Hmm Weekly for June 9, 2020

We can think of at least 400 ways to make a Tuesday

DEATH TAKES A HOLIDAY DEP’T.

BACK IN THE Before Time, I made plans to hang out with some friends in a cabin along a river in the Adirondacks in Upstate NY. Drink some beers, grill some food, paddle up the river, sit around a campfire at night. Pure relaxation!

My travel plan from Baltimore was to grab a flight to Albany on Southwest, which, when traveling solo, can be cheaper than driving, not to mention being a 50-minute flight vs. eight hours in a car.

Then all the Pestilence stuff happened, but we realized we had a perfect Social Distance setup at the cabin, and the trip was still on. I started thinking I’d be driving, because being a passenger in an airplane is one thing, but then you add in Virus on Surfaces and Virus Droplets in the exhaled air, and it all starts looking crazy, to climb into a confined space like that.

Time passed, and the airlines were all talking about wiping stuff down real good and having ultraviolet lights and super-duper-HEPA rigs, and it’s a short flight, so it started to seem like something I could do after all. Plus, when I looked at re-booking the flights, they were less than half what I originally paid. Southwest doesn’t bang you for changing or cancelling flights as long as you keep the money in your account for future use. This next sentence might be the first time an exclamation point has been employed at the end: I’m flying to Albany!

There was some Social Distance stuff. There were about 100 people boarding, and they told us the plane held 170 souls, which meant all the middle seats would be kept empty, and yes, that ain’t no six feet, I know. They broke the boarding groups into 10 people instead of the usual 30, everybody had to wear a mask, the flight attendants wore gloves and masks, and the drinks service was 12 oz. cans of water. However, there was still a snack, a new and improved Southwest Airlines snack!

They used to give you peanuts, but then the peanut-allergy thing forced them to stop with the peanuts and they switched to pretzels, and now they do a party-mix sort of Chex Mix without any Chex, including little ersatz Cheez-Its, and really savory bagel-chip kinda things, I think. They look like teeny-weeny slices of bread. Mini-sourdough bread? I don’t know, but it’s solid snack improvement, even though I think it’s annoying to do drinks service and a snack for a 50-minute flight.

OK, so we’re all loaded into the plane.

I’m psyched because I got one of the seats near the door that opens up onto a wing, which means you have to promise you will be a Hero and open the door when the shit goes down, but who doesn’t want to open the goddamn door? Get me outta here! The mini-reward for Heroic Selfishness is there’s a seat with extra legroom.

I’m sitting in my legroom hero seat and I start thinking about the air that is circulating in the passenger compartment. Usually I open up the little vent because I run hot and I like to feel the air on my face, but I have to admit I did not open the air vent because all I could think about was teensy little microscopic Coronaviruses streaming onto my dome. If I had been a little warmer, I think I woulda opened it, but I didn’t, so there’s that.

As soon as the plane pushes back from the gate, it starts raining. There are far-off flashes of lightning. We taxi around for what seems like a half hour, lots of turns. It occurred to me to ask a flight attendant if we were driving to Albany. We come to a halt and the captain announces we went to the other side of the airport to take off in a position so as to avoid the storms, and now we’re in line behind a few other planes. There’s lightning, closer now, but I watch a plane leave the ground. Pretty soon it’s our turn and we blast off, with flashes of lightning popping on either side of us. Yes! Let’s punch through this weather and into the clear air!

From my seat near the window I’m looking at flashes of lightning and then a GIANT bolt beyond the wing. Holy crap! I have flown lots of times, usually you take off, do a little banking this way and that, and then you cruise. Not this time! Lots of turns! Lots of turns and going up and down! I have lost all sense of where we are and in which direction we’re headed. THEN, we start DIVING, and while we’re diving, we’re TURNING, and while we’re turning, we’re hitting different pockets of air so we’re dropping and bumping and rising while we’re diving and now we’re REALLY FUCKING BANKING WHAT THE HELL ARE WE PULLING G’s HERE and this is when I said to myself, “Wow, this might be it.”

People were SCREAMING when we went into that dive. I learned that the seat belt really does work, keeping you in your seat. My pal did a TRACK MY FLIGHT (Fig. 1) while he was waiting for me at the airport in Albany. The straight line is the usual route. The stuff by AIEEE should be highlighted in a different color to match what I was doing in my pants. Look at the altitude! (Fig. 2)

Fig. 1 (Magenta emphasis mine)

Fig. 2

You climb into a Disease Tube, worrying about how you will die from a Virus and then you are reminded that you are in a heavier-than-air flying machine defying Nature!

Another Week, Another Hmm Weekly

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ADVICE DEP’T.

Ask The Sophist

Dear The Sophist,
Recently my direct supervisor at work, "Matt," suffered significant flood damage to his house. The supervisor above Matt and me, "Mark," started a GoFundMe to help Matt offset the costs of this, and sent it around the department, including to me and the other workers below Matt.

