Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Agent

Yesterday I boarded a plane and prepared for the longest flight of my life – seven hours from coast to coast. No problem, I thought. I’m sitting in the front row. There’s easy access to the bathroom.

I didn’t count on the Gatorade.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, I was dehydrated. After six days of crying – manipulating – and begging publishers at a writing conference to ignore the fact I couldn’t write and publish my book anyway, I had no tears left. I needed to replenish.

The literary agent on the plane home was nice about my emotional state. “One of the editors at the conference really liked your stuff,” he said. "I think." Then he shuffled to the back of the plane while I tried not to focus on my swelling bladder.

Six minutes and six Gatorades later, I knew I needed to use the bathroom. Uhoh, I thought. Getting to the bathroom in the front of the plane was somewhat like trying to gain an audience with the Pope. Only more dangerous.

This is because after 9/11, flight attendants have been trained to – in the words of Napoleon Dynamite – use their “illegal ninja moves from the government”. If a person lingers anywhere near the cockpit hoping for a glimpse – just a tiny glimpse – of a “vacant” sign on the door, the crew reacts like the plane is spiraling into oblivion.

This mood feeds a passenger camaraderie, somewhat like the Harding-Kerrigan friendship in the 1994 winter Olympics. Passengers are allowed to, in the name of good competition, bash each other in the legs in order to make it the bathroom first.

After about 10 minutes of observing this Harding-Kerrigan dynamic, I could hardly believe my eyes. The competition was over. I could – without risking my life – simply walk up to the bathroom and open the door.

My heart pounded. My feet darted. My fingers grasped the door handle.

So close.

“B.J.,” a voice boomed over the loudspeaker. “Please be seated at this time.”

I couldn’t believe it. They were making me sit down. My bladder screamed. My mind reeled. My eyes stared at the carpet.

How could I have been so stupid? How could I have thought the bathroom was empty? How could I have let all these people stare at me?

Wait a second.

How did the flight attendant know my name? With all the time-consuming illegal ninja move training from the government, how did he have a spare second to know who was sitting in the front row?

He didn’t.

My gaze wandered to the back of the plane. There he stood – right next to the microphone – the laughing literary agent. The one who could talk anyone into publishing anything had just talked the flight attendant into publishing my humiliation.

In a cruel twist of fate, a 4-year-old beat me to the bathroom. As the door slammed in my face, I realized just how much like the publishing world this plane ride was. Last year an editor loved my work – presented it to the rest of the team – and I was turned down in a later round of decision-making. Just when I was close – so close – I was asked to sit down.

Beware, publishing world. I am tired of your jokes. I am not above your games. My creative bladder is swelling, and if you don’t watch out – things are going to get messy.

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I know all about waiting--for the right guy, for high school to end, for my boobs to come in (two out of three ain't bad).

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