My Kindle vs. My Conscience: The Final Chaper (Part 4: God of Carnage, Kindle, and Judge Judy) – [Bewitched, Bothered, & Bewildered]
This is part 4 in a 4 part series. To read parts 1, 2 and/or 3 click on this link My Kindle vs. My Conscience: Parts 1, 2, and 3
The iPad had landed.
I hardly missed my Kindle at all. After losing it during a bungled airport layover in Phoenix, (see part 3) I discovered the free Kindle app on my iPhone. It was super convenient, and its backlighting feature meant I could curl up in a dark bedroom and read without disturbing my sleeping husband. I used it so much, my husband bought me a nice big iPad, to ‘save my eyes’ from straining to see the teeny weeny words.
Once again, I was flying from LAX to Phoenix to Columbus, but this time I was traveling alone. It was a Southwest flight, and I was pleased with myself I’d checked in early enough to win an “A” boarding card, so I got to go first and pick my seat.
The right, front row of the plane (with the extra leg room) was completely empty. Quickly, I shoved my carry-on overhead, and nabbed the window seat. I sat down – shit! My iPad! It was up in my carry on. If I didn’t get it now, I might not have a chance before Group B and C stampeded in, or maybe not until the captain turned off the fasten seatbelts sign way, who knows how long after take off. I had to make my move, and make it quick.
I scrambled into the aisle, blocking the path of the rest of Group A. I reached up – but my carry-on was too high and too far back – I had slung it over my head and relied on momentum to throw it up there.
There was a back up of passengers behind me – and I was the cause of the bottleneck. I could feel their irritation; hear their passive-aggressive groans and sighs.
What to do? Ask a tall, strapping lad to reach up and get it? Okay – except there was no tall, strapping lad in sight.
“What’s the hold up?” and “Come on…” I heard a rumble of complaints from the entryway.
What can I do? Get the flight attendant chick to help me? No, that would take too long…and make me feel lame.
“If you would please move through the cabin and find a seat as quickly as possible, for an on time departure.”
I wanted to scream! Then, in a moment of inspiration and pure resourcefulness, I leapt up on the aisle seat. I felt bold! Strong! All those cardio-sculpt classes were really paying off! I was hovering above everyone, and the bottleneck broke up, passengers flowed in. Towering over the cabin, I curled up and in to reach toward my carry-on. I felt damn near acrobatic! I missed my calling as an action heroine, a cirque de solei star. Hell, I could’ve starred on Alias!
I became vaguely aware of a gravely voice from below.
Since I knew I couldn’t’ possibly be mistaken me for a “ma’am” instead of a “miss,” I dismissed it. That couldn’t be directed toward moi.
“Ma’am?” the voice seemed like it was talking to me…was it a flight attendant admonishing me? I didn’t look. I remained eagle eyed on my carry-on, willing my arm to reach it, focused on the task at hand. “I’m just getting something!” I shouted, my head buried in the bin.
“Just a second!” I snapped, gritting my teeth, and turning my body to reach my arm further into the bin. My iPad is close, so close…
“Ma’am, MY KINDLE!”
A looked down to see a red-haired, bearded, Santa Clause of a man.
He points to my feet. “You’re stepping on my Kindle!”
I looked down in horror to see what I hadn’t: my feet standing squarely atop tan leather-covered Kindle.
I shifted my weight off my left foot in preparation to jump down, but I could feel, instantly, this was a mistake. All of my weight was now on my right foot, which pressed deep into the center of the Kindle.
I could hear the collective intake of breath from at least 3 other passengers, ogling and eavesdropping, watching the whole thing play out like a thriller before their very eyes.
“Careful!” one guy whispered; a moviegoer watching Indiana Jones try to lift the grail without upsetting the temple.
I jumped down, stared at the leather-covered Kindle – how did I miss this? The yellowish tan of its cover was identical to the color of the seat, like one of those trick 3-D posters, where the object blends into the background so it’s invisible, but once you know what to look for, it comes into view. Somewhere between me sitting down and getting up for my iPad, this man had set down his Kindle to claim his seat, then what? Stepped aside to the other aisle? How did I miss this guy? Damn him and his stupid chameleon-like Kindle cover!
He seemed temporarily disoriented – his eyes stared blankly at the Kindle, lying lifeless on the seat.
Then, we looked directly at each other, both speechless.
I was the first to break the silence. “I am so sorry.”
He kind of patted my arm with an unspoken “there, there.”
