I am the road warrior.
My tray table technique is unstoppable. All around me, punk-ass passengers read Golf Digest, their personal space too small to open their laptops. I compute, I process, I type, I rock. They are humbled. They pretend not to stare, turning away as I bring my gaze to meet their eyes.
My indominable will bends the very spacetime of the airplane seating plan. The flight agents throw first-class upgrades at me as I walk past, like rose petals cast before a god-king.
On those rare days no first-class seat yields to my charm, my ancient travel-fu clears the coach section. My serene smile silences crying babies, sends Nintendo players to the far corners of the airplane, clears the middle seat next to me and leaves me with elbow room and an aisle seat.
I am generous – when my powers are so strong they clear an entire row, I graciously grant window seats to large men stuck in middle seats. Their manhood diminshed, they lower their heads and slouch to their seats, later handing me their complimentary peanuts as an offering.
I accept, swallowing peanuts a pack at a time, washed down with water from the stewardess who cannot help but hover at my elbow.
She knows that I am no mere “silver elite” traveller, no gold card holder with scuffed black ballistic roll-on bag. The airline has replaced my platinum card with one made of solid unobtanium. When I remove the card from its raw silk sheath, the ticket agent asks me whether I would like the co-pilot’s seat or whether I’d prefer to be a passenger today.
I speak 36 languages, though all I am every heard to say is “Where is the bathroom?”, “To the airport, please” and “Bring me cold beer.”
In certain European cities, I must cover my face when I walk outside, lest I cause collisions as taxi drivers fight for the right to bring me from the train station to the airport. Often I take the subway, just to avoid causing carnage.
My equipment is lightweight, expensive, perfectly matched to my needs. It’s so high tech that engineers gasp when I open my bag. When a lesser traveller yaks on a cellphone, my earphones fill the ear canals, blocking the sound. My batteries last for weeks, and the spare in the bag is always charged. My pens do not explode at high altitude. I carry four flavors of sugar-free breath mints.
Despite all my training, my decades of practice, the years in which sensei made me travel from Ulaanbaatar to Nairobi in an overhead compartment, pretending to be a hanging bag…
Despite walking the halls of Concourse B with my hand-held Wifi detector, fished from the depths of my +7 Briefcase of Holding…
Despite the fact that the garbage cans throuhgout the terminal are fully mechanized and crush anything you deposit in them with a mechanical growl…
Despite the automated announcement system which speaks four languages…
There is no wireless Internet available in the Atlanta International airport.
For a brief, terrifying moment, I feel like… a passenger.
A quarter mile from my gate, there is a “Laptop Lane” franchise, offering Internet access for $0.65 per minute. I will not dishonor the monks of the Shaolin temple by paying for per-minute connectivity from a dirty 10-base-T cable.
Truly, these people are barbarians.
In most civilized cities – Madrid, Mumbai, Montreal – the air is thick with bits. In the Accra airport, small boys cluster around my laptop, carrying bits on their head to a nearby router, bringing fresh ones back to my 802.11g card. But not in Atlanta.
Ogun, deliver me. Mercury, hear my prayer. Guide my laptop to an unencrypted NAP!
And then I see them – two geeks, inexplicably sitting on the floor, downloading away. They’re outside the Delta Crown Room Club. And somewhere within, there’s a tmobile NAP.
I click. I twiddle. The bits flow.