I was on the shuttle to New York to meet my spouse for an Important Work Event (IWE). Most IWE’s involve dressing up. This one did not. At least for dressy events it was easy to figure out what to wear. Something dressy, which I had maybe two of, since most IWE’s in my own job are BYOC (bring your own coffee) and require a special dress code of sweatpants. My spouse, however, lives in the Real World of Real Work where appropriate dress means dressing to appear in public places and not looking like a mug shot. This is, I’ve decided, also the secret to Real Pay. So I’ve begun to dress up for work in the hopes that the mailman will notice and bring me a paycheck.
But this event was a cookout, and as such, the dress code was disconcertingly open to interpretation, with options ranging from frilly sundresses to madras shorts. And, it would take place at the boss’s house, which really changed the equation to, which outfit is least likely to show perspiration? I finally settled on off-white cropped pants and a cute blouse. I’m telling you this because it will be important later. I don’t remember if I had a sweater, but I should have, and if I didn’t it’s because I was too busy making sure I had all 48 pieces of reading material stuffed in my carry-on, just in case we were stuck on the runway for 2 hours on a brilliant sunny day, which was what had happened the last time I boarded the shuttle for an IWE.
I was of course the only person on the shuttle wearing cropped pants, because everyone else, men and women alike, had dressed to look important, in tailored suits. And they probably were important. I, on the other hand, was a spouse.
I sat next to a man who, until the flight took off, talked on his cell phone (“Tell him we’re there. At least we can get dinner out of this fiasco”), and in front of a woman who talked on her cell phone (“The cat? But how much blood??”). I tried not to listen, really… I stared at one of my five issues of the NYT Book Review, which I save because I’m sure I’ll get to them someday, certainly by the time the books are out in paperback. And then, an event that now seems mythical, old fashioned, and quaint: A flight attendant gave me a package of shortbread cookies and asked me what I wanted to drink. When I think of it now, my vision gets a little blurred with tears of nostalgia for the travel customs of yesteryear. Or at least, last year.
I asked for apple juice, with no ice, to ensure the greatest quantity of actual beverage in the cup. Why I did not just ask for water, I will never know. But then I would not have this story to tell. Wherein there was turbulence uncharacteristic for a shuttle flight on a brilliant sunny day. Wherein there was no little cup-size indentation on my pull-down tray to safely hold my apple juice cup. Wherein the turbulence came on so suddenly and was so concentrated and jolting that I had no opportunity to grab the cup of apple juice before it slid forward and spilled directly in my lap. And when I say “lap” I mean “crotch.” Just so there’s no misunderstanding.
And now is the time to remember that I’m wearing off-white pants; pants of a thin, summer-weight fabric which, according to REI, is “wicking.” And so it did.
The liquid, which expanded in quantity as only spilled liquids can, soaked through my (light-colored! wicking fabric!) pants so that I was effectively sitting in apple juice, marinating like a really great recipe I have for Belgian chicken. Except I think that uses cider. So I should be grateful for small things. Cider would’ve been worse. I will spare you some of the rest---the biodegradable napkins I was offered that left little napkin spitballs on my pants, the sopping blanket I put between myself and the seat to raise myself out of the puddle that my pants (wicking!) had not yet absorbed, the flight attendant’s helpful reminder to buckle up and remain seated during turbulence.
I had no change of clothing with me. This was a day trip. I seriously considered wrapping myself in back-issues of the book review. I thought, well, they’re finance people, they’ll just think I’m one of those eccentric artist types making a statement. A saturated statement that smells suspiciously like my son’s lunchbox.
When we landed at LaGuardia, I tried not to panic. I went to the public restroom. I don’t know if it has ever been said before or will ever be said again, but that morning, there was nothing I wanted to see more than the public restroom at LaGuardia Airport. And there I found the thing that saved me. Someday there will be a poetic tribute to the Hand Dryers of LaGuardia. The hard part was how to position myself in order for the airflow to reach the key saturated areas. I had two options: I could disrobe in LaGuardia’s restroom and climb onto the counter by the sink with no pants on. That seemed unwise for reasons I don’t think I need to list. Or, what I chose to do, which was to practice for my next career as circus contortionist and simply adjust my still-clothed body to the proper angle. And the less said of that, the better. Except I will tell you that it worked. Within a few minutes, I was dry. And the pants were close enough in color to the apple juice (off white! And did I mention wicking…?), that the mishap left no stains discernible by anyone who wasn’t looking more closely than would be polite.
In case there’s any doubt, I’m looking forward to my next shuttle flight. In fact, I’ve already picked out my clothes.