Sitting in an airport holding pen, I look up, disoriented. Have I missed my flight? As panic rises, the thinking part of my brain rouses. Reluctantly. Sluggishly. My watch is still on Vancouver time from a trip a few weeks ago. It’s 6:10 where I am. Whew.
But, once roused, my snippy internal monitor is not content with merely correcting my mistake, or with alleviating my (mis)apprehension. What’s that she’s saying? That if the watch showed the correct time, I’d be early for my flight, not late?
Thanks for that. Given that the 6:10 in question is the oh-dark-hundred kind, not the glass-of-wine kind, and that I’ve been up since oh-4:30, I’ll cut myself some slack for slow thought processes.
As I return the rarely used watch to the outside pocket of my Walmart black-cotton purse—I spare no presentation effort—my breathing returns to normal. It will be a while before the adrenaline surge works its way through my system.
Waiting to board the 7:00 flight for a business day trip to Toronto, I have idly begun a task that should suit my currently diminished mental capacity—sorting through my purse to see what’s there. The wristwatch was not an auspicious beginning, but I soldier on.
This yellow mini-stickie is my grocery list from earlier in the week, speaking of the ease of communicating with self and the difficulty of communicating with anyone else at all. No one else could produce my desired results from this note. Even apart from the cryptic abbreviation for English muffins, I consider what it doesn’t say. The carrots: peeled and bagged, just bagged, or loose? The chicken: whole, piece-parts (breasts or thighs?), or cooked and seasoned strips? The ham: steak, roast, or deli slices? The salmon: canned or fresh (farmed or wild? steak or filet?)? Not to mention the quantities of all of these things.
But I’m going too deep for this review. Pull up, pull up. What’s next?
An American penny and a dime, speaking of the last trip south of the border with the Big Guy.
A crumpled receipt for $2.52 from the Canada Post outlet at the neighbourhood Shoppers Drug Mart, speaking of a large envelope of stickers and a small grandson across the country.
Six black Pilot Fineliners, speaking of an apparently inherited predilection for felt-tip writing implements. I am momentarily distracted from my appointed course—Six? Are they breeding in there?—until I steel my resolve and carry on.
A folded, ragged, but clean kleenex—no, not a Kleenex® but a no-name facial tissue—speaking of contingencies that never materialized, of snot that never happened.
One decongestant tablet in a nearly impossible-to-pop bubble-pack package with sharp edges (the better to stab me with from the dark bowels of my Walmart black-cotton purse) and an extra layer of paper almost impossible to peel off, which disobliging packaging—designed to discourage those who would illegally create methamphetamine from the decongestant’s pseudoephedrine active ingredient—has, instead, encouraged me more than once to fling it across the room while trying to self-medicate quickly for a migraine (quickly!) in an off-label use that my current pharmacist clearly does not believe in but that my former neurologist found completely reasonable, big breath here, speaking of how one never knows what will come to be seen as an indispensable, albeit sharp-edged, travelling companion. Because speaking of the health care system, illicit drug use, or organized crime is too deep, too deep.
One purse-sized container of Life® extra-strength acetaminophen red-coated pills to take with the decongestant, its store-branded label worn worrisomely thin over several years of use and numerous refills from the humungous bulk-buy container sitting on my medication shelf, speaking of how my cheapness trumps my mild phobia about triggering suspicion at airport and border security checks, but does not quiet it.
Prescription sunglasses in a hard, black-plastic case, irritatingly obscure in the dark bowels of my Walmart black-cotton purse, speaking of inertia in correcting the readily correctable little irritations of life.
The stub of a two-year-old bronze lipstick, speaking of how I spare no presentation effort or, perhaps, of how “I spare no presentation effort” can mean such different things to different people.
And, at the very bottom, crumbs from unidentifiable snacks, speaking of a life-long sparring match that I think the snacks are winning.
Wah wah wah
The low-fidelity announcement system erupts with something unclear, but that might be my row number. I close my Walmart black-cotton purse, sling it and my 50-pound laptop bag over my shoulder, and stand up.
You should clean that out. You might find Jimmy Hoffa.
The remembered voice of an old friend, speaking to his mother of her famously large purse, is clearer in my head than the boarding instructions assailing my ears. As I shuffle forward in the queue at the airport gate I reflect that, although I didn’t find a notorious dead guy, I did catch a glimpse of my life. Of my self.