Southwest is Paging Him, Part I

Midwest gray is a special kind of gray. Especially in February. A looming dome of glum sits over the world like a cup closing over a flame. And the bubbling promise of spring is still four scores away.
“How ya enjoying that Lean Cuisine, Tubby Guts?
It was only a matter of time before He threw that one out there. The most hated nickname of my childhood.
“Oh come on,” He said and downed another of those airplane-sized bottles of vodka, then threw it to the floor. “You had to know I was gonna sport out that little gem. It’s a good name for you, Tubby Guts. Fits you well.”
Sitting in the airport cafeteria, I had a Lean Cuisine sandwich, a protein bar and a protein shake before me for my lunch. Outside, a mincing mid-winter snow rained down on the tarmac. After work, I would squeeze in a trip to the gym before my Friday night meeting.
“The clip-on tie is what makes the outfit, I think,” He said. “Those little captain’s stripes on your shoulders is an elegant touch, but the clip-on tie really makes the whole ensemble work.” He snickered lightly and dropped the empty bottle to join the 7 others around his feet. “Like you’re a real pilot instead of just another derelict step’n’fetch it lawn jockey who can’t get any other job! Which is, y’know, what you are.”
I ate my sandwich and drank my shake. I had been working as a wheelchair attendant for a little over a week and, so far, had been focusing on the parts of the job I liked. Walking around the airport and getting plenty of exercise was great. Hell, wasn’t that how Jared on the Subway commercials had lost all of his tonnage? Less time spent at the gym and all that. Being active at work instead of sitting behind a desk shuffling papers and surfing the Web is always a plus too. Psychologically, living and thinking in the now and putting to use my wit and pleasant demeanor instead of living in my head, building resentments and nurturing that ever-toxic sense of self-importance and anti-social righteousness. Attending Buddhist services and being part of the Sangha. Just simply working, feeling the power inherent in being of service to others. With each dawn, I meditate and let the power of loving kindness and compassion fill me before utilizing it in my work. I’ve tried not to let the dark side of the job infiltrate my thinking about it. How I deserve it from all my years of torturing my loved ones in my addiction. How this job is penance for being so self-absorbed for so long. How I somehow need to just take my medicine.
“Hey, I applaud you for fighting off the reality of the loser you are,” He said. “Chairing a meeting and trying to bring something to that by really reading the Big Book. Staying plugged-in with your little friends. You’ve displayed admirable skill in deluding yourself, my friend,” He sneered. He rose, walked to the window and looked out at the planes taxiing around the tarmac. He turned back to me and shook His head. “But come on. The sooner you accept that you’re just a washed up burn-out, really, the healthier our outlook can be. And let’s be reasonable, shall we? Stop ogling the pretty young women in sharp suits all the time and get used to what you are.”
“Which is?” I said and finished my sandwich.
“A middle-aged, overweight creep with graying hair and limited prospects, son!” He expanded His arms, palms up, to His sides and took a bow.
I nodded solemnly as I rose myself and folded up the microwave-safe box and threw it in the trash can. I opened the protein bar, took a big bite and pulled on the shake. Dusting off my hands, I looked Him directly in the eyes.
“Unfortunately, you’re forgetting one thing …”

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