“I’m sure it’s okay,” he said. Whew! I knew in that moment this guy was a dad. Oh, good! Maybe I could appeal to his paternal instincts and get away with a “these things happen…”
We sat in our seats, I, in the window, he on the aisle, the middle seat unfortunately and decidedly empty. We both busied ourselves with careful review of a diagram of this 747 aircraft, the beverage selection, and the inflight magazine.
He hadn’t opened the Kindle yet to check for damages. Instead, he rested in on his lap, and stared directly ahead and shook his head, like ‘What just happened?’
I did the same thing.
Having paged through “Skymall” back and forth at least 3 times, I wanted my iPad more than ever. But, to get up now? I’d have to climb over him, and publicly retrieve my own, nicer, more expensive version of an eReader.
Ugh! Why couldn’t this be a shorter flight? Maybe he’ll get off it Phoenix. Yes, he’ll get off the plane and I’ll stay on, pretending to be asleep, and it will all be very smooth and nonconfrontational. I’ll wake up in Ohio, and it will all have seemed but a dream.
About 45 minutes into the flight, I sensed movement from the aisle seat. He had his on the Kindle, still closed shut in its damn mustard-yellow case. I willed my eyeballs to strain out of my periphery…
I didn’t need to see it. I heard it.
“Uh-hoooh,” came his exaggerated groan, probably meant to get my attention- that way he didn’t have to be confrontational. I think he was hoping I’d hear the uh- oh and voluntarily look over. Which is exactly what I did.
He reached across the middle seat, and held it out in front of me, and this is what I saw: half of Earnest Hemmingway’s face, part of Virginia Woolf’s neck, and a mirror-like crack of space in the middle, filled with nonsense words.
“Oh, no…” I uttered. “Let me know what I can do.”
What am I doing? What am I saying? Why am I essentially offering him compensation? After all, he shouldn’t have just left his Kindle on the unoccupied seat – not while people were climbing over each other to get situated, and certainly not when they were scaling seats to reach overhead bins and everything.
“Oh, now…it’s okay…” he kind of patted my hand. Really? Is it really okay? Because if it’s really okay then I won’t worry about it, and I’m getting up to get my iPad .
I did. A few minutes later, my reading was interrupted.
“My wife gave me that Kindle for Christmas.”
Uh-huh. I knew it. God, please let this guy get off in Phoenix. I cannot sit next to him like this for the next 4 hours!
Of course he stayed on, and the longer he sat next to me, the longer he had to transition from a kindly, avuncular mode to one of annoyance, irritation, outrage.
Why didn’t I change seats? That would help! No…to change seats would have been to not only imply a public confession of my culpability, but to also acknowledge the awkwardness. No, this is fine; we are just going to sit here next to each other and pretend nothing weird happened.
“So, what do you do?” he asked.
I see where this is going. “I’m a writer,” I reply. “Freelance. Actor. And, I teach yoga. Part-Time.”
“It’s a tough business, isn’t it?” Yes, it is. Which is why you shouldn’t ask me to replace your Kindle.
A long pause.
“And you?” I asked.
“I’m out of work.” Ah, shit. “I’m just coming back from seeing my wife, she got transferred to D.C. She’s in charge of the Dept. of Defense library. “
Whew! His wife has a real job. Yes!
“That sounds interesting,” I say vaguely.
“You know,” he leaned into me, lowering his voice. “There are a lot more of these false alarms with security and airlines than we’re led to believe.”
What was that supposed to mean? Now he was freaking me out. I’m already on edge, here, pal – there’s no telling what I’ll break next, so zip it, buddy.
“You married?” he asked.
“Yes. My husband…” I twisted my diamond ring around to face my palm. Don’t want him getting the wrong idea – I’m not dripping with diamonds. “I met my husband in graduate school. We’re both in the arts.” Hint, hint. Get it? As in still paying off student loans 10 years later?
I closed my eyes. Finally, I drifted off. Somewhere between asleep and awake, a Voice came to me. It was a different voice – it wasn’t God, or Neale Donald Walsch, or JRR Tolkien.
It was Judge Judy.
JUDGE JUDY: Did you break this man’s Kindle?
ME: Well, it was on the…I mean, I didn’t see it, and…it was all really -
JUDGE JUDY: Bottom line. Did you break this man’s Kindle?”
ME: (gulp) Yes.
JUDGE JUDY: Then you gotta replace the man’s Kindle. Judge rules in favor of the plaintiff.
The gavel DROPS, and I wake up with a start.
As we get off the plane, I hand the man my card. Three days later, I get a formal request to replace the Kindle, and I do.
So, in the end, I guess you could say that My Conscience won out over My Kindle. And it was clear, baby. It was crystal clear.
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featured image credit: naokomc