The man on the train and my earphones, Part 1

My poor, poor headphones.
My poor, poor headphones.

I have a story about a man on a train that I’d like to tell you, but I’m not sure if I can do it, because I’m feeling rather cross at the moment. (I’ve also been reading Douglas Adams, so don’t be surprised if I write like an annoyed Englishman.)

I’m writing this on a plane—32,000 feet above Las Cruces, New Mexico, if the little screen in the back of the seat in front of me can be believed, and so far it’s done nothing to make me think it can’t—and I’ve lost one of the little rubber in-the-ear thingies on my earphones.

Losing the little rubber in-the-ear thingie doesn’t bother me in and of itself, at least not to the degree I am feeling bothered at the moment; I lose stuff all the time, especially earphones, though I do tend to lose them all at once rather than one piece at a time. What bothers me is that the missing ear thingie might well be right here on the plane, probably somewhere under my seat, and both space and pride limit my options for finding it.

I’ve already rummaged around in my backpack several times (the in-the-ear thingies have flopped off in there before), but to no avail. I’m tempted to dump everything onto my seat tray, but I haven’t cleaned out my backpack in at least half a dozen trips, and the contents would make me look like some sort of an airborne bag lady: A glasses case with two pairs of glasses in it, a purple car-USB adapter, a three of those supplemental battery charging devices of various sizes and amperages, two bags of snacks from yesterday’s Amtrak ride (more on that in a bit—the train ride, that is, not the snacks), a couple of Ricola cough drops from the cold I had last month, my keys, my passport, a schedule for some press trip I took ages ago, and about a half-dozen pens, all fairly nice, all supplied free, and all bearing the name of some automaker or another.

I have tried subtly looking around at my seat. No dice. I felt around behind the cushion under my tush (eew). No dice. I looked around my feet and I’ve rummaged through the seat pocket in case it fell off there. Diceless. I even got up to go to the bathroom, primarily so I could surreptitiously have a look around my seat while I was coming and going (hah, see what I did there?). (In case you are wondering, the plane I am on has a 1-2 seating arrangement and I am on the “1” side, so there’s no seatmate to annoy. You probably weren’t wondering, but omitting this questionably useful datum would gnaw at my conscience for weeks on end. I’m serious.)

All that is left to do is actually crawl around under my seat, which I cannot bring myself to do. It doesn’t help much that sitting across the aisle from me is a woman who works for the car company whose product I am going to drive. She doesn’t seem to recognize me and I certainly don’t recognize her, but every piece of paper she’s pulled out of her briefcase is emblazoned with either the word TOYOTA or the name of the car we’re about to drive, so it’s a pretty safe bet I’m going to encounter her several times over the next two-and-a-half days.

Of course, I suppose it’s entirely possible that she is a corporate spy from some other automaker, in which case I guess I could crawl around under the my seat, and then, when she looks at me curiously, I could stand up and yell “Ah-hah! I caught you, you low-life corporate traitor!” and pretend the whole crawling-to-look-for-my-missing-ear-thing was just a clever ruse and not the desperate action of a man who was hoping to watch I’m Alan Partridge on his plane ride to Austin, Texas.

While I love this idea, the chances of me being wrong, and subsequently deplaning with the assistance of the Austin police, are simply too great.

I have already hatched a plan in case I can’t find the offending ear thing: Amazon. Someone’s got to sell them. Robin has Amazon Prime. Surely I can find a set that can be delivered overnight at no extra charge. The prospect of a video-free flight home is simply too much to bear.

I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Aaron, why don’t you just read? You mentioned you were reading before. You have a book, right?”

Do I have a book? I have about sixty books—thank goodness for the Amazon Kindle, best friend of the easily-distracted. Right now, I have Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (I need a re-read of Douglas every two years or so), a really good Frank Sinatra biography, and a Matt Helm novel all in progress, plus other stuff to keep me amused, including The History of Torture. (I have really noisy upstairs neighbors, and it’s nice to dream.)

But… I planned to watch video. And that is part of the problem of being me. You know that thing that toddlers do, where they get all bent out of shape if the plans change for the day? Those of you with kids will remember—you plan to go to Chuck E. Cheese’s, you get there and the place is closed, and the kid reacts as if someone had disemboweled that stupid hat-wearing mouse and spread his entrails across the front of the store like curtains. (Geez, maybe I need to lay off The History of Torture.) Well, I have a bit of that. I’m just not wired right, and I don’t deal well with changes of plans.

This used to drive my wife Robin absolutely crazy; it might still—I haven’t asked her recently—but I think she’s used to it by now. She has to suggest changes in plans hours in advance. It’s not that I’m not spontaneous; I can get up with no plans and seize the day with the best of them, but when I have a plan in my mind, changing course makes my little mind implode. I try my best, and on those occasions when Robin says “Hey, let’s go to the butterfly reserve”* on a day when I had planned to install a new hard drive in the computer**, I try my best to say “Okay, sure, that sounds fun.” This is a major accomplishment when it happens and Robin knows it, but she also knows, as whe one sighte a rare butterfly, that it’s best not to say anything lest one scare it away.

* I can’t think of the last time she suggested a spontaneous trip to a butterfly reserve, and I’m not even sure we have one in Los Angeles, but these things happen so rarely that I can’t come up with a better example, which I suppose is rather sad. But we have gone to see butterflies on our way up to the Central Coast—the Monarchs live in this little grove and it’s quite lovely, so I’m not totally out to lunch here.

 ** Robin would never actually suggest any sort of spontaneous activity on a day when I am planning to work on a computer. When that happens, she and the kids (and, often as not, the dog), get away from the house as if it was infected with nuclear waste. Robin loves to watch a good temper tantrum, but when things go awry during computer upgrades, I get too pissy even for her.

 So the fact that I cannot watch video is driving me secretly nuts. All I can think about, even as I type this, is how I can look under my seat for that stupid little rubber in-the-ear thingie. Obsessive-compulsive tendencies run in my family, and I am obsessing like crazy.

 I’m so obsessed that I realize I’ve now written an entire blog entry and not told you about the thing I was going to tell you about—the man on the train and the window and his book. I think I’ve tortured you enough for one day, so I’ll leave that for next time.

Unless I find my ear thingie, that is. In that case, I’ll be watching Alan Partridge. Don’t bother me, not even for butterflies.

© 2017 by Aaron Gold

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