Even God enjoys a good sitcom every now and then. I know this because, while I haven’t yet managed to syndicate my own “Debra Rich” tv show, I am a walking breathing sitcom that delights god every time he/she/they tune in. (And I’m making the conscious choice to end that sentence with a preposition.So deal.)
For as long as I can remember, people have compared the odd characters and situations of my life to a well crafted sitcom. As a student of fine television comedy, I’ve often thought of my life in the genre of classic situational comedies like The Dick Van Dyke show and I Love Lucy. But I have to admit that much of my current chaos feels a lot like “My Crazy Ex Girlfriend,” minus the musical interludes. My soundtrack to my life isn’t a bunch of clever riffs on Broadway showtunes. It is instead an annoying, ever-looping, instrumental version of “Abba Dabba Dabba Said the Monkey to the Chimp.” (Longer explanation to follow…someday. Suffice to say, this song mysteriously plays everywhere I go every day of my life.)
Season 227 episode 11
I board a plane from Seattle to Phoenix where I am producing a big fundraiser gala and Cabaret for “Kid in the Corner,” the foundation to which my life has become dedicated.
I am traveling alone over New Years because I cannot take care of 25 performers, a full tech staff, and oversee this important event with children in tow. While my kids (14 and 18) are older and very responsible. I chose to leave them home in the hopes of avoiding awkward family drama and distracting everyday disfunction.
All seems well as I settle into my roomie Premium class window seat on, my now least favorite airline on the planet, Alaska Air. I watch as others board and clumsily hoist their carry ons in the newly constructed overhead compartments which continue to shrink with each economical redesign. Suddenly I notice two parents, about my age, overly happy and perhaps even a bit intoxicated. They are leading two young boys, nearly the ages of mine, behind them. I notice that the younger boy, maybe 11 years old, seems a bit anxious and out of sorts. The father, a boisterous, designer clad fellow who emits the air of a realtor or other sales related executive points the younger boy to the middle seat next to me. “But dad,” the kid stammers. “I don’t feel so…”
“You’re fine,” says Pops who then pushes the older boy down in the aisle seat of my row. “You and your brother can play on your Switch. It’s only a 2 and a half hour flight.” Then he and wifey, whom I assume is the mom, grab a couple of exit row premium seats a few rows back.
Full disclosure, this feels a bit off to me. I leave my kids at home in order to focus and perhaps even relax a bit. But I immediately find myself burdened with someone else’s even younger duo. I talk myself down though because I am not responsible for these two kids and this serendipitous situation provides me with a great chance to test out my new “not my problem” approach to life.
The flight attendant approaches shortly after take off and offers me a glass of ice water. As I reach for the refreshing liquid, young boy #1 projectile vomits all over himself, the seat, and me. Suddenly this has become my problem. We all seem immobilized as if we’ve been shot by some villainous time freezing weapon. After a few seconds, I snap out of my paralyzed state and call to the parents, three rows behind me, “Your kid is sick. He just threw up all over.”
When dad insists “No, he didn’t.” I sense that this is going to be a stressful trip. Flight attendant is still under the frozen time warp spell. I snap my fingers and yell, “He needs something to clean this up.”
She looks at me as if she has never encountered a nauseated traveler before. Then she reaches into the seat pocket in front of the boy and hands him a plastic, waterproof barf bag. He is perplexed but attempts to wipe up some of the copious vomit puddle in his lap and covering the seats and armrests.
I call again to the oblivious parents, “He needs help.” Then I suggest to the less than competent attendant that she get some rags or paper towels. Dad arrives in time to lambast the child for barfing on purpose as the rest of us glare at him in disbelief. Next mom appears in giggly apology, “It’s nothing,” she assures all of us, “he does this every time he flies.”
“NO HE DOESN’T,” snaps dad. “He’s never done this before.”
“What are you talking about, hon.” inquires mom, “He does this on every flight.”
At this point, I feel entitled to the rage, frustration and disbelief that are flooding my psyche. Kid gets cleaned up and mom replaces his soaked tee shirt. Other flight attendants have brought over more useless barf bags and a few cocktail napkins to clean up the remainder of the liquid. I excuse myself to go throw up in the lavatory because this is BEYOND GROSS!
There are of course no open seats anywhere on the plane. So I get to stay in the stench for two more hours. Evil dad forces older son to sit in disgusting vomit seat so he can occupy the aisle seat and barf boy ends up back with mom in a clean seat.
Again, I try to convince myself that suffering is a state of mind and that I am free to choose happiness and acceptance or struggle against the reality of my present circumstance. Noxious odor makes it more challenging to remain blissful in a tightly confined airbus with vomit dampened clothes, shoes and lap top case.
I find solace in fantasizing about stripping out of every disgusting item on my person, dumping them into a soapy sanitizing washing machine cycle, and showering off this hideous film of stranger scum. My form of relevant meditation. I breath in as I imagine the hot droplets of water careening over my scalp and body. Breath out as I envision myself covered in sudsy Pureology shampoo and body scrub.
As we begin our descent, I look back at the boy and feel true compassion for this horrifying experience. I smile at the mom and begin to say something as the kid’s face shifts from pink and rosy to pale and viridescent. And as he violently vomits across his mother and nearby seat mates, I acknowledge my success in creating another hilarious episode of God’s favorite sitcom which I’ve begun to recognize as my true purpose in life.
Here’s to being picked up next season!