While I understand the gesture, I found it to be in poor taste for many reasons—like being asked to give money to my boss who makes more than me, Matt being an adult with a house who should be able to handle this, and, you know, being asked to help fund my boss's home repairs in the midst of a combination pandemic/recession/civil unrest. Mark said there was "no pressure" to contribute, and he and Matt are legitimately good people who would almost certainly not leverage such giving, but when you openly see many of your teammates and coworkers have sent him at least $100, "no pressure" is an obvious lie.

I’m aware of how fortunate I am to be a debt-free young millennial, employed in a well-paying job I don’t actively hate, who can give $100 no problem, but the whole thing still bothers the hell out of me. After talking it through with my therapist and several family members, including my lawyer dad, the conclusion everyone reached (to varying degrees) was that this was kind of a dick move on Mark’s end, but I should give my boss this money anyway, if only to cover my ass if not contributing might bite me later. So I’m out $100, plus tip.

Any advice on how to feel about this, or handle my resentment in a better way than drinking half a bottle of whiskey during Zoom trivia with friends like on Friday?

Signed,
… More Like GoFuckOff

Dear Go Off:
As Matt himself could tell you, it's hard to have faith lately in the basic assumptions a person lives by. One minute your living room is dry, the stores all have toilet paper, and you can step outside your door at 8 p.m.—the next, there are police riots, collapsing supply chains, and maybe a foot of standing water in your house. Or in Matt's house, anyway. Not yours! Some other kind of advice columnist might tell you to look around at your own mold-free rugs and count your blessings, but as you know, the fact is that your boss' boss already decided to count that particular blessing for you and to invoice you for it at a crowdsourced but effectively non-negotiable $100 rate. 

You have the right to be steamed about this! You say you feel fortunate to have a decent job, but the friendly office shakedown just reminded you of how contingent that fortune is. Lots of  people felt good about their employment situations three months ago, and they are now frantically treading water, looking around at a hiring landscape submerged in misfortune all the way to the horizon. Under the circumstances, any invitation to do a little extra for your superiors, in the name of being a friendly team player, is going to feel like a threat. Mark may be a nice person; he's a crappy manager. 

Now that you've felt those valid and true feelings, you want to know what comes next. Don't try take the long view—the long view is guesswork at this point. (But if you must, spend another hundred bucks getting yourself a go bag, a machete, and a hoard of airplane liquor bottles as currency and disinfectant in the Times to Come.) Focus instead on the medium view: Mark and Matt are at least as endangered as you are. The entire workplace power dynamic is a contingent fiction that may give way at any moment. Once you're all scattered and rolling around on the concrete floor, who will even remember which cogs went where in the broken machine? 

Your unfair employment tax will become—not in the false framing language of a fundraising website, but in your own sincere retrospective view—a real act of magnanimity. None of you will have jobs, but at least you won't be the one paying a mortgage in a flood plain. 

Stay on the high ground,
The Sophist

Got something you need to justify to yourself, or to the world at large? Other columnists are here to judge you, but The Sophist is here to tell you why you're right. Send your questions to AskTheSophist@hmmweekly.com, and get the answers you want.

THOUGHT DEP’T.

Do you have a thought? Send it to hmmweekly@hmmweekly.com.

VISUAL CONSCIOUSNESS DEP’T.

Spring, Part 14

R.I.P. Killer

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RECIPES DEP’T.

WE KEEP TELLING you, and we’re not kidding, we will soon exhaust our selection of recipes for eldritch and esoteric sandwiches, taken from The Up-To-Date Sandwich Book: 400 Ways to Make a Sandwich, by Eva Greene Fuller; 1909; McClurg and Co., Chicago, found in the public domain for the delectation of all.

TIP-TOP SANDWICH
Chop fine six slices of uncooked bacon, add two green peppers (seeds removed) chopped fine, three onions the size of an egg chopped fine, season with pepper and salt. Fry the above mixture until the bacon is done, then scramble in two eggs. Place between this slices of lightly buttered white bread. Garnish with a radish.

BOSTON BAKED BEAN SANDWICH
Press cold baked beans through a colander, add two stalks of celery chopped fine, a teaspoonful of horse-radish, and a little tomato catsup; mix and spread on buttered slices of Boston brown bread, cover with another slice, and garnish with a pickle.

GRAPE SANDWICH
Remove skins and seeds from one pound of white grapes. Chop grapes, one large apple, and two stalks of celery fine. Mix with a little French dressing and place between this slices of lightly buttered white bread. Cut sandwiches in strips.

If you make one of these sandwiches, before you eat it, please send a picture to hmmweekly@substack.com.

HMM WEEKLY IS written by Tom Scocca, editor, and Joe MacLeod, creative director. If you enjoy Hmm Weekly, please let a friend know about it, and if you're reading this because someone forwarded it to you, go ahead and sign up for a copy of your own right now.
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