I have a friend who’s scared of flying. Legitimately scared. She has to have several glasses of chardonnay and an assortment of pharmaceuticals before she can muster up the courage to check her bag, and even then she’s an emotional wreck.
God forbid there’s turbulence.
I’m a logical person. I’m not scared of flying. I have to have two beers before I get on an airplane because I don’t understand the physics behind the act of flight. I can’t comprehend the concept of “lift,” even though my father (an aeronautical engineer) explained it to me every three days while I was growing up. Literally. It was like growing up in Space Camp, but without Kelly Preston to add sex appeal. As far as I’m concerned, that giant, 360,000- pound metal tube with wings flies by faith, trust and a pinch of pixie dust.
I have to have two beers before I get on a plane because I know there’s a 78 percent chance I’m going to sit next to a really dramatic older lady who wears lots of bracelets, has two coats draped over her lap (who needs two coats?), and six different bags. How she got past the flight attendants with their strict “two bags per passenger” rule is beyond me. This lady is going to want to talk to me about the enlightening experience she had at an art camp in Santa Fe. Two beers makes that conversation easier.
Or worse yet, I’ll sit next to the guy that smells like cheese soup.
I have to have two beers before I get on the plane because there’s a 100 percent chance that I’m going to stress out about exactly what time I should rise from my seat after we land. There’s an awkward period there between the moment they release the seat belt sign and the moment people actually start walking off the plane. If I rise too early, I’ll be standing hunched over, with my ass in my row partner’s face for several minutes. If I rise too late, I’ll hold everyone up behind me as I fumble for my bag in the overhead compartment.
There’s nothing comfortable about flying, even if you don’t have mild social anxiety. To truly enjoy a commercial flight requires a Zen-like presence of mind. It’s a fantastic thing that we’re doing, here, together on this plane, keeping it in the air by our happy thoughts alone. It should be appreciated. But I don’t have a single Zen-like bone in my entire body. The closest I’ll ever get to that beatific state of aware ness is the calm I experience after two beers. One’s not enough, three’s too much. Two is just right.
I have to have two beers before I fly because two beers makes everything that’s uncomfortable more palatable. Weddings, funerals, office meetings — all more palatable after two beers. Does that make me weak? Probably. Do I care? Hell no.
The two-beer Zen buzz also makes good things better. There’s a singularly beautiful moment that only occurs on airplanes that I look forward to on all flights. It’s that moment when you’re cruising down the runway about to take off. The plane accelerates until finally, the pilot just punches it to get the wheels off the ground and your body gets smushed into the back of your seat by the sheer force of movement. Anyone remember Sliders? I imagine that moment of smushness is exactly what Jerry O’Connell felt just as he leaped into the wormhole.
The problem is maintaining that optimal two-beer buzz during a long flight. I haven’t had the luck of flying one of those airlines that serves craft beer (an airline out of Minnesota serves Surly, and you can now find Fat Tire on Southwest flights). So my only choices on a plane are Heineken or Budweiser. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not one of these craft beer snobs who will only drink a beverage handmade by monks in Belgium. I’ve never understood limiting yourself like that. Having standards is fine and well, but turning down a beer just because it’s not “craft” is like turning down sex from a girl because she’s not a supermodel. It’s like going on a hunger strike because you can’t find Wagyu.
I’ve had many a fine experiences drinking Budweiser, so my issue with the limited choices of in-flight beers has to do with the price. I’m not a snob, I’m just cheap. Six dollars for 12 ounces of Miller Lite?
Still, I usually suck it up and pony over the cash. It’s important to maintain that two-beer buzz throughout the duration of the flight. You never know when that lady with all the bags will ask you to hold her cat. Yes, she brought her cat on the plane. And can you really put a price tag on reaching that Zen-like state of awareness? Faith, trust, and pixie dust, people.