Friday, February 06, 2004


When you leave Chicago in February for anywhere that doesn’t have cold weather, people are happy for you. You don’t even have to be going on vacation. They get it. They are happy for you in a way that is kind of like when someone you’ve been talking to for half an hour discovers that it’s your birthday and that you’re eight years younger than they are. They perk right up. They wish you well. Maybe they feign envy. Then the topic disappears permanently off your conversation's navigational chart.

That’s the way it is. It’s snowing outside for the four hundred fuckingth time and everything has been the color of newspapers since before anyone was born. Everyone understands that winter in Chicago becomes something to get through. If fate gives you an opportunity to make a break for warmer weather, you go. They get this and you feel fortunate for the chance to do so.

That is, until your pilot comes out of the cockpit with a yellow utility flashlight moments before you were expecting to take off and a good half hour to forty-five minutes after de-icing. He heads directly to the emergency exit row, politely says “excuse me” to the passengers seated there, and peers out at the wing as snow blizzards around it. He excuses himself and crosses the aisle to the other wing. Looks again. He heads back to the cockpit, expressionless. You and your fellow passengers fall into complete silence and begin contemplating how lucky you really are.

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