“Why do you use the letter Z to unlock your phone?” my grandfather asked me the other day. I am impressed he noticed that and secondly don’t know how to answer that. I’ve always been a fan of the Mask of Zorro. It was not only the first time I connected a Robin Hood character to my hometown of Los Angeles, but more importantly the beginning of my recognition of sex appeal.
We were flying back from a family reunion in Vancouver to LAX, a 150-180 minute flight that usually is not delayed or without incident. I was awaken at around 10:15pm to learn that there had been a “security breach” at LAX, and we were diverting, at a sharp angle, to Las Vegas. This should be…exciting.
I have never been to Las Vegas but I had been to the airport and in a failed attempt to teach me that you always lose money at slot machines, my mother had somehow turned $5.00 into $20.00. I remember the intent and the fact she tried two times to show me how gambling always loses you money…but I remember more her cheer at having her latte and my hot chocolate paid for by her winnings. I had to stay a safe distance from the slot machine due to my, well, being a child, and a airport security officer telling me to stay a safe distance from the machine and my mother.
I tried to keep a positive attitude. I looked out the window and saw stars. You cannot really see so many stars in Los Angeles. The smog, after all and Las Vegas is in a desert. The strip looked quite grand from a distance….but the closer we got to landing, the trashier it looked.
Upon landing is when news of a “false alarm” spread. I then learned that an actor who “didn’t have time” to change and possessed a “plastic sword” was deemed a threat and arrested at LAX by several policemen. The actor won a “lifetime role” as the airport “bogeyman.”
The blogger “ScallywagandVagabond” also posted the videos on the above link of panicked travelers and of the aforementioned arrest. I could not help but compare these passengers as frightened sheep because the Fox aka Zorro was there with imaginary “loud noises” which were never identified.
Zorro was the secret identity of a character named Don de le Vega created in a pulp fiction in 1919 by Johnston McCulley (Wiki) most likely based on historical Mexican/Californian folk hero Joaquin Murrieta. His schtick is his standing up for the everyman and indigenous locals of California/Mexico, and publicly shaming his villains (authority figures) The actor who may have legitimately had “no time to change” or as Twitter User Gary Lineker surmised, on his way to Vegas. I also thought of the possibility of this being an elaborate piece of performance art. Did the actor deliberately dress up as Zorro and use LAX as a stage or venue to voice or raise issues about Chicano rights, security issues, or illustrate the absurdity that permeates our society, especially when there is almost no found cause to create such a panic at the airport?
This kind of panic happened at JFK less than two weeks ago. Mass hysteria. It manifests itself in weird diseases, heightened emotional states, and more. Gary Small describes it as a “social contagion.”If my seat mate is anxious, then so am I. He writes, “When people are predisposed to overreact to any fearful stimulus, mass hysteria can instantaneously take over a crowd.”
There has been a lot of articles lately on epigenetics, the study on how environmental changes can impact not just your DNA but that of your children, grandchildren and so forth. Trauma can cause certain genes to express themselves differently by turning them “on” or “off.” Renown writer Siddhartha Mukherjee wrote a beautiful article on the topic, which itself was an excerpt of sorts of his bestseller The Gene.
Keeping calm and carrying on isn’t just a cutesy British expression. It has scientific truth to it. My aunt Sara Lazar, a scientist and scholar travels the world to discuss how meditation can literally remap your brain for the better. Here’s a TedTalk she did a few years ago. Some people find it more challenging to meditate. I’m one of those people. By nature, I’m rather high-strung and the moment there’s heavy stomach-lurching turbulence on an airplane, I have to put in a lot more effort to not only breathe, but to well, meditate. I’ve tried at least a dozen meditation apps on my phone and have the fortune/misfortune of overthinking everything. It gets not only on my nerves but on everybody else’s. Imagine your brain is like a random page out of James Joyce’s book. Now pretend the book is never-ending and you cannot quite quiet it. You leap from one thought topic to another until you put yourself on a task or on a goal on your to-do list to focus in on. When there’s too much time or space, my brain has a little too much fun. I find myself criticizing the meditation speaker’s voice, focussing so much on the content and not so much on the goal at hand. When the turbulence was really bad once, I flung my smartphone away from the seat from me in anger and gave in to breathing from a paper bag. And the app was one that normally works with me 90%of the time: pizzazz. I use it daily as a sleep aid or for a power nap before a high-pressure appointment like a job interview. So I can meditate…it just takes extra effort.
We landed in Vegas but couldn’t get off the plane. They turned off the AC and no longer served water. We waited an hour or more to take off. First, there was an almost-take-off. But then they forgot to the customs forms. So the plane had to taxi back to the gate. We waited another 20-25 minutes. It was a smelly sauna. I think someone sitting nearby had a burrito chimichanga for dinner right before boarding the plane. I could imagine their future relief upon having the grand opportunity to…relieve themselves. It was a subtly spicy and sweaty scented tube with no water available because the attendants had to remain in their “jump seats.” My migraine had returned with a vengeance. Finally, we took off. For real, this time.
39 minutes later, we landed at LAX. But another plane had taken our gate so we had to wait for now. We waited for at least another half hour. It was already 1:15AM. Our original arrival time was scheduled for 10.40PM. It’s funny how you can tell, as a future teacher, which passengers needed more discipline as a child or classroom management. I half-sleepily thought to myself that half the passengers who were standing and crowding the aisle needed to put on their “thinking caps” and relearn listening skills. The ones who were sitting were obviously the successful ones. By the time we got out of the airplane it was 1;45AM. Having been seated for 6 hours, it was difficult to walk. At 2AM, Uber/Lyft were not available. Taxis were not visible. So, I took my poor grandfather to the much-hated SuperShuttle. Our driver’s interesting navigation and the heated tension in the car led the driver to drop off someone in North Glendale/Pasadena from Hollywood first before dropping my grandfather and I off at 3:45AM in Silver Lake. The route was: Pico/La Brea, Westwood, Hollywood, N.E Glendale, Silver Lake, and then whoever was last. He took the 10 to the 134 east and the jerky nature of the vehicle did not help matters.
When we tried to suggest he go from Hollywood-Silverlake-Glendale, the Glendale gentleman, a high-strung father of four (or five)said he needed to get up early so he “won.” I didn’t care at that point because another 30 minutes of being carsick was not much of a big deal.
At 4AM, I took more Advil for my returned migraine and went to bed. There’s a funny thing about migraines though: they don’t quite easily leave when you want them to. They probably packed extra bags and may hide for now but will creep back when you least expect them to…such as when you first wake up. The struggle with debilitating migraines is in not how you treat them, but how you behave, and with grace while inflicted with them. Many have unfortunately born the brunt of my anger and pain. I laughed at the situation last night when I was “randomly selected” for extra scrutiny, and again when the flight attendant asked how I enjoyed “my free massage.” I joked back that I “missed out” and would have liked a scalp massage, gratis. Instead, they unzipped my suitcase, and my scatterbrained migraine self, realizing they forgot to zip it up, accidentally emptied my luggage in the security line. Fun times.
It’s taken me more than 90 minutes to write this. I shall go back to hiding under my ice wrap for now. Keep calm and carry on.