HELLO INTERNET BOY #14: of rat kings and other things

I want to write about my last days in New York, the gorgeous slow summer nights and the feeling of momentum and excitement I had finally, of wandering around seeing dear friends and drinking and seeing shows with new friends. I also want to write about my first time performing improv on stage, how I sat in the green room of UCB Chelsea and suddenly realised ‘I know this place – I’ve seen this place ON YOUTUBE’. Or about wandering the city after our last class at UCB trying to find a place where we could have a drink, but not exclude our underage compatriots, and ending up at some bowling alley, competing with about five different 12th birthday parties. I will write about all these things, but first I have to write about today, about now, sitting in an airport in Washington DC, ‘old swampy’ as it’s known, where I feel shaky and overwhelmed.

This morning at 5.30am, I waited out the front of my AirBnB for a cab that I’d ordered days earlier. Fifteen minutes passed, and I felt a cold thrill. This is literally a recurring nightmare I have, that I’m waiting for a taxi to take me to the airport and it never comes and I miss my flight. I called the cab service, and the guy on the other end chewed gum loudly and said ‘Yeah buddy, no problem, he’s on his way.’ Another fifteen minutes passed. ‘Yeah look, he’s still coming, he went to the wrong address, it will be cool’. Another fifteen minutes. ‘He said he called you already, but he’s trying to find you’. I hadn’t spoken to anyone. I was very polite. Finally the guy started wincing whenever he repeatedly asked me what time my flight went. ‘Yeah look buddy, I don’t like your chances!’ He told me, as if I’d made some mistake somehow. Finally he gave me the number of a rival cab service, who after I called them showed up in five minutes. I now had half an hour before my flight went. 

As my cab crawled torturously through the traffic, I felt like I was the best version of calm I could be. I was on point, I was poised, I was an arrow nocked and ready to shoot across continental America. I honestly believe the worst part of any city is the route to the airport, and the sides of the road that we ambled past looked cartoonishly evil – dark clouds covered gritty tractors that clawed at the wet earth slowly and awfully. It looked like any moment Pink Floyd should start wanking on about a wall. I decided that this was the closest to a living nightmare I’d experienced. My two recurring nightmares have been about my grandma being held captive in the sewers by the king of the rats, and this, this breakdown of plans, this powerlessness. 

When I was a kid and thought I was a wizard, I invented a spell for good luck which I used to chant under my breath when things weren’t going my way, and which probably contributed to my ‘unpopular and crazy’ vibe. I found myself thinking about that spell for the first time in years, but not chanting it. We pulled into the airport and I tumbled out of the cab and I realised my plane was supposed to be leaving at this exact moment. I thought about the spell real hard. I thought ‘I wish things would explode and burn if it meant me making this flight’. I also thought about how in the scheme of things, it’s really fine, I wouldn’t die, things can be fixed. But I didn’t believe it.

Anyway, I ran and gibbered at people and got a boarding pass and then waited for the insane US screening procedures and then with shoes unlaced and passport in my mouth for some reason, I ran the entire length of the airport and reached my gate in the nick of time and caught the plane three hours later. Yep. There was a mechanical issue and we waited for three hours, and my connecting flight in Washington came and went. I decided I may have cast my spell slightly too hard. 

I’m at Washington now, and I’m on standby for a plane at 3pm. I am sitting across from a fast food joint called ‘Five Guys’ which judging from the oil soaked bags everyone carries away, is he model for Paunch Burger. If I can’t get on the next plane, I’ll have to wait until 7pm, but I can deal with inconvenience really well, I’m a master at waiting. I just hate being late or missing things, and I hate rat kings.

This post is generously supported by the Thiel Grant for Online Writing, and is included in a 50 part series called ‘HELLO INTERNET BOY’ ranging from March 2015 – March 2016


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